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Mandate Meets Strategy: AICHR’s TOR and the Incheon Strategy

By: Kyle Lemargie

The terms of reference for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) are undergoing a scheduled five year review and possible revision. Established ASEAN norms of consensus decision making and non-interference in the internal affairs of member states have limited the mandate of the region’s overarching human rights body; however, AICHR has also been criticized by civil society for not doing enough within these narrow boundaries. Vietnam’s recent ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) leaves Brunei as the only ASEAN member state that has yet to ratify the convention. The rights of persons with disabilities are thus a key area of emerging consensus within ASEAN, and, as such, offer a unique area of opportunity for AICHR to more fully apply its mandate.

This emerging consensus on protecting, promoting and fulfilling rights of persons with disabilities is further captured in Southeast Asia’s endorsement of the Asia Pacific’s Incheon Strategy to Make the Right Real. The Incheon Strategy is the first regionally agreed disability-inclusive development framework for the Asia Pacific. The strategy’s goals offer several promising areas of overlap with AICHR’s existing mandate. These links suggest that deeper AICHR engagement with the Incheon Strategy offer a win-win scenario: ASEAN’s 90 million persons with disabilities can benefit from the influence AICHR could bring to efforts to “make the right real” while AICHR stands to gain deeper credibility amongst national, subregional and regional institutions for the active exercise of its mandate.

Goal 2 of the Incheon Strategy and Article 29 of CRPD endeavor to uphold the political rights of persons with disabilities. To the extent that AICHR uses supporting clauses in its current mandate (and any revisions) to help ASEAN states uphold their commitments to political inclusion of this marginalized group, the Commission will gain valuable institutional experience addressing political rights. Unsurprisingly, political rights have been one of the most challenging areas for application of AICHR’s mandate. This may require key states within ASEAN to take initiative to proactively share and discuss their Incheon Strategy efforts and findings under Goal 2 with the Commission.


  • As civil society, state and regional officials work to implement the Incheon Strategy, concerted efforts should be made to draw AICHR into this work. This includes efforts under the Incheon Strategy’s Goal 2 which focuses on upholding the right to political inclusion for persons with disabilities.
  • As AICHR adjusts its TOR and establishes its post-2015 workplan, it should seek to make the rights of persons with disabilities prominent in its planned programs and activity. This new focus will leverage the region’s emerging disability rights consensus for AICHR’s own institutional growth.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Regional Human Rights Declarations and Conventions around the World


By: Dipo Djungdjungan Suma

In November, head of states of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) will gather in Phnom Penh for the 21st ASEAN Summit. There, they are expected to adopt the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), which will represent a major milestone in the struggle for human rights in Southeast Asia, including for the human rights of persons with disabilities. Since the beginning of the drafting process, disabled people’s organizations have been involved in the consultation process with the drafting committee, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Committee on Human Rights (AICHR). They have lobbied, discussed and given inputs and suggestions to the committee on how to include the rights of persons with disabilities in the declarations. It is expected that the declaration will include several provisions on disabilities.

In the anticipation for the upcoming declaration, it is important for us to understand how other (and older) regional human rights declarations recognize disability rights. Such understanding will enable us to assess where we stand so far in terms of giving protection to the rights of persons with disabilities.

The oldest regional human rights declaration is the Organization of American States (OAS) Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, which actually predated even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The OAS Declaration was adopted in April 1948 in Bogota, Colombia, whereas the UDHR was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948 in Paris.

Interestingly, both the UDHR and the OAS Declaration, in regards to disability rights, seem to have almost identical wording. Article 25 (1) of the UDHR says that:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Whereas article XVI of the OAS Declaration says:

"Every person has the right to social security which will protect him from the consequences of unemployment, old age, and any disabilities arising from causes beyond his control that make it physically or mentally impossible for him to earn a living."


Election Access Lessons Learned from around the World

voter-with-visual-disability-voting-in-armeniaBy: Virginia Atkinson

When Madeline went to vote in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election last May, she needed help to get through the door with her wheelchair because the ramps were poorly constructed at the polling place.

She was carried to the second floor only to learn that she was not at the correct polling location and there would be more rooms and stairs to navigate.

When she finally did reach her polling booth, it was too high for her to mark her ballot in secret. She was told to hold the ballot in her lap to vote. After she marked her ballot, she was asked for which party she voted.

Despite all of these obstacles, she still believes this experience was better than the treatment she received in the last election.

Madeline is not alone in facing barriers while exercising her right to vote. People with disabilities from around the world are historically disenfranchised from participation in elections and politics. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) provides support to election management bodies (EMBs) and civil society organizations to make the political process more inclusive.

As Madeline recounts, there is still much to be done in the Dominican Republic; however, through poll worker training, inclusive voter education and identifying accessible electoral materials, elections will become more accessible for all voters. As Madeline recounts, there is still much to be done in the Dominican Republic; however, through poll worker training, inclusive voter education and identifying accessible electoral materials, elections will become more accessible for all voters.

To ensure voters like Madeline have a more accessible experience on Election Day, IFES has developed a series of effective approaches through its experience working with EMBs and DPOs. These approaches can be applied to countries throughout ASEAN.





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