The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is committed to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. The ASEAN Member States are also the members of the Non-Aligned Movement which has constantly stressed the importance of achieving the full realization of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) is playing a prominent role in advancing and protecting the rights of women and children. The ACWC is an ASEAN regional human rights institution established in 2010. It is an intergovernmental commission comprising 20 representatives, two from each of the ASEAN ten Member States.
The ACWC’s primary purpose is to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children in ASEAN. ACWC is tasked with upholding rights contained in the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which all ten ASEAN Member States have ratified.
The ACWC coordinates with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and other relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies dealing with issues pertaining to women and children including consultations on the ultimate alignment between the ACWC and the AICHR as the overarching human rights institution in ASEAN. The ACWC engages in dialogue and consultation with other national, regional and international institutions and entities concerning the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children.
With strengthened synergy with other ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and Community Pillars, ACWC continues to leverage its contribution to the implementation of cross-sectoral and inter-sectoral pillar initiatives for a more collaborative and cohesive approach in moving forward with the implementation of the Bohol Trafficking-in-Persons Work Plan 2017-2020, Women Peace and Security Agenda in ASEAN, the ASEAN Plan of Action on Culture of Prevention, the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the implementation of the Complementarities Initiative and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and importantly, to contribute to the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF).
The ACWC holds regular meetings discussing contemporary women and child rights issues. One of the current priority areas of the ACWC is the protection of the rights of children and women and ending violence against women, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Considerable efforts of ACWC have been highlighted in the progress of Mid-term Review (MTR) of the Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (RPA-EVAW) and through the development of the Regional Plan of Action for Protection of Children from All Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse as well as the Regional Plan of Action on Implementing the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration, led by Thailand. “Our women and children play indispensable roles in responding to and building back better from the pandemic. As ACWC, we need to continue to ensure that our policies, including the implementation of the ASEAN Recovery Framework for COVID-19, prioritise the well-being of our women and children.”, said Mdm. Laura Hwang, ACWC Chair and Singapore’s ACWC Representative for Women’s Rights.
As regards protecting the rights of children, ASEAN regularly organises ASEAN Children Forums. The 6th ASEAN Children Forum was organised by Cambodia with the theme “Impact of COVID-19 and the Current Situation of Children”.
The outcomes of the Forum were discussed to enhance the roles of the ACWC in ensuring children’s participation on matters affecting them. Moreover, ACWC work in protecting the rights of children against all forms of bullying was also advanced through the initiatives of ACWC Vietnam with the inaugural Online Meeting of Bullying Children at Schools and Online in ASEAN.
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