Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions: Extending ASEAN Norms

This research explores the potential of the Southeast Asia national human rights institutions (NHRIs) to go beyond ASEAN norms and their contribution to human rights protection in the region. Southeast Asia is known as a region with complex human rights record. The establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) in 2010 is considered a milestone for an association that is rooted in the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs of neighbouring states. Today, six NHRIs have been established in the region. They are the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines (CRP), Indonesia National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice of Timor Leste (PDHJ), and Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC).

The question arises on whether these government-sponsored NHRIs could have significant roles in human rights protection in the region. From the initial informal network of just four NHRIs, these NHRIS evolved and in order to face the regional developments, these NHRIs formalised their network and renamed as the Southeast Asia NHRI Forum (SEANF) in 2009. Internationally, they are also members in the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) and are part of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC). With such extensive networks, this research explores the challenges and opportunities of these NHRIs on how they could bridge the domestic to international systems of human rights protection regardless of their contrasting political regimes. The arguments advanced here is that the proliferation of these NHRIs reflect a push towards “internationalizing” human rights within the confined environment in the region. Having said that, this research seeks to investigate the potential of these Southeast Asia NHRIs by considering the dilemma between ASEAN norms and their international commitments.

This project is supported by the SHAPE-SEA Programme funded by SIDA. 

Digitally Enabled Social Change: Managing Digital Coordination in a Networked Organisation

This project conduct research into explaining digital coordination, or how community leverages emerging digital technologies (such as social media) in collective action, for the promotion of civic engagement. Digital technologies are becoming a defining component of twenty-first century development and they are used in variety of ways by individuals, community groups, businesses, and civil society organisations to facilitate social change. However, little is understood about the coordination among the loosely-connected individuals and formal institutions. Considering that these actors bring different resources and capital in a collective action that promote civic engagement, we posit that it is important to understand how they coordinate their efforts in order to create a synergy effect. Therefore the research question: “How does ICT enable digital coordination for civic engagement?”

This project is a collaboration with Dr. Carmen Leong, Dr. Felix Tan, Dr. Barney Tan and Michelle Yee (University of New South Wales). 

Foreign Aid and Development: The Impact of China’s Foreign Aid to Timor Leste

Timor Leste as a post-conflict small state is the newest country in Southeast Asia. Having restored its independence only in 2002, Timor Leste is caught in between the wave of globalization. Its vulnerability especially with its inadequate infrastructure for development poses challenges for the country to prosper. Hence, foreign aid becomes one of the important areas for development within Timor Leste. Australia is one of the biggest foreign partners in Timor Leste due to their historical background. Interestingly, China alongside with Australia has a growing presence in Timor Leste. But that invites various forms of debates, positively and negatively. This research is therefore investigates the impact of China’s foreign aid to Timor Leste, and to examine if it contributes positively to the development of Timor Leste.

This project is part of the main programme on East Asia: Issues and Challenges in the 21st Century. It is supported by University of Malaya Research Programme (UMRG).