'A tongue but no teeth?': The emergence of a regional human rights mechanism in the Asia Pacific region

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In November 2007, the Association of South East Asian Nations ('ASEAN') leaders undertook to establish an ASEAN Human Rights Body ('AHRB'). While ASEAN Member States have been divided over the new mechanism's structure and function, the High Level Panel charged with its implementation is evidently working towards December 2009 as the date for the AHRB's establishment. This development takes place in the light of the creation of close to 20 national human rights commissions in the Asia Pacific region in the last few decades. In many cases, the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions ('APF'), a network of national human rights institutions ('NHRIs'), has facilitated their establishment and development. With reference to the origins and work of other regional human rights mechanisms, this paper explores the rationale for and efforts towards establishment of a regional human rights commission in the Asia Pacific; the extent to which the emergence of NHRIs has contributed to the AHRI3 initiative and how NHRIs might influence its form and operations; and the historical and prospective role of regional networks such as the APF in contributing to human rights protection in the region and in relation to any ASEAN subregional human rights mechanism.

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