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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Advancing Human Rights through ASEAN: Vehicle for change?

Friday, June 10, 2016 - 10:00am
2255 Rayburn House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on the human rights functions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and opportunities to improve human rights in the Southeast Asia region.

ASEAN is Southeast Asia’s primary multilateral organization, comprised of ten member states: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Founded in 1967, ASEAN adopted a charter in 2008 that includes human rights principles, and the organization has also emitted a human rights declaration and created a human rights commission. But aspects of the declaration and elements of the commission, as well as ASEAN’s operating principles of non-interference and consensus, dubbed the “ASEAN Way,” have been criticized by reputable international observers for falling short of universal human rights standards. Meanwhile, progress on human rights in the region has been uneven, and some situations have worsened.

In November 2015, as an indication of deepening U.S. ties with this economically and politically vital region, the Obama administration elevated the relationship with ASEAN to a Strategic Partnership. Last February, President Obama hosted the first U.S.-ASEAN leaders’ summit on U.S. territory and plans to visit Laos in the fall for his last ASEAN Summit.

At this hearing, experts will examine the human rights trends in the Southeast Asia region, assess the capacity of ASEAN mechanisms to impact these trends, and provide recommendations on how the U.S., and particularly the Congress, can engage with ASEAN to ensure that respect for human rights keeps pace with the other components of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship.

This hearing will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. For any questions, please contact Dan Aum (for Mr. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or, Isaac Six (for Mr. Pitts) at 202-225-2411 or, or Ben Kane (for Mr. Lowenthal) at 202-225-7924 or

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Alan S. Lowenthal
Member, TLHRC
Joseph R. Pitts
Co-Chairman, TLHRC

Opening Remarks


Panel I:          

  • Colin Willett, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of State
  • Scott Busby, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State

Panel II:         

  • Catherin Dalpino, Adjunct Professor of Professional Practice, School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Department of State
    Written testimony
  • John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
    Written testimony
  • Walden Bello, Board Member, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, and former Member, Philippines House of Representatives
    Written testimony
  • Dr. Pek Koon Heng, Director of ASEAN Studies Initiative, American University School of International Service
    Written testimony





114th Congress