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ASEF 20th Anniversary: 20 Years of Human Rights Dialogue at the ASEM level

Corporate News


11 Aug 2017

ASEF 20th Anniversary


The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is not the only one celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights series is also turning 20 in 2017, celebrating 2 decades of contribution to the human rights dialogue at the ASEM level.

Launched in 1997, the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights was created to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Asia and Europe on human rights issues, especially between government officials and civil society representatives. Sweden and France initiated the Seminar series in 1997, with ASEF serving as the secretariat. It later gathered more support from the Philippines and Switzerland, which joined as co-organisers in 2010 and 2016, respectively.

Today, all activities that come under the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights series are jointly co-organised by ASEF, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (nominated by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The co-organisers have provided valuable support and advice for the last 20 years, ensuring a strong and relevant programme.

The Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights was established with the intention of strengthening human rights protection and promotion in both Asia and Europe“, said Mr Rolf RING, Deputy Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute.

ASEF was selected by ASEM countries to act as the official secretariat for the Seminar series in 2000. This was a good choice and has worked out very well, because of ASEF’s mandate to build stronger bridges between the two regions, especially at the people-to-people level“, he added.

Each Seminar brings together civil society participants from Asia and Europe (invited by the organisers) and official representatives (nominated by the 53 ASEM Partners), which ensures diversity of opinion. Contributing to strengthening human rights dialogue, the past 16 editions of the Seminar have gathered over 1,500 government officials and civil society participants sharing global, regional, and national efforts to address important issues with a rights-based approach.

Through closed-door debates to allow free and direct exchanges of views, the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights offers a platform to discuss important global issues relating to the enjoyment and protection of human rights in Asia and Europe. A climate of trust and mutual understanding, in line with the ASEM spirit, has grown stronger throughout the process.

Over time, the co-organisers have expanded the programme activities and enhanced the ways in which the outcomes and recommendations from each Seminar are disseminated.

The findings from each Seminar are documented in a publication, and then presented during policy briefings with internationally renowned experts and speakers, reaching a wider audience in Asia and Europe. Acknowledged for their high quality of information, the publications have also been used in universities for curricula.

As of 2017, a new training component has been added to build the capacity of ASEM Partners to improve their mechanisms for the fulfilment of human rights at the national, regional and international levels. It also provides trainees with additional knowledge and understanding on comprehensive human rights instruments, principles, and frameworks, while improving their skills and capacity for drafting and implementing policies.

For more information on the upcoming 17th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, “Human Rights and Children“, visit this page.

For more information on past editions of the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, click here.

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