Press Release
February 20, 2015

PHL to host international parliamentarian meet on human rights

The Philippines will host an assembly of more than 100 parliamentarians, representatives of human rights institutes, and members of civil society groups from all over the Asia-Pacific region next week to discuss ways to increase regional involvement to the protection and promotion of human rights.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the Senate of the Philippines and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), will host the two-day regional seminar for Asia Pacific parliaments entitled, "Translating international human rights commitments into national realities: The contributions of parliaments to the work of United Nations Human Rights Council."

89 representatives from at least 20 countries have confirmed to attend the two-day seminar which consists of seven sessions, to be held on February 26 to 27, 2015 at the Diamond Hotel, Manila City.

Drilon, who once served as President of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, will serve as the Lead Convenor of the international conference, while Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, is Conference Chair. Other Filipino lawmakers and officials expected to join as resource persons are Senator Loren Legarda and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

"We welcome the chance to host this human rights event. The country still faces a lot of long-standing issues on protecting human rights amid social strife and security concerns. We will learn a lot from the seminar, and hopefully, they will translate into sound policies and programs here and across the region," Drilon, who is currently a member of the IPU Executive Committee, said.

The Senate President further said that the seminar seeks to enhance awareness among members of parliaments of the existence of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the need for their full legislative involvement in the HRC's work.

"The seminar is also looking to foster greater involvement of members of parliament in the three different reporting stages of the UPR," Drilon added.

He noted that a recent IPU survey revealed that many parliaments around the globe are not yet familiar with the HRC's duties, as well as the importance of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as an instrument in ensuring that human rights are protected and promoted.

Pimentel, for his part, said that apart from inter-body cooperation, the seminar will also look at how parliaments in the region have promoted human rights at their respective national levels and how they can bring this down to local government councils.

"The event will also seek to foster better cooperation at the national level between parliaments, local government councils and other human rights stakeholders, in particular national human rights institutions and civil society actors. The attendees also intend to formulate practical steps on how the HRC can better engage parliaments and human rights institutions on their actual programs," Pimentel said.

"The world, especially this region, is still confronted with many challenges and issues concerning human rights, and it is our duty as parliamentarians to identify the most pressing problems in our own backyards, and lead the way in providing relevant and effective solutions," Pimentel said.

The Manila seminar is part of a series of regional events designed to enhance the contribution of parliaments to the HRC and the UPR, in response to panel discussions of the IPU, HRC and the OHCHR begun last May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland which recognized the critical role of parliaments in ensuring domestic respect for human rights. Previous conferences have been held in Romania, Uruguay and Morocco.

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