RHRC, UNDP and EU Holds Human Rights Summit for ARMM
Zamboanga City: The Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Mindanao (RHRC-ARMM) yesterday held a Human Rights Summit at the Garden Orchids Hotel. At the Summit, the RHRC introduced a new peace and human rights project, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), to key stakeholders from ARMM, particularly Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA).
The project, entitled “Supporting the Transition to Bangsamoro”, aims to strengthen institutions for peace and human rights in the ARMM. This initiative will contribute to the establishment of three Human Rights Monitoring Centres in each of the BASULTA provinces, serving as platforms for the quick response to, as well as monitoring and promotion of, human rights in one of the most impoverished and conflict-ravaged regions in the Philippines.
RHRC Chairperson Algamar Latiph stated that the project was timely, as there was great need to localise human rights initiatives: “We have to make human rights closer to the people and closer to the community. We have to engage the people at the very grassroots. We have to make the rule of law alive.” Atty. Latiph said that the Summit was an opportunity to share their experiences and priority issues so that “their insight, experiences, and voices will be recorded and from these RHRC can properly identify activities and programs” that will be launched from the newly established Human Rights Monitoring Centres.
Speaking on behalf of the EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux, EU Programme Manager Edoardo Manfredini reiterated the importance of civil society, indicating that it “has always been a crucial sector in the promotion of human rights because through its engagement with government and security forces, it compels the latter to be transparent and accountable.” Mr. Manfredini highlighted the key role that women were to play for peace and stability in the Bangsamoro, and stressed that future programmes need to be developed to ensure women participation in the peace and development process.
UNDP Country Director Maurice Dewulf pointed out that “development is not there – and cannot be there - when there is no peace and when human rights are stepped upon.” Mr. Dewulf therefore urged RHRC, as well as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), to “ensure thereby that the development, peace and human rights nexus be continuously kept at the forefront of your important work and advocacy.”
It is in respect to this nexus that CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales lauded the project’s initiatives, for “without human rights integrated into local governance, it will be so difficult to bring about an enduring peace that will also bring about the right to development.”
The conference was attended by 150 participants, including human rights defenders and promoters from the Department of Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Bangsamoro Human Rights Network. The participants summarised the main issues which they wanted the project to address, and signed a Declaration of Commitment, symbolising their willingness to support the project’s objective to build peace, human rights, and development for the new Bangsamoro.