DTP alumnus Anselmo Lee is one of the Asia’s most prominent and experienced human rights advocates, with decades of experience and contributions to human rights and civil society movements in Asia.
Anselmo reflected that his participation in the 1995 DTP training relatively early in his long human rights career played a pivotal role in shaping his foundational knowledge of human rights advocacy.
Since then Anselmo served as the President of Pax Romano in Geneva, Executive Director of Forum-Asia, Executive Director at the Korea Human Rights Foundation and Director General for policy and human rights education at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) and advisor to Korea’s international aid agency (KOICA). Anselmo was also a co-founder of regional civil society networks, the Asia Development Alliance (ADA) and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN).
“When I participated in the DTP training in 1995, I was in the early stages of my career. DTP training was an eye-opener for me as it bridged the gap between the theories of human rights and their practical application in advocacy. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship, despite hailing from South Korea, a developed country, to attend the training held in Sydney. Overall, DTP training formed the foundational knowledge of my understanding of human rights advocacy.”
Today, Anselmo is Regional Coordinator at the Asia Civil Society Partnership for Sustainable Development (APSD), board member at the May 18 Memorial Foundation in Gwangju, Korea, and an adjunct professor at Kyunghee, SungKongHoe and Ajou University teaching about human rights and SDGs, global governance and NGOs. He is committed to nurturing and inspiring the next generation of human rights defenders in the region.
Anselmo’s motivation for getting involved in the regional movements for human rights was partly personal and partly generational. He grew up in 1980s South Korea, a period marked by active student activism against military dictatorship. His Catholic faith and the political context of South Korea inspired him to become an advocate for social justice.
“I was an active member of the Catholic Student Society, and my Catholic faith inspired me to engage in social justice work. Many of my friends were actively involved in student activism, and tragically, some of them lost their lives at the hands of the military. I witnessed and participated in the power of social movements in resisting dictatorship. It was only natural for me to continue working in the realm of social development.”
One of Anselmo’s trainers in the 1995 training was DTP founder and Patron José Ramos-Horta, who was still the Director of DTP then. “It was an inspiring experience and I consider José Ramos-Horta my guru,” Anselmo remarked.
Anselmo has seen many changes regional human rights advocacy in Asia over past decades and sees the importance of using frameworks such as the Social Development Goals (SDGs) and linking human rights with social development and social movements. He is also focusing more on human rights and business – engaging companies and holding them accountable and human rights city as a way to localising human rights.
Anselmo contributed to DTP’s first Asia alumni workshop in 2023 to look at future priorities and the unique DTP network of which he is part. He recommends that DTP consider launching a degree program in human rights advocacy, and further strengthen its collaboration with regional networks to deliver human rights training.