DTP’s International Programs Return with the 30th Annual Human Rights and Peoples’ Diplomacy Training Program

The Diplomacy Training Program’s (DTP) 30th Annual Human Rights and Peoples’ Diplomacy Training for Human Rights Defenders in the Asia-Pacific was held in Thailand from 23 January - 3 February,  2023, in partnership with Mahidol University, FORUM-ASIA, PIANGO, MFA, AIPP, HRDF, SHAPE-SEA[1]. There was a special focus on the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – and 30th Anniversary of the Bangkok NGO Declaration.

Twenty-nine human rights defenders from 13 countries participated in the program: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan/USA, Myanmar, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. They work on a diverse range of human rights concerns including the rights of migrant workers, women and children, LGBTIQ, gender justice, trafficking, Indigenous peoples rights, peace-building and struggles for self-determination, youth, environmental issues and climate change and human rights education. This two-week residential program of intensive learning, sharing and skills building was the DTP’s first face to face program (F2F) since 2019, and the onset of COVID related restrictions.

Trainers, presenters and facilitators in the program included Professor Vitit Muntabhorn, Dr Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Dr. Wanun Permpibul, Romchat Wachirarattanakornkul, Georgina Lloyd, Katia Chirizzi, Arnaud Chaltin, Harpreet Kaur, Kevin Lehmann, Anna Olsen, Nicholas Booth, Debbie Stothard, Joel Barredo, Pranom Somwong, Usa Lerdsrisuntad, Boonthan Verawongse, Ed Legaspi, Ruki Fernando, Freddy Gamage, William Gois, Joshua Cooper, Arul Prakkash, Mike Hayes and Patrick Earle. Trainers included at least three DTP alumni.

The program began with a focus on the 75th Anniversary of the UDHR, and the international human rights standards and mechanisms developed to promote and protect human rights over the last 75 years. It explored human rights in the context of the climate emergency and commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There was a special session reflecting on the achievements of Asia civil society mobilisation that resulted in the adoption of the influential 1993 Bangkok NGO Declaration on Human Rights, ahead of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.

Some of the specific issues the participants worked on were explored in sessions on the rights of women, human rights and business, migrant workers and Indigenous peoples rights. There was a strong focus on practical advocacy strategies and participants had the opportunity to apply program content in practical exercises including developing a short video, group role-plays and exercises to engage with the Human Rights Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review, and lobby meetings with diplomats from the Australian Embassy.

The program continued DTP’s long relationship with Thailand’s human rights and democracy movements. It provided a safe space for reflection, sharing information, strategies and resources, and for establishing networks for continued solidarity amongst the participants. There was a focus on the current human rights crisis in Myanmar, and broader context of closing space for civil society and growing authoritarianism.

"I learned about the whole UN system, bodies, mechanisms everything in a more information and enthusiastic way. I am really confident on applying these mechanisms in future in my advocacy work." Quote from anonymous end of training evaluation

[1] Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO) and Judicial System Monitoring Program, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF) and SHAPE-SEA (Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia).

After being delayed by COVID, 29 human rights advocates from the region participated in the 30th Annual Program in Bangkok, 23 January - 3rd February.