Photograph of policemen's hands holding up shields

ASEAN Forum 2021

ASEAN and Human Rights
Now in its ninth iteration, this year’s ASEAN Forum focuses on human rights in ASEAN.

When: Friday 27 August 2021
Where: This event will be run entirely online via Zoom, with both events livestreamed on Facebook.

It has been just under a decade since ASEAN promulgated its ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, marking a rhetorical shift in its approach to human rights in the region. Across the region, its member countries have vastly different approaches to and experiences with human rights. In this event, we offer a snapshot of the current human rights situation in ASEAN, the approach ASEAN is taking and how human rights is faring in the context of increasing geopolitical power struggles across the region. 

All videos recorded as part of ASEAN Forum 2021 will be made available for public viewing on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel.


Keynote Address: Southeast Asia and the Future of Human Rights

Panel Discussion: Human Rights in ASEAN in the Context of US/China Tensions



Further information

Event Speakers Time (CET) Time (ICT) Time (SGT) Time (AET)

Keynote address:

Southeast Asia and the Future of Human Rights

Catherine Renshaw

Chair: Susan Banki

05:00 11:00 12:00 14:00

Panel discussion:

Human Rights in ASEAN in the Context of US/China Tensions

Ben Bland

Elaine Pearson

James Reilly

Chair: Dr Elisabeth Kramer


6:00 12:00  13:00 15:00

Southeast Asia and the Future of Human Rights

By Professor Catherine Renshaw

Chaired by Dr Susan Banki

There have been increasingly clear signs that the international human rights system will be unable to address the human rights challenges of the 21st century. The transboundary human rights implications of climate change, China’s decreasing willingness to accept the human rights priorities and methods of Western states, the growth of ethno-nationalist extremism and the patent failure of existing global bodies to prevent atrocities in countries like Myanmar, all loom large on the global human rights stage. Even before Covid-19 wreaked devastation across the world and threatened the human rights of millions of people, these issues presented real and substantial challenges to the existing human rights order.

Against this backdrop, what does the future of human rights look like from the perspective of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations? Professor Catherine Renshaw argues that ASEAN will be central to a new system for the promotion and protection of human rights that will include (i) a move towards regionalism in the governance of human rights; (ii) a new human rights architecture composed of a network of civil society and state-based human rights institutions, and (iii) the emergence of a new order of Asian Values, centred on principles of solidarity, dignity, decency and good governance. 

Human Rights in ASEAN in the Context of US/China Tensions

Featuring Mr Ben Bland, Ms Elaine Pearson, and A/Prof James Reilly

Chaired by Dr Elisabeth Kramer

The issue of human rights has been a point of difference between the US and China for decades. As China has steadily strengthened its influence over the Southeast Asia region and as the tensions between the US and China grow, the countries of ASEAN have found themselves in an increasingly complex position. In this online panel discussion, experts on human rights, foreign policy, Southeast Asia and China engage in a discussion about ASEAN and its member countries’ response to the US/China tensions specifically in relation to human rights issues.  

About the speakers

Susan Banki's research interests lie in the political, institutional, and legal contexts that explain the roots of and solutions to international human rights violations. In particular, she is interested in the ways that questions of sovereignty, citizenship/membership and humanitarian principles have shaped our understanding of and reactions to various transnational phenomena, such as the international human rights regime, international migration and the provision of international aid. Susan's focus is in the Asia-Pacific region, where she has conducted extensive field research in Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh and Japan on refugee/migrant protection, statelessness and border control. 

Ben Bland is the Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, and the author of two critically acclaimed books on Asian politics. His most recent publication is Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the Struggle to Remake Indonesia (2020), the first English language political biography of Indonesia's president. His first book, Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow (2017), examined the motivations of young people in pushing back against Beijing’s pressures on Hong Kong. Ben is currently pursuing research projects on internet governance in Southeast Asia, Indonesian attitudes to foreign policy, and future development models for the region.

Professor Michele Ford is Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Her research focuses on Southeast Asian labour movements, the intersection between national and international trade unions, labour migration, and labour’s engagement in the political sphere. Michele’s work has been supported by a number of Australian Research Council (ARC) grants related to these and other topics. She currently leads an ARC Discovery Project on Myanmar’s garment industry and an ARC Linkage Project on trade union responses to gender-based violence in Cambodia’s construction industry. In addition, she has been involved in extensive consultancy work for the ILO, the international labour movement and the Australian government.

Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch, based in Sydney. She established Human Rights Watch’s Australia office in 2013 and works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension. Pearson writes frequently for a range of publications and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the AustralianForeign Policy and the Washington Post. From 2007 to 2012 she was the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division based in New York. She has conducted numerous human rights investigations in Australia and around the world.

Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Pearson worked for the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu and London. She is an adjunct lecturer in law at the University of New South Wales, on the advisory committee of UNSW’s Australian Human Rights Institute and on the board of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. Pearson holds degrees in law and arts from Murdoch University and obtained her Master's degree in public policy at Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs.

Jamie Reilly is an Associate Professor in Northeast Asian Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. His research and teaching are in the areas of Chinese foreign policy, East Asian politics, and international relations. In the Department, he teaches undergraduate and post-graduate units on East Asian Politics and Chinese politics.

He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science (George Washington University 2008) and an M.A. in East Asia Area Studies (University of Washington 1999), was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford (2008-09), and a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy (2015-16). He also served as the East Asia Representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in China from 2001-2008.

He is the author of Orchestration: China's Economic Statecraft across Asia and Europe (Oxford University Press, 2021), Strong Society, Smart State: The Rise of Public Opinion in China’s Japan Policy (Columbia University Press, 2012), and the co-editor of Australia and China at 40 (UNSW Press, 2012). His articles have also appeared in numerous edited volumes and academic journals, including: Asian SurveyChina QuarterlyChinese Journal of International PoliticsJapanese Journal of Political ScienceJournal of Contemporary ChinaModern Asian StudiesSurvival, and Washington Quarterly.

Dr Catherine Renshaw is Professor in the School of Law at Western Sydney University. She has written widely about the theory, policy and practice of human rights in Southeast Asia. Some of her recent publications include Human Rights and Participatory Politics in Southeast Asia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), ‘Myanmar’s Genocide and the Legacy of Forgetting’ (Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, 2020) and ‘Southeast Asia’s human rights institutions and the inconsistent power of human rights’ (Journal of Human Rights, 2021). Her research has been funded by the Community of Democracies, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Rotary International. She has facilitated human rights training for government officials and professional bodies around the world and carried out fieldwork in several countries in Southeast Asia. She is a regular contributor to the media on human rights matters.