On 8-9 February 2016, UPR Info Asia and Chulalongkorn University organized a two-day CSO Coalition Building Workshop entitled “Working Together to Foster Solidarity”, to ensure Thai civil society can effectively engage in Thailand’s 2nd UPR cycle by following a coordinated approach. The purpose of the workshop was for Thai local groups to come together as “one strong and powerful voice” by forming the “Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR” comprising human rights organizations across sectors, including human rights defenders, land rights activists, women leaders, youth, indigenous peoples, sexual minorities, religious minorities, and vulnerable communities among others.
Given the current political context in Thailand since the May 2014 Coup, it was critical for Thai CSOs to stand by the principle of universality of human rights and reflect local communities’ wishes for their country: an inclusive, diverse and equal society – whose leaders pave the way for younger generations, empower women and minorities are given an equal voice. The two-day workshop offered the opportunity to learn about policy advocacy and effective advocacy strategies. The importance of credible evidence to support arguments and the opportunities arising from building partnerships with universities and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) were also addressed. The workshop brought together 138 participants, including 107 CSOs representatives from 55 organizations across Thailand, a NHRCT Commissioner and 11 NHRCT staff members, as well as 14 diplomats and 5 representatives of UN agencies.
On the first day, participants were welcomed by H.E. Mr. Paul Robilliard, Ambassador of Australia to the Kingdom of Thailand; Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit of the NHRCT; Professor Surichai Wun’Gaeo, Director for the Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at Chulalongkorn University; and Mr. Miloon Kothari, UPR Info’s President. UPR Info’s Asia Regional Representative, Ms. Emilie Pradichit, kicked off the workshop by reflecting on the challenges, lessons learnt and progress made so far since the National Consultation to Inform Thailand UPR State Report, held in December 2015. Ms. Pradichit invited Ms. Khin Ohmar, Ms. Sukhgerel Dugersuren and Ms. Honey Tan, human rights leaders from Myanmar, Mongolia and Malaysia respectively to share their regional experiences leading CSO coalitions. The three human rights leaders shared their expertise in building influential and credible coalitions which can leverage the UPR process and better hold governments accountable for their commitments. In the afternoon, a variety of panellists discussed strategies and challenges in developing evidence-based research and good practices for influencing policymaking in Thailand. The crucial role of universities in building partnerships and providing a safe space for research was also emphasized.
On the second day, Professor Vitit Muntharborn, member of the UN Advisory Board on Human Security, and Ms. Heike Alefsen, Human Rights Adviser for UNDG Asia and the Pacific, led a discussion on the integration of human rights in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), inviting participants to realize the importance of engaging in the Post-2015 development agenda, to better hold their government accountable for their human rights obligations as well as the development outcomes. Diplomats from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the British Embassy explained their involvement in Thailand’s 2nd UPR Process and elaborated on how CSOs could influence the development of the UPR recommendations that will be formulated to the Royal Thai Government in May 2016. In addition, participants were trained by UPR Info Asia and OHCHR Regional Office for South East Asia on how to develop SMART recommendations by ensuring the UPR recommendations are grounded in existing Treaty Bodies concluding observations. The afternoon was dedicated to working in thematic groups to prepare the UPR advocacy factsheets, comprehensive, reliable data from the ground and SMART recommendations, which would be provided to diplomats during UPR Info’s Pre-Sessions in Bangkok and Geneva.
The workshop was an important step for the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, which will engage strongly in inclusive diplomatic dialogues in Bangkok and Geneva to ensure local voices could be heard by diplomats prior to Thailand 2nd UPR and to guarantee the UPR Recommendations formulated by Recommending States to the Royal Thai Government reflect local communities’ needs. As of today, the UPR is the only Political Process which effectively brings solutions from local groups to the Government, with UN Member States acting as the main Bridge.