An international forum on human rights opened in Taipei yesterday to facilitate the exchange of international experiences on creating national human rights institutions -- an avenue which Taiwan is currently pursuing.
The International Conference on National Human Rights Commission: Promoting and Protecting Human Rights forum was organized by Soochow University and other civil groups in Taiwan. Among the participants were international human rights advocates from Japan, Australia, India, Hong Kong, Nigeria, the US and Sweden.
The three-day conference, held at the Grand Hotel, comes at a time when Taiwan's civil society is vigorously pressing for the establishment of a national human rights commission and the implementation of internationally recognized norms of human rights.
Seizing an opportunity to speak at the forum yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (
The president said that the creation of a national human rights institution was a priority among the three human rights policies he proposed following his election in March last year.
Chen also pledged to ratify the UN's International Declaration of Human Rights and incorporate it into domestic legislation, and to seek collaboration with international human rights organizations.
The reason for Taiwan to establish such an institution was to remedy the lack of an "infrastructure" to encourage human rights developments in this country, Chen said.
The president also took a step beyond his post-election pledges by embracing the national action plans on human rights as advocated in the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. He also stressed the necessity of Taiwan's participation in the international human rights arena, despite the fact Taiwan remains diplomatically isolated.
"We must never forget that Taiwan is a member of the world community. Though our experience in the field of human rights is relatively limited, we must never forget Taiwan's inherent obligations as a member of the global village of human rights," Chen said.
Ando Nisuke, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, said in his keynote speech to the conference that it was imperative for a state to set up and utilize a national human rights institution.
However, he also noted that such an institution should not become another branch of government but should instead fulfil a role supplementary to government bodies.
While the values and mechanisms of national human rights institutions are the core theme of the conference, human rights education, research, and other aspects will also be discussed during next two days of the forum.
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