March 2, 2010: Professor David Cohen, Mr. Henry V. Jardine, Dr. Daniel B. O'Connor, and Mr. James Wallar

(Click to enlarge) From left to right: Professor David Cohen, Mr. Henry Jardine, Dr. Daniel O'Connor, and Mr. James Wallar discuss human rights efforts in Southeast Asia.

U.S. Support for Human Rights in Southeast Asia

(Washington D.C.) March 2–For human rights efforts in Southeast Asia to continue to develop, support from regional leaders, civil society organizations, and international actors such as the United States will remain crucial. In an East-West Center in Washington Asia Pacific Democracy & Human Rights Seminar, Professor David Cohen, director of the University of California Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center and director of the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Center; Mr. Henry Jardine, director of the Office of Regional and Security Policy Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State; Dr. Daniel B. O’Connor, MLGA Officer Responsible for East Asia and Asylum Issues in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State; and Mr. James Wallar, Senior Vice President at Nathan Associates, Inc., discussed the many ways in which the United States is supporting human rights in Southeast Asia, focusing on U.S. projects with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the development of civil society mechanisms in the region.


In the past year, the relationship between the United States and ASEAN has been steadily increasing, exemplified by the signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN in July of 2009. Technical assistance programs developed by the U.S. government designed to provide training to ASEAN on issues such as responding the natural disasters, sustainable economic development, and support for human rights are important parts of this growing relationship. Mr. Jardine noted that the recent creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has led to increased attention to human rights issues in the region. He explained that the United States will work on enhancing the dialogue within ASEAN on human rights issues such as human trafficking, religious freedom, political freedom, and the importance of the rule of law.


Many have pointed to the creation of AICHR as a positive sign for the future of human rights dialogue in Southeast Asia, however others are more skeptical. They point out that AICHR is a primarily consultative mechanism with commissioners responsible to their appointing governments and that it may be difficult for the commission to address controversial human rights issues. Professor Cohen explained that it will be necessary for civil society and organizations such as the newly-formed Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN to push the commission to address human rights issues in a comprehensive way. The Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN, for example, will serve as a hub for regional human rights research, advocacy, and training, empowering regional experts, leaders, and civil society organizations to continually work on improving human rights issues in Southeast Asia.


Civil society will continue to be a very important part of human rights advocacy in ASEAN nations. Dr. O’Connor pointed out that though many of the civil society leaders who worked toward the creation of AICHR were disappointed by what they saw as a weak mandate for the body, these same groups can play an important role in moving the process forward and perhaps strengthening AICHR as it develops. He noted that many similar human rights mechanisms in other parts of the world also began with limited mandates that developed over time. Civil society will need to remain organized, coordinating and prioritizing their activities while at the same time working with ASEAN, in order to move the regional human rights dialogue forward.


Though the “ASEAN Way” of consultation and deliberation may seem slow to create results to some observers, Mr. Wallar argued that ASEAN’s approach cannot be discounted. He pointed out that ASEAN has steadily increased the range and scope of its activities since the first ASEAN Declaration in the 1960s, and explained that the human rights dialogue, though slow to begin, has matured relatively quickly. ASEAN is now regularly considering issues such as social responsibility, good governance, civil society engagement, and human rights in multiple venues. ASEAN, Mr. Jardine explained, is seen by the United States as an important player in the region for creating change in human rights issues, and the United States will continue putting resources into supporting ASEAN and engaging human rights mechanisms in the region.


David Cohen is the director of the U.C. Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center, where he is also the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, and director of the East-West Center’s Asian International Justice Initiative, where he is also a senior fellow in international law. Professor Cohen has monitored and reported extensively on the East Timor trials before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Dili and the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta. He was also an independent expert adviser to Indonesia and East Timor for the Commission for Truth and Friendship. He currently directs trial monitoring projects at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as an international project on the WWII war crimes trials in Asia, the Pacific, and Europe. He is writing books on a comparative study of international criminal hybrid tribunals in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Kosovo, and on war crimes from WWII to today.


Henry V. Jardine is the director for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs’ office for Regional and Security Policy (EAP/RSP). His previous assignments have included service as Consul General in Calcutta, India; management officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and rotational assignments as both political and consular officer in Bridgetown, Barbados and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Prior to his work with the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Jardine was a Captain in the U.S. Army and served as an executive officer with 2/327th Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and as an infantry platoon leader with the 3/8th Infantry Battalion, 8th Mechanized Division. He was a distinguished graduate from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where he received a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy. He also attended Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and received a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service. 


Daniel B. O’Connor joined the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in September 2008. He holds a hybrid portfolio working on both multilateral issues with a focus on East Asia and global issues with a focus on asylum matters. Dr. O’Connor entered the Foreign Service in 2001 and is a political cone officer. He has served as a vice consul at the Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2004-2006), and as the political/economic chief and public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas (2006-2008). He spent his first tour as the desk officer for Jamaica and The Bahamas in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Dr. O’Connor was a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1994-96) and subsequently worked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1996-2001).   


James (Jim) Wallar is the senior vice president for Nathan Associates Inc.’s international practice. In 2006-2007 he was resident at the ASEAN Secretariat serving as the chief of party and resident trade specialist for the ASEAN-US Technical Assistance and Training Facility and in 2008 was manager of the ADVANCE project (Advance the Development of ASEAN Vision for National Cooperation and Economic Integration). In 2009, Mr. Wallar returned to U.S. Government service as the US Treasury Attaché in the US Embassy in Baghdad. He was the head of the Public Financial Management Assistance Group (PFMAG), an integrated civilian-military unit of 20 experts and action officers assisting the Government of Iraq, provincial governments, and the Central Bank of Iraq on budget and financial sector issues. Earlier, Mr. Wallar enjoyed a distinguished career with the U.S. Treasury Department, serving in several positions, including economist with the Office of Tariff and Trade Affairs, deputy director of the Development Policy Office, and director of the Office of Trade Policy. He was the U.S. Treasury Representative for European Affairs in Frankfurt, Germany for five years, a senior advisor to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group in Kabul, the Treasury Attaché to Russia, Germany and Switzerland, and Minister Counselor for Economics and Finance in the U.S. Mission to the OECD.