|AFAD Workshop on Enforced Disappearances|
Enhancing Capacities: NKHR Participates in an AFAD Workshop on Advocacy for Enforced Disappearances
By Michele Park Sonen, Campaign Team Program Officer
NKHR is proud to be one of thirteen member organizations of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Member organizations of AFAD address enforced disappearances in their home countries while sharing the broader AFAD vision of ending enforced disappearances worldwide. NKHR’s work on disappearances focuses on the post-Korean War enforced disappearance of 516 South Korean nationals by the government of North Korea. AFAD helps NKHR bring these disappearances to the international stage, while building relationships and solidarity with other NGOs throughout Asia.
From March 29 to April 1, 2015, NKHR joined AFAD in Bangkok, Thailand, for a workshop to strengthen our advocacy for victims of enforced disappearance. The workshop—Enhancing Capacities for Our Advocacy Towards a World Without Desaparecidos—brought human rights defenders together from eight countries across Asia—Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, and South Korea—to learn from human rights experts and share lessons from own experiences. NKHR shared highlights from our disappearance work, including the submission of cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, raising the abduction issue with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry for the DPRK, organizing seminars in Seoul, and creating documentaries about the South Korean abductees. Although each AFAD member organization faces a unique situation, we share the common goal of using the international community to influence domestic governments to take action. For example, the signing and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by all countries in Asia is a priority for AFAD, as the Convention calls for domestic measures to address enforced disappearances and assist victims. South Korea has yet to sign this important convention.
Enhancing Capacities provided AFAD member organizations with new advocacy tools. The topics covered in the workshop included effective strategy planning, an overview of UN human rights mechanisms, and insight into the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Solidarity with fellow organizations also played an important role, as exemplified by our collective celebration of the 45th birthday of Jonas Burgos. In 2007, then-37-year-old Jonas, a political activist, was forcibly disappeared from a restaurant in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Jonas’s mother, Edith Burgos, has fought tirelessly ever since for the return of her son through her organization, the Free Jonas Burgos Movement, the newest member of AFAD. NKHR was grateful for the opportunity to strengthen bonds with our fellow organizations, many of whom fearlessly continue to defend human rights despite hostile and dangerous political climates in their countries.
The strength of AFAD rests not only in its member organizations’ commitments to their own countries, but in our shared vision for a world without disappearances and commitment to AFAD as a whole. Enhancing Capacities gave us additional tools to advocate both locally and internationally for truth and justice both at home and worldwide.
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