For this year’s Gwangju Asia Forum, the May 18 Memorial Foundation is once again providing a unique platform for exchanging and networking with democracy and human rights activists in Asia. The ‘Gwangju Asia Forum’ takes place every year to bring together activists from Asia to discuss pertinent issues of human rights and democracy.
The Gwangju Asia Forum 2018 will take place in Gwangju, South Korea on May 16-18. The slogan for this year’s forum is ‘Time to Implement’.
The 2018 Gwangju Asia Forum will begin with the launch of May 18 Memorial Ceremonies on 16 May, move ahead with the May 18 Commemoration March on 17 May, and conclude with the May 18 National Memorial Ceremony by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs on May 18.
I wrote this announcement for the May 18 Memorial Foundation based in Gwangju, South Korea, and it was originally published by Asian Human Rights Commission on 11 May 2018.
During the launch of the May 18 Memorial Ceremonies, Mr. Basil Fernando, director for policy and programmes at the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), will deliver the keynote speech on the theme ‘The Need to Shift Emphasis on Implementation of Rights Through Effective Justice Mechanisms’. The May 18 Memorial Ceremonies will also announce the Gwangju Declaration of the 20th Anniversary of the Asia Human Rights Charter.
20th Anniversary of the Asian Human Rights Charter
The ‘Gwangju Asia Forum 2018’ will significantly mark the 20th anniversary of launching of the Asian Human Rights Charter – A People’s Charter, which was launched in Gwangju, South Korea on 17 May 1998 as a joint effort of the AHRC and the May 18 Memorial Foundation. This charter stands out as one of the inspirations from great struggles for freedom in Asia, including the struggle by the citizens of Gwangju in 1980.
Over the past 20 years, a large number of organisations, including the AHRC and the May 18 Memorial Foundation, have spread the message of the Asian Human Rights Charter and have also worked on the principles enunciated in the Asian Human Rights Charter to provide effective remedies to human rights violations in Asia. In the course of this work, we have been able to gain extensive knowledge about the obstacles that obstruct the actual implementation of human rights in most of the region.
In order to realize the spirit of the Asian Human Rights Charter, on the occasion of the Charter’s 20th Anniversary, the AHRC and the May 18 Memorial Foundation will announce the Asian declarations on the rights to justice, culture and peace.
Time to Implement
The slogan of the Gwangju Asia Forum 2018 is ‘Time to Implement’. This has evolved from the realization that victims of human rights violations across Asia are constantly struggling to enjoy their right to justice. In addition, the possibilities of seeking an effective remedy through their national justice framework for the violations of human rights do not exist. Victims of human rights violations, and human rights advocates and activists in the region have experienced that the human rights covenants and conventions in the region have merely remained as documents without being practically implemented. Unlike in developed countries, the implementation process in Asia does not automatically flow through the justice mechanisms once a state becomes a signatory to a UN convention. This suggests that it is time to bring about corrective action and effective remedies to human rights violations in Asia.
For this to happen, the May 18 Memorial Foundation and Asian Human Rights Commission are going to issue the Asian declaration on the right to justice – right to an effective remedy for human rights violations in terms of Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It is under these circumstances that the work for this declaration was undertaken with the view to identify all major obstacles that prevent the realization of human rights, and therefore frustrate the efforts of the people to improve the achievement of their rights.
The Asian declaration on the right to justice is based on the belief that the protection and promotion of human rights as envisaged in the UN covenants and conventions will become possible only if the governments that are signatories to these documents comply with the requirements of Article 2 of the ICCPR, requiring states to provide for legislative, judicial and administrative measures in the realization of universal human rights.
Together with the Asian declaration on the right to justice, two other declarations on the right to culture and the right to peace will also be presented. These declarations serve as the supplement to the Asian Human Rights Charter, drawing inspiration from the boundless attempts by people in Asia to have their rights improved.
AHRC Sessions on Asian Declarations on the rights to justice, culture and peace
The AHRC will discuss the Asian declarations on the right to justice, culture and peace in separate sessions during the ‘Gwangju Asia Forum 2018’. These sessions will be presided over by Mr. Basil Fernando.
On 16 May 2018, Mr. John Joseph Clancey will speak on the right to justice, followed by a panel discussion with experts moderated by Mr. Basil Fernando, while Mr. Sanjeewa Liyanage will speak on the right to culture, followed by a panel discussion with experts moderated by Ms. Ahn Jean. On May 17, Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree will deliver her keynote speech on the right to peace, followed by a panel discussion with experts moderated by Mr. Basil Fernando.
2018 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights
The ‘Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ is an appendage of the Gwangju Asia Forum. This prize promotes the spirit of the May 18 Democratization Movement, in which the people of Gwangju resisted against brutal military forces for the sake of democracy and human rights in 1980. Historically, the May 18 Democratization Movement brought democracy in Korea. Through the ‘Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ the May 18 Memorial Foundation felicitates those outstanding individuals aspiring to the restoration of justice and human rights in Asian countries. This prize has been awarded annually since 2000. This year, Fr. Nandana Manatunga from Sri Lanka is the winner of the ‘2018 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’.
Grassroots Organization Support Workshop
The ‘2018 State Violence Trauma Forum’ and ‘Asia Democracy Network Forum’ are two other key events organized by the Gwangju Trauma Center and Asia Democracy Network respectively on 16-17 May 2018. The theme for the ‘2018 State Violence Trauma Forum’ is ‘impunity’, while the theme for the ‘Asia Democracy Network Forum’ is ‘Empowering Asia Forum 2018: Youth Leadership Forum for Democracy’.
The May 18 Memorial Foundation will organize a workshop for around nine grassroots organizations from Asia to share their activities regarding human rights and democratization in their respective countries.
May 18 Education Forum
The May 18 Memorial Foundation will discuss the theme ‘The Future of May 18 Education’ in the forum participated by Supervisors in Charge of Local Democratization at Offices of Education Nationwide, May 18 Education Activists, East Asia Democracy Human Rights Peace, Network, The National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines and the Teachers in Gwangju.
East Asia Democracy Human Rights Peace Network Meeting
The foundation will hold a meeting with 15 including the Representatives of the Korea Democratization Memorial Organization, Jeju 4·3 Peace Foundation, Busan Democratic Contention Memorial Organization and Nogeunrl Peace Foundation on 17 May 2018.