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Mutual Learning, Network Formation on HR Best Practices by Non-State Actors in COVID responses

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Mutual Learning, Network Formation on Human Rights Best Practices by Non-State Actors in C
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Project Overview:

The project aims to build and sustain a network of mutual help and learning across borders, through research and communication among project partners in six countries, beneficiaries and other stakeholders in Asia. These six partners were identified in the prior project as best practice providers in filling human rights gaps during the difficult time due to the spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions. Consultations in the first stage are organized according to four themes identified at the beginning of the project: i) migration, ii) non-traditional actors in fulfilling the right to education, iii) student-led human rights initiatives, and iv) resilience and community-centered humanitarian response to natural disasters. Each thematic consultation will produce its own findings. Subsequently, all six partners will meet on-line to share findings. In the second year of the project, selected members of project partners will visit two partners to learn more deeply about the two initiatives, including through observing their activity sites, discussing their activities, engaging with the beneficiaries and sharing experiences. The final results will be published through a joint symposium with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the form of oral presentations at the symposium, project reports and outcomes in other suitable forms, including video clips.

Implemented Activities

There is a change in the form of communication among six project partners. Initially it was planned to have consultations all together, but because of multiple themes that this

project deals with, the consistent language and internet connection difficulties for some partners, as well as different times that partners are available, it is found to be more effective to have theme-based communications in the initial stage. There are four thematic groups: i) migration, ii) non-traditional actors in fulfilling the right to education, iii) student-led human rights initiatives, and iv) resilience and community-centered humanitarian response to natural disasters.

I. Thematic Group: Migration

The goal of this thematic group is to generate dialogue and research through mutual learning and network formation on the topic of human rights best practices in support of migrants and refugees and migrant and refugee communities by non-State actors amidst the challenges of COVID-19. The thematic group engages with two partners: COVID-19 Migrant Support Coalition (CMSC) in Singapore, and Sophia Refugee Support Group (SRSG) in Japan and will expand the scope of research by consulting with other non-State actors that work in the migrant and refugee support space in East and Southeast Asia to gain a better understanding of opportunities and constraints in providing support to migrants and refugees. CMSC identified six (6) primary themes for human rights best practices during COVID-19 to explore during ongoing consultations with other non-State actors:

  1. Provision of essential goods and services during COVID-19

  2. Legal, language, and/or information support to migrants and refugees during COVID-19

  3. Wellbeing, empathy, and emotional support during COVID-19

  4. Government and stakeholder relations during COVID-19

  5. Digital innovations responsive to COVID-19

  6. Public outreach, engagement, and education about migrants and refugees during COVID-19

The consultation schedule with CMSC and SRSG has been established, providing for six-to-eight consultations with other non-State actors over the summer. The first thematic consultation is scheduled on 9 May 2022, featuring an international organization called Tribeless, which provides training and workshops for humanitarian organizations to equip them with skills of empathy and communication for beneficiaries in a digital space. This consultation will target the above theme numbers 3 and 5.

II. Thematic Group: Non-traditional actors in fulfilling the right to education

The goal of this thematic group is to map formal and informal actors engaged in the education sector in Indonesia, which have had to adapt their strategies for upholding the right to education in the country amidst the limitations brought about by the pandemic. It is deemed that a mapping of these non-traditional actors will help in determining best practices and areas for improvement in adapting education approaches. Apart from providing a national platform for mutual learning and capacity building, the thematic group hopes to find both domestic and international audiences that can recognize and assist non-traditional actors in education in their work. The thematic group aims to continue engagement with the project partner: the door-to-door teachers from Magelang in Central Java, and it will expand the scope of research by reaching out to other non-state actors that work in the education sector in Indonesia, to gain a better understanding of opportunities and constraints in providing education. The team has reached out to Kawan Kasih Tumbuh, a non-profit organization that provides education to children in the remote highlands of Papua, and it is reaching out to an organization involved in the growth of so-called 'micro-schools' in Indonesia; it is also trying to seek engagement with an institution that provides study abroad programs which have been adapted to online learning.

III. Thematic Group: Student-led human rights initiatives

This thematic group aims to engage with and learn from student-led organizations/actors in higher education in Japan. While this is considerable, and rightful, global focus on youth-led activism, university students are a special group and face unique barriers and have specific advantages as well. The team has reached out to and confirmed the participation of three organizations. These organizations are based in the University of Tokyo, Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University and Sophia University. The team will continue reaching out to other organizations.

IV. Thematic Group: Resilience and community-centered humanitarian response to natural disasters

The goal of this thematic group is to provide a platform for transnational engagement for a project partner: the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), aimed at coming up with a community-centered, human rights-based resilience response to large scale crises and environments, like that of the COVID-19 pandemic. The thematic group is currently inviting a Japan-based volunteer organization with experience in facilitating crisis response in local communities. The engagement between the two organizations will be a mutual learning environment for capacities adapted amidst the pandemic. A draft Memorandum of Understanding on the partnership for this project was submitted to the PDRF.

In addition, the partner in Thailand: mask-map developer, is joined by an additional project staff, researching on the use of digital skills in filling the gap in the right to health. There are currently three project members in this Thai team, and the team is organizing a seminar in June 2022 on several best practice examples of the use of digital skills in addressing the right to health during the pandemic.

3. Current achievements, findings and reflections of the project

The most noteworthy achievements is the establishment of a workable consultation framework through four thematic groups and inviting additional stakeholders to consult with in relation to the four thematic groups. Five of the project partners are part of the thematic group consultations. The Thai partner has also set up an effective framework of collaboration as part of best practices in assisting in the fulfillment of the right to health with the use of digital skills.

Findings so far indicate that there are a number of good human rights practices in the region in response to the spread of COVID-19 and related restrictions. Actors involved and initiatives taken are often very innovative, they work in both formal and informal frameworks, collaborate freely with new partners, while utilizing their strengths and skills. Necessary resources are provided through a number of sources, including by reaching out to new contacts and building new networks. Rapid and smooth matching of the groups and people with initiatives and necessary resources made successful interventions. Their responses have often also been well tailored to the specific needs of the community that they serve. Because there are many initiatives responding to specific needs, it is difficult to generalize findings; nonetheless, there is much to be learned from all these initiatives.

4. Prospects for the remaining terms

The change of project plan form on the change of several project and partner members has been submitted on 6 May 2022. In addition, because this project aims to adapt to identified needs in order to make mutual learning effective, the initial consultation with project partners and the identification of relevant stakeholders to engage with have taken a little longer than planned. Therefore, it may be the case that the project timetable is slightly delayed. However, now that there is a well workable framework for consultation, it is not envisaged to be an extensive delay.

Consultations in four thematic groups and with the Thai team are going very well, goals and members for each thematic group are identified, additional stakeholders are being identified and invited. Generally, the project is catching speed. This consultation will continue until summer, when all the six project partners will gather on-line as planned, in order to share their findings and take notes. Subsequently, the project team will consult with partners on which two project partners to visit, and organize the trips. It is considered to be feasible at this stage, but if there are any travel restrictions or COVID-related concerns, the timing or other details of visits to two project partners may be altered.

At the end of the project, a joint symposium with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will be organized and a report will be published. In addition, there may be other more suitable forms of outputs from this project. Possible additional outputs can be video clips, information sharing platforms and infographics.

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