On the 9th and 10th of August 2022, IDC hosted an in-person, Asia Pacific Regional Community of Practice (COP) meeting in Kuala Lumpur. A total of 13 participants, representatives of CSOs working on ATD implementation and advocacy from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand joined the meeting – the first one in-person since the pandemic.

 The meeting set out with several objectives:

  • to provide an opportunity for peer learning and exchange of the key challenges and lessons learnt for implementing and advocating for ATD, particularly for children and vulnerable groups;
  • to increase capacity and ability of participating members to strategise and advocate for ATD by engaging with governments, building stronger alliances across different sectors and working with refugee leaders and communities affected by immigration detention. 
  • to facilitate opportunities for further cross-country/bilateral collaborations between members
  • to envision and lay the foundations for a sustainable, regional ATD platform among civil society members

In close conversation and collaboration with fellow refugee rights advocates, the COP participants launched into discussions on connecting national-regional-global advocacy, with the Malaysian and Indonesian participants both indicating interest in exploring engagement at an ASEAN level, with Malaysian participants also keen to kick start engagement with diplomatic missions, embassies, and the National Human Rights Commission. On the other hand, Thai participants were interested in elevating issues of women, children, and gender-diverse people who are affected by migration to improve their access to gender-responsive support services via the upcoming CEDAW shadow reporting.

IDC Asia Pacific Staff conducting a session on reflecting gender in ATD advocacy and implementation

There was also substantial interest and discussion around leadership and engagement of persons with lived experience of immigration detention, with the participants recognising the need to have systemic shifts to ensure that people with lived experience are shaping and leading the work and advocacy at multiple different levels. In this vein, we discussed current initiatives in Thailand and Malaysia, and opened the floor for an honest sharing session and discussion around the relationships between Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and lived experience leaders, in particular, encouraging being mindful of tokenising of refugee participation as compared to meaningful and mutually beneficial engagement.

The CSO participants also explored key topics they would like to explore further, at the upcoming Regional ATD Peer Learning Platform which will be joined by representatives from the governments of New Zealand and Australia, alongside the governments of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Topics of interest included advocating for the rights and release of people with medical vulnerabilities, benefits of ATD for governments, mechanisms to facilitate access to education and healthcare, and inclusion of lived experience leaders in both CSO spaces as well as government spaces.

The COP participants also conducted SWOT analyses to map out current advocacy efforts, and explore future areas of work

As the group moves forth, we mutually agreed to coordinate our advocacy efforts and explore regional collaborations through joint statements, cross-country campaigns, and advocacy using regional mechanisms. After all these years, coming together again in-person to share our experiences, strengthen networks, and collaboratively develop strategies was reinvigorating for both the participating CSO members as well as the IDC team members involved. Learning from each other – about our achievements, and challenges; and planning towards future regional cooperation is a reminder that systemic change can be made reality through sustained, coordinated, multilateral collaboration.

Participants of the Regional ATD Community of Practice August 2022 Meeting


Written by Hannah Jambunathan IDC Community and Engagement Organiser – Malaysia