Profile of LAWASIA
Who We Are
LAWASIA is an international organisation of lawyers’ associations, individual lawyers, judges, legal academics, and others which focuses on the interests and concerns of the legal profession in the Asia Pacific region. The governing body, the LAWASIA Council, is comprised of representatives of the peak legal bodies in 25 countries. As such, its policies and agenda directly address issues confronting the profession throughout the region. LAWASIA also has over 1,500 individual members from over 50 countries, who have the opportunity to contribute directly to LAWASIA activities through participation in Sections and Standing Committees.
LAWASIA owes its creation primarily to the international outlook of the (then) president of the Law Council of Australia, Mr J B Piggott CBE, (then) Mr Justice John Kerr and (then) Mr P B Toose QC. This group and their colleagues identified the desirabilty of a regional association of lawyers from what was the Economic Commission of Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) region. Again, nomenclature has changed to reflect a more modern world and the LAWASIA member organisations are now drawn from the Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region.
LAWASIA’s main objective is to foster professional and business relations between lawyers, businesses and government representatives in the Asia Pacific region.
LAWASIA also promotes the rule of law in a diverse range of political, cultural, social and economic contexts throughout the region. Other objectives of LAWASIA include:
to promote the administration of justice, the protection of human rights and the maintenance of the rule of law within the region;
to advance the standard of legal education within the region by all practicable means;
to encourage communication and liaison between members in relation to general and specialised areas of law;
to enhance the development of members’ legal practices and their professional and business relations within the region;
to further the diffusion of knowledge of the laws of the various countries within the region;
to promote development of the law in the region;
to advance the science of jurisprudence in all its phases and to promote the study and development of international law and of comparative law;
to promote uniformity within the region in appropriate fields of law;
to further international understanding and goodwill;
to assist and co-operate with international, regional, or other organisations having all or any of the above mentioned objects or similar objects;
to foster relations and intercourse between lawyers and associations and organisations of lawyers within the region;
to uphold and advance the status of the legal profession within the region.
A Unique and Successful Assocation
LAWASIA holds consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, observer status with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and operational relations status with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
Human Rights Activities
Since its inception in 1966, LAWASIA has developed a record of human rights activities in the region, underpinned by the aims and objectives of its constitution. The organisation works to sensitise lawyers towards the human rights implications of the cases they argue in court, with the intent of encouraging members of the judiciary to give full consideration of international conventions in making their judgments. To achieve this, it considers continuing legal education of the highest importance, and that is reflected in LAWASIA's conference programs.
Many lawyers join the organisation, viewing their membership as a contribution towards the human rights activities of the legal profession.
The LAWASIA Human Rights Committee and Secretariat have overseen a good deal of research into and development of human rights mechanisms, the most notable being the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, which has gone on to develop its own life.
Currently, LAWASIA is considering the rejuvenation of the draft Pacific Human Rights Charter, an initiative that will seek the agreement of governments of all Pacific countries to adhere to a set of basic human rights principles.
A number of reports and publications, devoted solely to human rights issues, have been published by the LAWASIA Human Rights Committee over a long period of time. Some of these are considered definitive documents and remain a reference for human rights groups. Although a current lack of funding has not allowed this work to continue in any significant way, LAWASIA remains committed to maintaining a human rights profile in the region through other focuses.
The LAWASIA Human Rights committee has convened a number of workshops and seminars, most recently in Manila in 2001, where it undertook a regional look at legal aid issues. LAWASIA has a continued presence at the UNHCR via its UN representative, Professor Maxime Tardu. Professor Tardu's reports from the UN are regularly published in the LAWASIA Update newsletter.