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The Ateneo Human Rights Center was founded in July 1986, a few months after the historic EDSA Revolution drew attention to the indomitable might that is People Power. While the dictatorship infamous for human rights violations was overthrown through peaceful and bloodless means, it became obvious immediately thereafter that much work still had to be done in the field of human rights. AHRC was established as one of the first university-based institutions engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Housed in the School of Law of the Ateneo de Manila, AHRC strives to do its part in espousing the university’s challenge that every Atenean should use the gift of excellence to be “lux in Domino” – light in the Lord. It keeps faith with the guiding principle of forming men and women for others which underlies Ateneo pedagogy. As Fr. Bievenido F. Nebres, S.J., former President of the University, once said: “The vigor of the Ateneo’s social centers and the many socially oriented activities on campus…reflect our commitment to place excellence at the service of others. “
AHRC’s initial program was the Summer Internship Program. It was designed to provide law students with exposure to human rights work and advocacy and produced the first crop of interns in the summer of 1987. Since then, the Internship Program has been expanded substantially.
In 1990, two additional programs were put up: Research and Education, and Litigation. The Research and Education Program grew out of the need of various groups and sectors for more training and education on human rights issues and laws. The need for such training and education as well as the proposal to create a litigation unit to handle human rights cases were particularly articulated by interns and borne out of their experiences during the Summer Internship Program. These developments eventually led to more intense advocacy on human rights issues.
Also in 1990, AHRC became the Secretariat of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA). In 1993, the interns initiated the creation of the Child Rights Desk named Adhikain para sa Karapatang Pambata (AKAP) that became a pioneer in the legal promotion and protection of children’s rights in the Philippines. In 1996, AHRC took on the role of Secretariat of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.
Subsequent developments include the establishment of specialized desks dealing with the rights of women, migrant workers, and indigenous peoples. Today, AHRC pursues its mandate of protecting and promoting human rights through increasingly varied programs and services. Among other things, it is engaged in legal assistance, research and publication, law and policy reform advocacy, education and training, institution building, curriculum development and values formation.
In pursuing its goals, AHRC works closely with the government, the academe, NGOs, grassroots organizations, and other civil society groups. Partnerships have been established and maintained with national and international organizations whose operations and expertise are relevant to the respective sectors served by AHRC.
As a unit of the Ateneo Law School, AHRC also actively participates in the integration of human rights laws into the mainstream. Through curriculum development, AHRC introduces law students to human rights advocacy and awareness within the framework of the legal system. AHRC has also been instrumental in the introduction of human rights courses into the Ateneo Law curriculum. Elective course now include subjects such as Human Rights Law, Children’s Rights Law, Women’s Rights Law, Indigenous Peoples Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and Refugee Law.
To form and sustain human rights lawyers and advocates in the Philippines;
To make justice more accessible to victims of human rights violations;
To monitor and advocate for compliance with human rights laws and instruments;
To empower civil society towards peace, democracy, gender equality, good governance, and the rule of law.
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