Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s best known international groups working on human rights research and advocacy. Originally established in New York, it has grown to work in over 90 countries around the world on issues ranging from rights violations during armed conflict to issues affecting vulnerable groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, LGBT persons, refugees and migrants, and elderly persons. Operating with both regional and thematic focus, Human Rights Watch is well known to dictators and despots around the world as a tough and persistent advocate of civil and political liberties which excels at getting its message out and bring down pressure to stop rights abuses and protect civil and political liberties.
Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, has worked for the organization for the past ten years and oversees their work on Southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. Phil will give an overview of Human Rights Watch’s work in the region, and explain a number of broad trends on human rights issues in the region that will be important to watch.
Phil serves as a human rights advocate engaging with government and UN agency officials, a spokesperson representing the organization’s views who regularly contributes to national and international media stories on SE Asia, a strategic campaigner on rights cases and causes, and a researcher and writer on topics of human rights, labor rights, refugees and migration.
Prior to joining Human Rights Watch in 2009, he worked for fifteen years in Southeast Asia on human rights, labor rights, protection of migrant workers, and counter-human trafficking efforts with a variety of non-governmental organizations, international and regional trade union federations, and UN agencies. As program manager of the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), he oversaw the successful negotiation of the first regional inter-governmental agreement on human trafficking in the greater Mekong sub-region. As a consultant, he researched and wrote the seminal report on trafficking and rights abuses in the Thai fishing industry in 2009. Working for the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers, he co-led the multi-stakeholder, multi-country process and served as primary drafter of the comprehensive civil society proposal to ASEAN for a legal instrument to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers. He directed the Mainland Southeast Asia office of the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center, working on trade union rights, democratic political reform, and rights of migrant workers, focusing on Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Thailand. He also worked as a professional staff member of the Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, DC. A 1997 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he is fluent in Thai and Lao.