Pacific Parliamentarians from 11 Pacific Island countries were reminded today that embracing the principles of human rights such as transparency, accountability, non-discrimination and participation into parliamentary systems will promote good governance and result in improved development outcomes for the region.

The 23 members of Parliament are in Nadi today attending the first day of a regional human rights consultation to share their experiences and exchange information on current and emerging human rights issues in the region.

Organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team, the consultation with the theme of ‘Human Rights for Good Governance’ aims to explore and promote the integration of human rights into Parliamentary systems to promote good governance.

Keynote speaker at the opening ceremony, Honourable Dr Pita Sharples, Māori academic and former Politician who was co-leader of the Māori Party and Minister of Māori Affairs in New Zealand promoted the important linkages between cultural values, human rights and development.

“Human rights will only be achieved when we value our culture and embrace its many values that are linked to the principles of human rights. We need to protect our culture and work with those values for the benefit of our people,” Dr Sharples said.

A Fiji Member of Parliament, Honourable Salote Radrodro said she welcomes the opportunity to be part of the consultation on human rights processes as human rights hold the key to true democracy.

Honourable Member of Parliament for Kiribati, Ieremia Tabai sees the consultation as a space and time to reflect on what “we have done for the people we represent and how we can help them live a better life where their rights are realised.”

Significant and emerging human rights issues that will be discussed during the consultation include sexual and gender based violence, human rights and climate change, disability inclusiveness and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The consultation will also explain the processes for ratifying international human rights conventions in Pacific Island countries and the participation of countries in the UN Universal Periodic Review and other international human rights mechanisms.

RRRT facilitates periodic consultations for members of parliament with the purpose of advancing human rights compliant legislative change.

SPC through its Human Rights Programme (RRRT) works to build a culture of human rights and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. SPC RRRT is grateful to the Australian Government for the funding of this event through Australian Aid.

Media contact

For more information, please visit our website or contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected] Photo caption: Fiji’s MP, Honourable Brij Lal and Niue’s MP, Honorable Fisa Pihigia at the consultation in Nadi today.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Pacific

 

Suva – A high-level delegation from Kiribati has taken part in a mock human rights reporting session in Suva, Fiji, to prepare for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations in Geneva.

Kiribati will be reviewed on 19 January 2015 by the Human Rights Council to assess the Pacific nation’s performance in protecting and promoting human rights, including progress made in implementing recommendations from its first review in 2010.

The Kiribati delegation, led by the Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs, the Hon Tangariki Reete, and the Attorney General, the Hon Titabu Tabane, attended the mock session yesterday which was staged by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Universal Periodic Review is a key mechanism which allows all UN Member States to declare action taken to improve human rights in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

“Through the mock session, we’ve realised that we need more information, especially statistics and other facts to support our presentation in Geneva,” Minister Reete said.

 “We are grateful to SPC and OHCHR for supporting us in this process, as well as other development partners such as UNICEF, UN Women and the UN Population Fund. We were guided on how to better articulate our responses during the interactive dialogue,” the Minister said.

SPC RRRT Senior Trainer, Romulo Nayacalevu, said the review is important because it exposes countries to best practice and enables them to seek technical assistance from organisations such as SPC to meet their commitments and obligations under international human rights treaties.

“Positive developments and challenges are discussed among countries while dialogue with civil society and the international community is enhanced, often resulting in prioritising action to address the crucial human rights issues on the ground,” Mr Nayacalevu said.

SPC RRRT supports all 22 Pacific countries and territories to build a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. This work is funded by the Australian Government and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Suva –Tuvalu’s Parliament unanimously passed the country’s Family Protection and Domestic Violence Bill last Thursday, 18 December after its second and final reading in the House.

The Act provides for greater protection from violence within domestic relationship to ensure the safety and protection of all people, including children, who experience or witness domestic violence. The Act recognises that domestic violence, in all its forms, is unacceptable behaviour and a crime.

Violence against women and within the family is a human rights violation, depriving women and children of their right to a safe and secure family life.

SPC RRRT has been providing support to the Government of Tuvalu through the drafting of the Bill in 2011 as well as providing a set of drafting instructions on violence against women legislation that is compliant with global human rights standards and supporting community and national consultations on the Bill in 2013 and in 2014.

The Tuvalu 2007 Demographic and Health survey reported that four in ten women have been subjected to some type of physical violence, with their current husbands or partners being the main perpetrators. Women whose husbands drink alcohol excessively are far more likely to experience physical, emotional, or sexual violence than those whose partner does not drink. Around half of all reported acts of physical violence were reported by women aged 25-29.

Inadequate laws and policies, fail to protect women and their families, and impact adversely on the development of a country. The passing of the Family Protection and Domestic Violence Act is a milestone for Tuvalu in that it is one of a variety of national strategies to eliminate all forms of violence against women, which is a key policy outcome in the Tuvalu’s National Gender Policy of 2014. 

Since 2013, SPC RRRT has supported the legislatures of Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tonga have all passed domestic violence legislation to protect their citizens from violence against women and girls.

Violence against women has a broad and lasting impact on the well-being of women and girls, families and communities, including the emotional, physical and psychological well-being of the survivors. Domestic violence also impacts national development by creating a burden on national social systems and services such as health care, police, legal aid, crisis centres and other response services.

SPC RRRT works to build a culture of human rights and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. SPC RRRT is a programme under the Social Development Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and is funded by the Australian Government.

Suva – To mark International Human Rights Day today, 10 December 2014, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is partnering with government ministries in the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu, to present individuals and organisations with Human Rights Awards.

‘The National Human Rights Awards initiative is aimed at rewarding and celebrating outstanding work in human rights in the Pacific region and also to send a clear message to human rights defenders that the Pacific community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote human rights for all,’ the Deputy Director of SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), Mark Atterton, said.

The theme for the awards is ‘human rights in everyday life’, which covers many aspects of our daily lives, including rights to food, shelter, education, health, protection, freedom of expression and many more.

The Pacific is not immune to human rights violations, with violence against women a critical concern for the region.  According to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with SPC, the Pacific region has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.

National studies in 2009 and 2010, in Samoa, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu, indicate that the rates of intimate partner violence are as high as 60 to 70%. Inadequate laws and policies fail to protect women and their families, and impact adversely on the development of a country.

At a recent SPC-RRRT regional lawyers’ consultation, former high court judge in Fiji, Madam Mere Pulea, encouraged lawyers of the region to ‘be at the forefront to challenge inequalities and discrimination faced by women, and to play a critical role for the benefit of society.’

‘The need to champion gender equality is pivotal to the development and realisation of human rights, and to sustainable development in the region,’ said Mark Atterton.

SPC RRRT won the prestigious UNICEF Maurice Pate Award in 1998 for its pioneering work in promoting human rights education for women and children in the Pacific. Since then, SPC RRRT has been offering the Pacific Human Rights Awards to encourage the development of a human rights culture that will protect the rights and promote the well-being of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

The 2014 national awards include:

Kiribati

Rikiaua Takeke

Special recognition for highlighting the right to religion through the documentation of Catechist Tikarerei Takirua’s life story of service to the people of Kiribati.

Selaina Tekonnang

Special recognition for highlighting the right to marriage and to be free from violence through poetry.

Wayne Uan

Special recognition for highlighting the right to participate in any community activities without distinction of any kind such as sex, colour, race, religion or other status.

Samoa

Aoga Fiamalamalama

Special recognition for promoting the right of a child to education in Samoa, including children with disabilities, through role play.

Deborah Jacinta Leu’o

Special recognition for promoting human rights in Samoa through creative drawing.

Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo

Special recognition for highlighting the rights of persons with disabilities through the documentation of her personal life story.

Hemiriah Ioane

Special recognition for highlighting the right to education through creative writing.

Nu’ufou Isaia

Special recognition for promoting the right to education for children with disabilities in Samoa, through visual art.

Piu Maneralokina Filipo

Special recognition for highlighting human rights through creative writing.

Samoa Fa’afafine Association

In recognition of the contribution to the promotion of the human rights of marginalised groups, including Fa’afafine and LGBTI groups in Samoa.

Samoa National Youth Council

Special recognition for promoting the right to be heard and of freedom of expression in Samoa through audio visual arts.

Samoa Returnees Charitable Trust

Contribution to advancing the right to freedom from discrimination of Samoan deportees rehabilitating in the community and in community outreach programmes.

Sinalaua Papatoetoe Tupolo

Special recognition for highlighting the right to education, respect and equality through the documentation of her personal life story.

Taiese Taiese

Special recognition for highlighting the right of children to social protection through creative writing.

Tiapapata Art Centre

Special recognition for advancing the right to develop life skills and the right to participate in cultural life, through the Breakthrough initiative, aimed at supporting people affected by trauma and abuse.

Solomon Islands

Br. Gorge Van Der Sant

Special recognition for contribution to advancing the right to education for young persons with disabilities in Solomon Islands.

Community Based Rehabilitation Unit

Special recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in Solomon Islands.

Tonga

Women and Children Crisis Centre

Special recognition for advancing the rights of girls in Tonga to be free from domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Talitha Girls

Special recognition for highlighting the rights of single mothers to education and to be respected with equal opportunity.

Elenga Mailangi

Special recognition for highlighting the right to employment and family support in Tonga.

Tuvalu

Fusi Alofa Association

Special Recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in Tuvalu.

Talafai Youth Group

Special recognition for contribution to advancing the rights of children to education through support to pre-school building construction on the island of Nanumago, Tuvalu.

SPC RRRT works to build a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. SPC RRRT is a programme under the Social Development Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and is funded by the Australian Government.

Suva – Ahead of Rights Day on 10 December, the University of the South Pacific is calling for applications for scholarships to study ethical leadership, good governance and the protection of human rights in the Pacific.

Applications will close on 9 January 2015 for the scholarships funded by the Australian Government for anyone with a strong record of working or volunteering in roles with a community or social development focus to undertake a Diploma in Leadership, Governance and Human Rights at the university in Suva, Fiji.

The 18-month diploma was jointly developed by the university and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) in 2013.

Regional case studies in the course materials demonstrate the effects of corruption, the importance of the rule of law, and the right of everyone to be treated with equality and dignity. With a focus on the Pacific context, the diploma students build their understanding of the importance of these concepts for the development of their country.

The Australian Government has since offered scholarships to 27 people from throughout the Pacific Islands to complete the diploma.

Over 450 students, from 10 Pacific Island Countries, have enrolled in the first course developed by SPC RRRT & USP since it was first offered, namely “Introduction to leadership, governance and human rights”. In addition, the second course, “Principles of good leadership and governance” has had 82 enrolments, from 8 Pacific Island Countries, since it was first offered in Semester 2, 2013. 

One of the first scholarship recipients, Wiliame Nayacatabu, said it was valuable for him to undertake formal studies in leadership while he held the position of President of the Fiji National Youth Council. “There is a good alignment between the Diploma and my practical work as President,” Mr Nayacatabu said.

“Learning about transparency and accountability was particularly useful when I was new to my role as President [in April 2014], and the NYC’s National Executive Council was required to elect a new General Secretary. I had to make sure that the process was transparent and collaborative.”

Another recipient of the Australian Government-funded scholarship, Maria Buama of Vanuatu, said the courses inspired her to share her story as a mother who has experienced many injustices in her life including gender-based violence.

“In the first semester of 2013, I never spoke in class, mainly because I was never allowed to speak or express myself in my community except in the boundaries of my kitchen,” Mrs Buama said. “But by the second semester, I gained my confidence and couldn’t stop sharing my stories for the other students to learn from. If I don’t speak up, the issues will not be known and the cycle of the issues will continue,” said Mrs Buama.

The student population for the diploma has been diverse, including police officers, nurses, church leaders and a youth candidate in the 2014 Fijian election. The diploma courses are also being available as elective subjects for students studying degrees in law, arts and commerce.

The deadline for scholarship applications is 9 January 2015. For details visit: http://www.rrrt.org/publications-media/publications/item/581-diploma-in-leadership-governance-and-human-rights-scholarship

Education and capacity building is part of ongoing efforts by Pacific Island countries and territories to step up their protection of human rights, with the support of SPC and its development partners.

For more information, contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected]. Photo caption: A student of the Diploma in Leadership, Governance and Human Rights at University of the South Pacific, Laucala campus, November 2013.

Regional Lawyers Consultation on Gender & the Law, November 2014

The respondent (S) was a relative of the female complainant (C), who was aged 16 years.

 This case arose out of a stand-off between police and marchers (protestors) at the commencement of a large pro-democracy protest march on 1 June, 2006.

The cause of filing of the writ petition arose from an incident of the alleged brutal gang rape of a social worker in a village in Rajasthan.



SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team receives core funding from the Australian Government and additional project support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP), European Union (EU) and the German Development Bank (KfW).