Tarawa, Kiribati- Members of Parliament from all outer islands of Kiribati have participated in consultations this week about the nation’s human rights challenges, progress, achievements and plans.

The Pacific Community (SPC), with support from the European Union and the Australian Government, hosted a ‘Dialogue on Human Rights for Good Governance and Development’ with Kiribati Cabinet members, ministers and other members of parliament (MPs).

Held in Tarawa two days after the sitting of Parliament, the dialogue gave MPs an opportunity to explore and promote the integration of human rights into parliamentary proceedings and systems, recognising human rights as a fundamental building block for health, peace and prosperity in Kiribati.

“This dialogue is an important step in consolidating and facilitating Kiribati decision makers towards further strengthening of their Parliamentary roles which require understanding of basic human rights as a tool to serve well the people they stand for,” Kiribati’s Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs, the Hon. David Collins, said at the event opening.

Minister Collins noted that the focus of the consultations “aligns strongly to our new government’s policy and ‘words of commitment’ to the people of Kiribati on human rights, anti-corruption and an agenda that will ensure democracy and transparency remain the strong foundation of our national commitment to serve and nurture our people”.

In his opening remarks, the Speaker of Parliament, the Hon. Teatao Teannanki, emphasised that MPs have a golden and important opportunity through the dialogue to strengthen their responsibilities as duty bearers.

“To fulfil our duties, we need to develop a clear understanding of human rights, and our roles as key decision makers of Kiribati to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of all people in Kiribati, including the rights to culture, identity, family, health, peace and economic opportunity,” the Speaker said.

MPs discussed issues such as corruption and its impact on human rights and development; domestic violence, including Kiribati’s new Domestic Violence Act, Te Rau n Te Mwenga, and its implementation; international human rights frameworks including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the need for reporting to these core treaties.

SPC, through its Regional Rights Resource Team, will provide a paper to Cabinet expanding on these and other issues arising from the dialogue.

The Acting Director of RRRT, Nicol Cave, thanked all partners who had contributed over a number of months to ensure the event’s relevance to the Parliament, context, culture and priorities of Kiribati.

“Working together has made it possible for MPs to tap into the combined expertise of their Speaker, the Minister for Women and his able team at the Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs, UN Women, UNICEF, the local disability organisation, Te toa Matoa, and SPC,” Ms Cave said.

Human rights provide a set of legal and moral standards to guide the work of governments and other political and social actors.

Without good governance and the protection and promotion of human rights, sustainable and equitable development cannot be achieved.

At a regional consultation in Denarau, Fiji, in 2015, MP’s formally recognised the vital role of Parliament and parliamentarians to respect, fulfil, protect and promote the inherent rights of all people in the Pacific, and called upon SPC, through RRRT, to roll out national MPs consultations to progress human rights, good governance and development.


Media contacts
Onorina Saukelo, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5582

Useful link:
SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team- rrrt.spc.int

 
 
Suva, Fiji- The Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today launched a publication which sheds light on progress made in building a human rights culture in the Pacific.
 
Launched on the International Day for Democracy, ‘Human Rights in the Pacific: A Situational Analysis’ captures the human rights achievements and challenges of 16 Pacific countries between 2012 and May 2016.
 
It also identifies gaps and opportunities to advance priority human rights issues confronting the Pacific.
 
While it is not a detailed review or in-depth analysis of all laws, policies and practices of human rights by Pacific governments, it builds on an earlier publication by the United Nations Human Rights Office titled, Human Rights in the Pacific; Country Outlines.
 
Developed with funding from the European Union, the publication provides legislators, policy makers, academics, government and those interested in human rights in the Pacific with a resource and evidence-base to inform ongoing work.
 
All Pacific countries have now completed two cycles of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - a unique process which reviews the human rights records of all United Nations member states. During these UPR reviews, most human rights issues covered in this publication were raised in discussions and captured in reports submitted to the UPR Review by other stakeholders including civil society organisations and United Nations agencies.
 
The 16 Pacific countries covered in the report are: Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
 
SPC, through its Regional Rights Resource Team, supports all 22 Pacific Community island members in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.
 
 
Media contacts:
Useful links:
SPC Regional Rights Resource Team- rrrt.spc.int
 
 
Situational AnalysisHuman Rights in the Pacific: A Situational Analysis captures the human rights achievements and challenges of 16 Pacific countries between 2012 and May 2016.
It identifies gaps and opportunities to advance priority human rights issues confronting the Pacific.
The publication provides legislators, policy makers, academics, government and those interested in human rights in the Pacific with a resource and evidence-base to inform ongoing work.
The publication is produced by SPC’s RRRT with support from the European Union.
The 16 Pacific countries covered in the report are: Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
 
 
 
                                                                  View|Download

Professor David Robie, prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Centre, shared his experiences of human rights coverage in the region and stressed the role of the news media as watchdogs at a Human Rights and Media Forum held on 13–15 April 2016 in Nadi, Fiji. Professor Robie was chief guest.

Senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries participated in the forum, which had the theme: Enhancing a human rights-based approach to news reporting.  

“Human rights-oriented journalism is more focused on global rather than on selective reporting, with an emphasis on the vulnerable and empowerment for the affected and marginalised people - a voice for the voiceless,” Professor Robie said.

After the forum, he said “Journalists ought to be human rights defenders and bear witness to Pacific human rights violations. This forum was remarkably successful in providing the tools for a wide range of Pacific media people to bring accountability to offenders against human rights. I congratulate the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) on organising this important forum.”

The forum, which was supported by the Australian Government and European Union, released an outcomes document, reaffirming the vital role the media play and recognising the importance of strengthening news reporting, using a human rights-based approach. 

The outcomes document also acknowledges the importance of building a strong relationship between government communication personnel and journalists in sharing information and the roles they play in disseminating information. This document is being formatted into a poster for newsrooms in the region.

Romulo Nayacalevu, SPC’s Human Rights Adviser, said, “The media have a powerful voice in highlighting human rights issues and concerns, and this workshop provides the opportunity for journalists to dialogue on human rights and the media. SPC is delighted to work closely with the Pacific media to support their work in human rights reporting and we are excited about the outcomes document, which provides them with tips on how to do that.”

Giving a Pacific journalist’s perspective, Stanley Simpson, Managing Director of Business Melanesia Ltd, stressed that journalists in the region are frequently victims of human rights abuses while reporting on human rights in the region.

“Pacific journalists are often young and almost always broke, some have very little life experience, they are underpaid and overworked, they get threatened and intimidated regularly, and they endure a high pressure environment.

“People like to see journalists as instruments of change, but sometimes journalists just feel that they are being used by different sides with different agendas. So often they are going through the day-to-day slog of getting a newspaper or news bulletin out – it is easy to forget that they have the potential to influence change. It is important that this is addressed and journalists understand their roles as agents of change,” he said.

Belinda Kora, News Director of Papua New Guinea FM, agreed that journalists can influence change but their reporting must be responsible.

“I keep reminding my reporters that when it comes to reporting about human rights, if your story does not impact on the lives of victims or anyone else for that matter, you are only taking up space,” Ms Kora said.

She added that, importantly, journalists need to know their rights to be able to report responsibly. “How can we journalists in the region report effectively if we don’t know our rights?” Ms Kora asked.

The three-day forum strengthened media capacity in rights-based reporting to reflect the aspirations of Pacific Island communities for equality, development and social justice, said RRRT Team Leader, Nicol Cave.

Marian Kupu of Broadcom Broadcasting Limited, Tonga, said, “I found the three-day forum very encouraging because I learnt about my country’s human rights commitments and I see my role as a journalist to report on the gaps in order to encourage decision makers to prioritise and address the issues.”

‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ were key messages highlighted at the forum.

The forum was organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, the Pacific Islands News Association and the Journalism Programme of the University of the South Pacific.

Professor David Robie, prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Centre, shared his experiences of human rights coverage in the region and stressed the role of the news media as watchdogs at a Human Rights and Media Forum held on 13–15 April 2016 in Nadi, Fiji. Professor Robie was chief guest.

Senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries participated in the forum, which had the theme: Enhancing a human rights-based approach to news reporting.  

“Human rights-oriented journalism is more focused on global rather than on selective reporting, with an emphasis on the vulnerable and empowerment for the affected and marginalised people - a voice for the voiceless,” Professor Robie said.

After the forum, he said “Journalists ought to be human rights defenders and bear witness to Pacific human rights violations. This forum was remarkably successful in providing the tools for a wide range of Pacific media people to bring accountability to offenders against human rights. I congratulate the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) on organising this important forum.”

The forum, which was supported by the Australian Government and European Union, released an outcomes document, reaffirming the vital role the media play and recognising the importance of strengthening news reporting, using a human rights-based approach. 

The outcomes document also acknowledges the importance of building a strong relationship between government communication personnel and journalists in sharing information and the roles they play in disseminating information. This document is being formatted into a poster for newsrooms in the region.

Romulo Nayacalevu, SPC’s Human Rights Adviser, said, “The media have a powerful voice in highlighting human rights issues and concerns, and this workshop provides the opportunity for journalists to dialogue on human rights and the media. SPC is delighted to work closely with the Pacific media to support their work in human rights reporting and we are excited about the outcomes document, which provides them with tips on how to do that.”

Giving a Pacific journalist’s perspective, Stanley Simpson, Managing Director of Business Melanesia Ltd, stressed that journalists in the region are frequently victims of human rights abuses while reporting on human rights in the region.

“Pacific journalists are often young and almost always broke, some have very little life experience, they are underpaid and overworked, they get threatened and intimidated regularly, and they endure a high pressure environment.

“People like to see journalists as instruments of change, but sometimes journalists just feel that they are being used by different sides with different agendas. So often they are going through the day-to-day slog of getting a newspaper or news bulletin out – it is easy to forget that they have the potential to influence change. It is important that this is addressed and journalists understand their roles as agents of change,” he said.

Belinda Kora, News Director of Papua New Guinea FM, agreed that journalists can influence change but their reporting must be responsible.

“I keep reminding my reporters that when it comes to reporting about human rights, if your story does not impact on the lives of victims or anyone else for that matter, you are only taking up space,” Ms Kora said.

She added that, importantly, journalists need to know their rights to be able to report responsibly. “How can we journalists in the region report effectively if we don’t know our rights?” Ms Kora asked.

The three-day forum strengthened media capacity in rights-based reporting to reflect the aspirations of Pacific Island communities for equality, development and social justice, said RRRT Team Leader, Nicol Cave.

Marian Kupu of Broadcom Broadcasting Limited, Tonga, said, “I found the three-day forum very encouraging because I learnt about my country’s human rights commitments and I see my role as a journalist to report on the gaps in order to encourage decision makers to prioritise and address the issues.”

‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ were key messages highlighted at the forum.

The forum was organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, the Pacific Islands News Association and the Journalism Programme of the University of the South Pacific.

 

FSM consultations on Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratification

 

1 August 2016

Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia – The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), through its Department of Health and Social Affairs, is conducting a consultation on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the capital Pohnpei this week, for relevant government representatives and civil society organisations.

The three-day consultation aims to develop the skills and knowledge of relevant stakeholders on the convention and is being supported by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) in collaboration with Australian Aid and the European Union.

“The training is a very timely event particularly as the Department of Health and Social Affairs is preparing to submit a resolution on the ratification of the CRPD to the 4th Regular Session of the 19th Congress Sitting of the FSM Government that will be held in September,” FSM National Disability Coordinator, Stuard Penias, said.

The FSM Government signed the CRPD in September, 2011 and is proceeding with plans for ratification this year. The main purpose of the CRPD is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.” 

A resolution for ratification was submitted to congress in 2013 which was tabled to allow consultations with the states to get their input and support. Since then, each of the four FSM States - Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap - have passed CRPD ratification resolution during various legislature sittings. 

According to Mr Penias, the FSM Government endorsed a National Policy on Disability which identifies priority areas for action to promote societal awareness, and inclusion of persons with disabilities, including identification of their needs and opportunities.

“It is very important that FSM joins the rest of world in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and to improve the livelihoods of persons with disabilities. FSM is also fortunate to get the assistance of SPC in this worthy endeavour,” Mr Penias said.

Topics that will be covered during the consultation include Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Non Discrimination and Equality including Reasonable Accommodation, Understanding the different articles of the CRPD, CRPD in practise and Monitoring and Implementation of the CRPD. 

“While the Pacific Region is slow on human rights treaty ratification, the CRPD is one of the quickest ratified treaties in the Pacific with 10 Pacific Community members having either ratified or acceded to this Disability Convention after it was adopted in 2006 and came into force in 2008,” SPC Regional Rights Resource Team Director, Mark Atterton said.

“SPC will continue to support the FSM Government as ratification of the CRPD is significant for FSM and its population with disabilities,” Mr Atterton added.

The President of Pohnpei Consumer Organisation, Nelbert Perez, stated that the ratification of the CRPD by Pacific Island countries shows the commitment of Pacific governments towards persons with disabilities in the region.

“Persons with disabilities in the Pacific face numerous challenges which hinder their full and effective participation in their various communities. The ratification of the CRPD allows our governments to take stock of provisions to safeguard rights and identify gaps in order to allow persons with disabilities access to the same opportunities as everyone else,” Mr Perez said.

The CRPD consultation concludes on 4 August.

Media contact:

George Isom   SPC RRRT Country Focal Officer, [email protected]

Stuard Penias  Department of Health and Social Affairs Disability Coordinator, [email protected]

MEDIA RELEASE

Pacific Community partners with Tuvalu to strengthen human rights

15 July 2016

Funafuti, Tuvalu - The Pacific Community is working with the Government of Tuvalu this week to formulate the country’s first national action plan for human rights which brings together Tuvalu’s existing commitments under the Universal Periodic Review, ratified Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and provides a timeframe for action across these human rights issues.  

The consultation which was opened by Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, the Hon Enele Sopoaga, brought together government ministers, permanent secretaries, members of the judiciary, senior government officials and community representatives to discuss key human rights issues in Tuvalu and see how this can be captured in this proposed national action plan for human rights.

In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister thanked the Pacific Community (SPC) for its continued partnership and support to the government especially on human rights including the support provided for the universal periodic review process (UPR), the treaty body processes.

Earlier this week, the Pacific Community concluded a week-long scoping mission with the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) on National Human Rights Institution on the feasibility of Tuvalu establishing a national human rights institution.

The consultation heard from different stakeholders including the Governor General, the cabinet, members of the judiciary, ombudsman, church representatives, Falekaupule (traditional assembly of elders) and community representatives on their views for the establishment of this important institution.

The scoping team comprising of APF’s Rosslyn Noonan and SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) Senior Human Rights Adviser, Romulo Nayacalevu, were appreciative of the government’s leadership in calling for the scoping study and the commitment made to progress this initiative which is one of the key recommendations received by Tuvalu in its UPR recommendations.

The scoping team is preparing a report on their scoping mission which will then be presented to cabinet.

“Tuvalu’s commitment and leadership on human rights is clearly visible in these bold steps taken by government to consider both the feasibility of the establishment of a human rights institution as well as to consult on the formulation of this first national action plan on human rights. If endorsed by cabinet, this will also be the first for any Pacific country,” Mr Nayacalevu said.

“These initiatives by the government reflect Tuvalu’s ongoing commitment to improve the human rights situation as accepted through its treaty and UPR obligations but also as reflected in the government’s latest strategic development plan, the Te Kaketenga III,” Mr Nayacalevu added.

In partnership with UN Women and UNICEF’s Pacific office, SPC and Tuvalu’s senior government representatives also discussed the country’s obligations under CEDAW, CRC and CRPD and identified the crucial issues that need to be reflected in the proposed national action plan.  

Tuvalu is also the first Smaller Island State to conduct such a study into the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution. Apart from Australia and New Zealand, only Samoa and Fiji currently have a national human rights institution in the Pacific.

SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. This work is funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia.

Media contact:

Mark Atterton SPC Regional Rights Resource Team Director, [email protected] or +679 330 5994

Suva, Fiji – Child protection and welfare legislation passed by the Nauru Parliament will provide a family and community-based safety net for vulnerable children in need of care, and put in place comprehensive measures to protect children from all forms of violence, neglect and exploitation.

The Pacific Community (SPC) has welcomed the passage of Nauru’s Child Protection and Welfare Act earlier this month and is now focused on supporting the introduction of the new law.

UNICEF Pacific research in 2014, shows that as many as 8 out of 10 children throughout the Pacific region experience violence or abuse at some point in their life, at home, school or in their community.

As in the rest of the world, children in the Pacific need protection from sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, child trafficking, child labour and sexual abuse, with the prevalence of sexual abuse in the region ranging from 11-22% for girls and 3-16.5% for boys, according to UNICEF.

Children also face new forms of violence, including cyber-bulling through internet and mobile phones. Suicides of young people, especially young men, are also on the rise.

While all Pacific Island countries have ratified the international Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Nauru becomes one of only four countries to have domesticated this convention by enacting child protection laws, along with Fiji, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.

“More Pacific Island nations are taking urgent action to protect children and create a safe and secure environment where children can thrive, and SPC congratulates Nauru on the bold action it is taking,” RRRT Director, Mark Atterton, said.

“Legislation is a fundamental step in creating an enabling and protective environment, along with community attitudes, cultural and normative change,” he said.

In this regard, RRRT will continue to work with the Nauru Government, and with UNICEF Pacific who assisted with drafting the Act, to help ensure the new legislation is fully implemented and to shift community attitudes towards children’s rights.

On welcoming the new legislation, UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr Karen Allen, noted that “this Act brings Nauru into alignment with many international standards, including raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls.

“In particular, we welcome the mandatory reporting of any sexual abuse or exploitation of a child by persons in authority in a school, church or other religious institution, health facility, prison, detention or corrections facility, or any other place where children are supervised or cared.

This sends a strong signal that sexual abuse or exploitation will not be tolerated – and supports child victims to safely report abuse and seek help,” Dr Allen said.

RRRT has been working with the national Child Protection Unit to develop a manual and reporting procedures for police responses to child abuse cases.

RRRT Country Focal Officer in Nauru, Stella Duburiya, has also been supporting the Child Protection Unit to review job descriptions for new staff to be recruited into unit. Additionally, in March this year RRRT delivered to Nauru a draft Family Protection Bill, which SPC was request to draft, as part of the Nauru Government’s suite of child and family protection measures.

Due to go through a consultation period in the coming months, the Family Protection Bill makes domestic violence a crime and provides women with access to Emergency, Temporary and Permanent Protection Orders against perpetrators of violence.

Media contact:

Mark Atterton Regional Rights Resource Team Director, SPC [email protected] or +679 330 5582

Useful link: SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

By Ruby Awa, Senior Human Rights Adviser, The Pacific Community

The story so far

Across the Pacific region, countries are in the early stages of implementing family protection and domestic violence legislation. This paper discusses their experiences to date.

In 2008, Vanuatu’s Parliament passed the very first comprehensive domestic violence legislation in the Pacific ‒ the Family Protection Act (2008). Between 2009 and 2014, domestic violence laws were passed in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Kosrae State (Federated States of Micronesia), Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Commencement

Tonga had a very clear plan for the commencement of its Family Protection Act (2013). There was commitment to training, consultation and development of their implementation plan with a set time frame of six months. After six months, the act went through the required processes for commencement. In Vanuatu and some other countries, there was immediate commencement of their domestic violence acts, but the actual application of some provisions came later, with appointments, consultation, training and pilot programmes. Solomon Islands carried out nationwide consultation and training with the police, the courts, NGOs and communities over the course of two years before commencement of their act in 2016. Certain provisions, such as the registration of counsellors, will be delayed until a register is developed and the minister appoints counsellors.

Implementations plans

Implementation plans are a new development in domestic violence legislation. The idea developed from lessons learned in countries that already had domestic violence legislation. The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) has assisted Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands to develop implementation plans.

The plan sets out the framework for implementing the law, including the duties, responsible institutions/authorities, costing, and a time frame for fulfilling or commencing certain activities. For example, an implementation plan may note that police safety forms must be printed and that the forms should include the date of printing the first batch.

The implementation plan for Kiribati also includes narrative on the standards and principles that stakeholders should consider. The implementation plans for Tonga and Solomon Islands are in the form of a matrix that sets out short-term and long-term goals and an integrated monitoring plan.

Some countries develop their implementation plan after the legislation is enacted, while others develop it simultaneously. The Solomon Islands Bills and Legislation Committee considered a bill with an annexed implementation plan. 

The plans are living documents that are continuously reviewed and changed.  

Regulations

Not all countries with domestic violence legislation have developed regulations. Some consider that the legislation provides clear steps and definitions that responsible institutions can apply. Papua New Guinea held a consultation in 2015 on a draft family protection regulation that provided the necessary definitions and steps to guide the courts.

Counselling and mediation

Most of the domestic violence legislation in the Pacific provides for counselling. Counselling is not mandatory, but where the victim, or the perpetrator in some countries, wants counselling, approved counsellors must be arranged. While countries are working towards national standards and accreditation, the current development includes training for counsellors who are working with domestic violence victims.

Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands provide for mediation, but it is crucial that all service providers bear in mind that domestic violence happens where there is gender inequality and that power and controls rests with the perpetrator. Under the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act (2014), the only institution that can provide information on mediation is the court. This is not part of a court order, but as information should parties wish to undertake mediation voluntarily.

Training for stakeholders

Stakeholders include institutions that have duties under the act, such as the courts, police, health care providers, government ministries with roles in training, awareness and oversight of implementation of the act, and civil society groups that carry out awareness programmes.

The legislation provides for new protection mechanisms and ways to respond to domestic violence. It has therefore been necessary to train relevant stakeholders such as police, judges and magistrates, who have an essential role in ensuring the implementation of these protection mechanisms. Training of stakeholders is also necessary when they are given additional roles. For example, the Solomon Islands FPA provides for police safety notices, which meant police required training on their role as set out in the FPA.

Vanuatu was the first country to make training on its domestic violence act compulsory. Other countries are training the police and also developing modules on domestic violence for them. Human rights and gender are crucial components of the training as they are key principles in the application of domestic violence laws. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. Where there is gender inequality, the disadvantaged and oppressed gender, mostly females, are more vulnerable and susceptible to violence in the home.

When I was in Solomon Islands recently for a training session, a police officer commented that even though the police now have powers to issue notices to perpetrators of domestic violence, their biggest challenge is to decipher whether the violence was the result of provocation.

Obviously, it is not the role of the police to consider provocation. Their role is to provide immediate protection for victims of domestic violence. This is one of the many discussions emerging around the Pacific in relation to new domestic violence legislation.

Training for the community

Police safety notices, also called police safety orders in some Pacific countries, are like court orders. The police are to look for three things: whether domestic violence has happened or is likely to happen; whether the two people involved in the violence or threat of violence are members of the same family; and whether getting a court order is not possible.

Domestic violence has been tolerated for too long in Pacific communities and one of the biggest challenges lies in attitudes to this violence. Emerging research shows the vulnerability of women and girls, but there is also a tendency to feel that men and boys are not considered. There is a need for consultation and discussion on this key issue: that the vulnerability of women and girls to violence, and the strategies to deal with it, should include both males and females. For example, both sexes find that reporting violence in the family to the police is a difficult matter. However, it is important to further consider that women and girls find reporting a male family member very frightening, as the male may be perceived as the person with the most power in the house.

Having the right information about domestic violence laws and the places to go to for help is crucial for community members. NGOs play an important role in sharing information on domestic violence laws in communities and some have developed, or are developing, relevant training manuals.

Some countries have set up committees that are responsible for approving training manuals to ensure that communities receive clear messages.

Advisory councils

Advisory councils or committees provide oversight of the implementation of domestic violence laws. These bodies are appointed by a government minister and have met in most of the countries that have established domestic violence laws.

The main outputs of most of the committees are an annual report to parliament on the progress of implementation of the legislation and a review after three years.

Conclusion

At the time of writing, Cook Islands, Niue, Nauru and the states of Chuuk and Pohnpei (FSM) do not yet have family protection/domestic violence legislation, although in all cases processes are underway. Enactment of legislation is a significant milestone but effective implementation of the laws is the most critical step in offering protection and change to women and children across the Pacific.

Human Rights-based Approach to Journalism in the Pacific



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).