JOINT MEDIA ALERT
Nadi, Fiji - ‘Giving voice to the voiceless’ and ‘championing the rights of all peoples’ will be among the key messages highlighted at a regional human rights and media forum, in Nadi, Fiji, this week for senior journalists and government communication officers from 13 Pacific countries.
This event which was postponed in late February due to tropical cyclone Winston, will now be held from 13-15 April.
The Enhancing a Human Rights-based Approach to News Reporting Forum is organised by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) in partnership with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Programme at the Tanoa Skylodge Hotel.
The event is supported by the Australian Government and the European Union.
The event aims to strengthen media capacity in ‘rights-based reporting’ to reflect the realities and aspirations of Pacific island communities for equality, development and social justice.
Prominent journalist and Director of Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Pacific Centre, Professor David Robie will be chief guest at the event and will share his experiences of human rights coverage in the region.
RRRT is the Pacific Community’s human rights program, working to build a rights-based culture, and assisting nation states to commit to and observe international human rights standards.
MEDIA ACCESS: Media are invited to cover the event from 9am to 4.30pm for the duration of the forum. The twitter hashtag for the forum is #PacMedia4HR.
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
Honiara, Solomon Islands – Justice-sector providers in Solomon Islands are better informed and prepared to address domestic violence through the country’s Family Protection Act that is expected to come into force in the first half of 2016.
This follows consultations staged last week by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, involving lawyers, members of the judiciary, police, social and health workers.
The consultations, led by SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), were supported by the Australian Government and UN Women and examined strategies to strengthen the existing systems to support the prevention and protection measures against domestic violence set out in the Act.
Practical suggestions on coordinated responses, such as strengthening the coordination between the courts and frontline service providers in sharing information to tackle domestic violence cases, emerged as the key players deliberated their roles in the implementation of the Act.
Permanent Secretary of Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, Ethel Sigimanu, said the country’s Family Protection Act reflects the government’s commitment to end violence in the home.
“The Act provides hope for peace in homes, communities and our country. There was much rejoicing when it was passed, and the time has now come for us to again put our minds together and discuss strategies on how we’re going to implement the Act,” Ms Sigimanu said.
The Act defines and criminalizes domestic violence. It prescribes police duties in responding to domestic violence and allows family members – men and women and those who are defined as family members in the Act – to apply for protection orders from the Court.
The Act also recognises that domestic violence is best addressed through a coordinated legal and social response.
For police officer Allan Supa, the consultation last week broadened his understanding of human rights and the new legislation.
“I plan to assist the Community Policing Team, a unit within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, to carry out awareness programmes in the communities.”
A registered nurse with the Honiara City Council Clinic, Esther Nevenga, is excited about the opportunity.
“I will be able to assist clients that are facing domestic violence issues and also refer them to supporting centres like the police, Christian Care Center, Social Welfare and Family Support Centre in Honiara. I will also give more awareness to the communities in and around my clinic catchment on what is domestic violence,” Ms Nevenga said.
SPC’s support to the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act commenced as far back as 2009 with trainings for Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs staff, the placement of a staff within the Ministry to support the initial work on the ground in 2009 to 2012, the set-up of the Violence Against Women (VAW) Legislative Task Force in 2010, the development of drafting instructions based on international best practice standards in VAW legislation in 2010 and 2011, public consultations on the Bill in 2011 to 2012, drafting of the Bill in 2013 to 2014, drafting the implementation plan and briefing the members of parliament about the Bill in the months and weeks before the Bill was finally passed.
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.
Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
Leadership, wage gaps, safety, health and care work are five areas of gender disparity in the Pacific islands region that require innovative action given their profound effects on societies and individuals.
That is the message from the Pacific Community (SPC) as the region marks International Women’s Day today (8 March).
In line with the international theme for the day “Pledge for Parity”, SPC is calling for greater debate on ways of closing gender gaps in the Pacific and concrete ways of addressing them.
Despite critical advances, Pacific women and girls are still faced with cultural, social, economic and institutional barriers to developing their full potential, according to a progress report on implementing the Beijing Platform for Actionreleased by SPC in 2015.
“The Pacific Community is committed to ensuring that Pacific people benefit from sustainable economic development, are empowered and live long and healthy lives, regardless of their gender,” Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.
“Parity should be promoted at all levels and in all sectors, from public governance to changing nappies.
“From local contexts to the international arena, Pacific women and men are hard at work to shape more egalitarian societies and their efforts should continue to be acknowledged and supported through responsive policies and programmes.
“To see Hilda Heine’s election as President of the Republic of Marshall Islands, which represented the first election of a female head of state in a Pacific Island country, and the recent appointment of Fiame Naomi Mata'afa as Samoa's first female deputy prime minister is extremely encouraging.
“We also need to look at risks Pacific people face from a gender perspective, from non-communicable diseases to women’s unacceptable exposure to domestic violence or men’s vulnerability to road injuries, because those risks stem from the roles and attitudes expected from men and women,” Dr Tukuitonga added.
Data shows that diabetes prevalence in the Pacific Island region is higher among women than men, with the exception of Solomon Islands and Niue, according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
The region-wide epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is aggravating the burden of care that women already face, with evidence of women leaving the workforce to provide full-time care to family members.
The resulting social, cultural and economic impacts on the lives of women and their families are staggering, and are likely to challenge some of the progress made on women’s advancement.
The themes will be the focus of dialogues taking place today at SPC offices in Noumea and Suva.
Media contacts: Brigitte Leduc, SPC Gender Equality Adviser, [email protected]
Lauren Robinson Acting Media Relations Team Leader, [email protected] or +679 337 9250
Majuro, Marshall Islands - South Australia's former director of public prosecutions and more recently justice of the High Court in the Solomon Islands, Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, last week (22-26 February) shared his experiences on taking leadership on domestic violence in the region with newly elected parliamentarians of the Republic of Marshall Islands.
The exchange, jointly supported by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was part of the Marshall Islands 2016 induction for its members of the Nitijela.
Speaking at the workshop, Justice Pallaras said, "During my time in court and the 40 years of practice in criminal law, I have heard all the excuses. Some will say it’s traditional, cultural; we’ve always done it this way. Some men have told me I have the right to beat my wife, have sex with her, I have paid the bride price and therefore she is mine. Other men have told me that they are entitled to have sex with my daughter because I am the man.”
In the Marshall Islands a Family Health and Safety Study (2014) found that 69 percent of women interviewed aged between 15 and 49 revealed they had experienced sexual and, or, physical violence. The majority of these incidents go unreported and of those that are reported, only a handful of cases end up in the courts.
Justice Pallaras implored the Marshallese parliamentarians to stand up and influence the direction of their nation.
“The scale and dimensions of this problem are not simply personal, they are financial, they are social, they are national, they are international and more, they are human. It will take people with leadership, vision and courage. Are you one of them?”
“Don’t tell me it’s not your problem. Don’t tell me it’s a women’s problem. It is a national problem about which the citizens are entitled to look to and expect their leaders to be working their absolute hardest to resolve, and moreover it is a human problem,” Justice Pallaras added.
According to Justice Pallaras, “The true measure of a country’s greatness is how we treat each other as human beings. A measure of a leader’s effectiveness, of a politician’s commitment and integrity, is not what they say. You will leave your mark on this nation, if you leave a mark, by what you do. Doing is a quantum leap from imaging.”
Australia’s Labour Federal Member, Hon. Alan Griffin, also joined the SPC and UNDP team to give support and advice to the Nitijela.
SPC’s staff supported the Nitijela in understanding the treaties Marshall Islands has previously ratified, namely Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Mark Atterton said, “this was an excellent intervention and it was clear that the members of the Nitijela, old and new, were outraged by the statistics we presented and committed to support local NGO Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI) in their service for a women’s counselling centre and sheltered accommodation. This was a great outcome of the induction programme.”
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. SPC’s work in this area is supported by the Government of Australia and European Union.
Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994.
The Pacific Community (SPC) is offering its prayers and practical assistance as Fiji rallies to assess the scale of the impact of tropical cyclone Winston.
The Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, has written to Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, offering to deploy specialist SPC teams to assist the Fiji Government’s response, based on the nation’s needs in the wake of the powerful cyclone.
Dr Tukuitonga said the 390 SPC staff based in Fiji are believed to be safe, although the homes of several employees are known to be damaged, with one colleague in the Lautoka area losing the roof off his home.
SPC’s offices in Fiji – in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa – are closed today.
“As per our long-standing practice in this disaster-prone region, the Pacific Community stands ready to deploy disaster response teams and provide technical assistance as needed to reinforce the Fiji Government’s capacity,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the government and people of Fiji, including our many colleagues and development partners who are based there,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
While the extent of damage at SPC offices and project sites is yet to be determined, Dr Tukuitonga confirmed the globally-significant tissue culture collections at SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees in Suva are unaffected, as the building is intact and there is a back-up generator maintaining the temperature in the storage laboratories.
Media contacts: Julie Marks Pacific Community Communications Director, [email protected] or +687 80 74 95
NOTES TO EDITORS: The Pacific Community is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. We are an international development organisation owned and governed by our 26 country and territory members. We respond to our member governments’ requests for assistance following disasters and provide a range of ongoing services to improve disaster preparedness and response in the region. See www.spc.int.
Photo courtesy Fiji Government and UN OCHA: Fiji Government aerial survey of eastern islands following tropical cyclone Winston
Ms Mafi is an awardee of the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards presented this week to five outstanding Pacific Islanders.
A Legal Officer with Tonga’s Ministry of Justice, Ms. Mafi looks forward to the placement with SPC in March and hopes that her placement will contribute to her plans to advocate for the rights of children within the Tongan criminal justice system.
SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Mark Atterton said the Regional Rights Resource Team is delighted to support Ms Mafi build her capacity in her specific area of interest in human rights.
“We welcome Ms Mafi to SPC and look forward to working with her over the next six months. Ms Mafi will be focussing on the rights of children in Tonga which will have a wider learning implication for all countries in the Pacific. The rates of abuse of children in this region are alarming and it is often such pieces of research that can be a real catalyst for change and the protection of children. We thank the Australian Government, the Pacific Leadership Program and the Urwin family for making this placement possible,” Mr Atterton added.
Ms Mafi is determined that the placement will assist her identify legal provisions that will eradicate legally mandated violence against children which she believes will raise awareness in Tonga on the long term harm that violence causes for children; violence within society and violence within the legal and criminal justice system.
She also hopes that her placement will equip her to train relevant stakeholders, on identifying laws to be amended.
Ms. Mafi holds a Masters of Law from Queen Mary University of London, a Professional Diploma in Legal Practice and a Bachelor of Law both from the University of the South Pacific. She has been a Legal Officer with Tonga’s Ministry of Justice since 2012.
The Greg Urwin Awards are an Australian Government-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) joint initiative.
The Awards were established in 2008 to honour the memory and the legacy of the former Secretary General of PIFS and a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the late Mr Greg Urwin.
The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Ms Margaret Twomey, yesterday hosted an event to congratulate the five new Greg Urwin awardees for 2016.
Present were Mr Wylie Clarke, son of the late Greg Urwin and Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), to congratulate the Greg Urwin Awardees and wish them well for their placements.
SPC works to build a culture of human rights and assisting nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.
Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
No one can take away your rights.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism allows UN Member States to declare their actions taken to improve human rights in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.
Palau was reviewed by the UN Council today in Geneva.
Its delegation was led by their Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs, the Hon Baklai Temengil Chilton, and accompanied by an SPC Human Rights Advisor, Romulo Nayacalevu.
SPC organised a mock session for the Palauan delegation earlier this week in Geneva ahead of today’s review.
According to Mr Nayacalevu: “Palau has been preparing for months for this report including submitting its report to Parliament before its final endorsement and transmission to the UN Human Rights Secretariat in Geneva.
“This is the first time a UPR report has been submitted to Palau’s Parliament, as well as any Parliament in the Pacific. As such, Palau’s report has the support of the people of Palau through their elected representatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team, in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, presented a mock session for the Solomon Islands delegation in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday.
The Solomon Islands’ delegation, led by their Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Milner Tozaka, was en route to Geneva for their review, due to take place next Tuesday (26 January).
The UPR process highlights positive human rights developments and challenges in countries, and at the same time enhances dialogue with the international community, often resulting in prioritising actions to address the crucial human rights issues in those countries.
This is the second time Palau and Solomon Islands are reporting to the UN Human Rights Council through this process.
In 2015, SPC provided technical assistance to government and civil society groups in Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Palau and Solomon Islands, in preparation for their respective reviews.
Samoa and Papua New Guinea will also be reviewed before the Human Rights Council this year - the final Pacific Island states to be reviewed under the Second Cycle of the UPR (2012–2016), also with technical support from SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team.
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 Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Australia.
Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, RRRT, +679 330 5994, [email protected].
Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Solomon Islands - a report by Equal Rights Trust
A new report published today by the Equal Rights Trust exposes the extent of discrimination and inequality experienced by groups including women; persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay and bisexual persons; and persons living with HIV in Solomon Islands.
Stand Up and Fight: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Solomon Islands also concludes that a tendency for people to identify strongly as members of kinship groups or residents of a particular island, rather than as Solomon Islanders has promoted difference and fostered ethnic tension.
The report argues that if Solomon Islands is to move on from the conflict which afflicted the country between 1998 and 2003, its people must stand up and fight traditions which exacerbate difference on the basis of ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual orientation.
In particular, the report highlights widespread discrimination against women which is directly connected to gender stereotypes portraying women as inferior to men.
“We found that women are effectively second-class citizens in Solomon Islands; they are invisible in all areas of politics and government and do not participate equally with men in any area of life. Violence against women is alarmingly widespread and widely accepted by both men and women. When in 2012 I asked a group of 16 women in Honiara to say if they had experienced partner violence, they all said yes, without exception,” said Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust, Dr Dimitrina Petrova.
The report investigates patterns of ethnic discrimination, finding that in a country which presents itself as “homogenous”, there are serious concerns about discrimination between those of different wantok (the Pijin for “one talk”, a community group based on shared linguistic and cultural heritage).
Dr Petrova continued, “Our research found compelling evidence of concern amongst Solomon Islanders that those in positions of power abuse their authority and make corrupt decisions in favour of their wantok group.”
In addition to discrimination against women and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, the report finds that: persons with disabilities are perceived as “cursed” and denied equality of participation in education, employment, healthcare and other services; lesbian, gay and bisexual persons are subject to severe social stigma and are largely invisible in society as a result; and persons living with HIV lack access to services, including health services, as a result of fear fuelled by prejudice and ignorance of the disease.
Stand Up and Fight is published in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Solomon Islands Country Office and the SPC Regional Rights Resource Team and is launched at a time of great opportunity for Solomon Islands. The country is entering its thirteenth year of constitutional reform and a draft constitution is currently the subject of consultation. The report outlines how Solomon Islands should reform its Constitution to increase protection for the rights to equality and non-discrimination. It calls on all those affected by discrimination to use the reform process to stand up and fight for equality for all. It also makes a number of other recommendations including the repeal of discriminatory laws and the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
The report is published on the eve of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Solomon Islands on Monday 25 January - a process which seeks to address threats posed towards the protection of human rights in the country under review. The Equal Rights Trust has written to states participating in the Review urging them to make recommendations based on the report’s conclusions and recommendations.
London, 20 January 2016