On international human rights day in 2014, the President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong, signed the Te Rau n Te Mwenga Act into law.

Translated, this means family peace, but the process leading to the creation of the legislation was conceivably less than peaceful and often confrontational. However, the legislation is a progressive and modern law of its time, confronting entrenched behaviours and attitudes around domestic violence.

Suva, Fiji – While Pacific Community governments and regional organisations gather in Samoa this week for the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, a Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) delegation is in Switzerland highlighting the human rights impacts of climate change at a United Nations review.

The RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Tony A. deBrum, has yesterday presented the country’s performance in protecting and promoting human rights to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has supported RMI in drafting its Universal Periodic Review report – the country’s second – and hosted a mock session last month to prepare their delegation.

In his opening statement to the 22nd session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, Minister deBrum said that RMI has made significant strides since its first review in 2010, but that the country continues to face challenges associated with climate change.

“We’re starting to see these [climate change] impacts in our local communities, such as a recent drought which affected a quarter of our nation and necessitated the involvement of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,” Minister deBrum said. 

“Unusually strong king tides and coastal flooding have devastated local communities. While natural events have always occurred in small islands, it is irrefutable that there are climate drivers.

“The principle, that every nation commits to action, large and small, rich and poor, has helped influence how multiple countries work together on this issue. We’re also working very hard to secure a strong and practical post-2020 climate agreement in Paris,” the Minister said.

The Universal Period Review process is a key mechanism which allows all UN Member States to declare the actions they have taken to improve human rights in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Through its Regional Rights Resource Team, SPC is this year also providing technical assistance to governments and civil society groups in Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, in preparation for their respective universal periodic reviews.

Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa will be reviewed before the Human Rights Council in 2016, and will be the final Pacific Island states to be reviewed under the Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (2012–2016).

RMI has been outspoken in seeking to address the human rights dimension of climate change, including in early 2009, when the country told the UN Human Rights Council that climate risks would seriously threaten nearly every core human right, including the right to statehood. 

Tomorrow (Wednesday) the RMI perspective on maximising new climate financing will be presented at an SPC-hosted side event at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Apia by the Acting Director of the RMI office of Environmental Policy and Planning Coordination, Ywao Elanzo.   

The RMI delegation has thanked SPC, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, their bilateral partners and Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ms Nazhat Shameem Khan, and her team for their assistance with the submission of RMI’s 2nd State Report.

With funding from the Government of Australia and Kingdom of the Netherlands, SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. See www.spc.int/rrrt/.

Media contact:

Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, +679 330 5994, [email protected].

A stark reality in the Pacific today is that an overwhelming majority of the region’s five million women and girls do not enjoy access to their full human rights. Too often, domestic violence and gender inequality obstruct women and girls’ realisation of their political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights.

This was a key message in the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) verbal submission to the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade convened in Canberra on Wednesday. SPC’s submission carries the voices of Pacific women to the Committee’s “Inquiry into the Human Rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean – Asia Pacific region.  

Launched in May 2014, the Committee’smandate is to gauge the effectiveness of Australian programs to progress the human rights of women and girls in the Indian Ocean - Asia Pacific region, and to make recommendations for improvements.

Calling in via Skype in Suva, SPC’s Human Rights Program Deputy Director, Mark Atterton emphasised to the Joint Standing Committee:

“Women and girls who are unable to enjoy basic human rights are prevented from reaching their human, social, economic and intellectual potential.  This has serious implications for sustainable economic development in the Pacific, for the region’s security, and the ability of countries to develop resilience in the face of environmental stresses such as climate change.”

Alarmingly high rates of violence against women and girls is one of the most fundamental human rights violations in the region. The prevalence of violence against women and girls in Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) is amongst the highest in the world. Most widespread is violence perpetrated by intimate partners, and domestic violence.

Recent Pacific studies reveal that 64 per cent of women in Fiji, 68 per cent in Kiribati and 65 per cent in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. This means that two out of every three women and girls experience violence in their homes, family and community. Prevalence rates in Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Marshall Islands have been reported at 46 per cent, 64 per cent, 51 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively.

“Such high rates of violence against women and girls are acknowledged as a critical obstacle to development. If we fail to address violence, development aid remains fundamentally flawed,” Mr Atterton told the Joint Standing Committee.

In partnership with national governments, and with support from the Australian Government, SPC continues to advance adoption of national gender policies and domestic violence legislation, but resources and funding for meaningful implementation remains a hurdle.

With SPC’s support, comprehensive domestic violence laws have been enacted in Tonga, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu in 2014. “Whilst we celebrate the passing of new protective laws, we also recognise the challenge of making law a reality for people. In this vein, our focus has transitioned to supporting countries to plan for implementation of the measures contained in new laws”, Mr Atterton said in SPC’s verbal submission.

Other essential priorities highlighted in SPC’s written submission May 2014 were also flagged again and included:  a continued commitment to building national and regional capacity in gender and human rights; integration of human rights and gender within regional agencies’ priorities; and strengthened research that can inform evidence-based programming.

Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, email: [email protected] or +679 3305582.

Kiribati became the first country in the region to endorse the Pacific Members of Parliament Denarau 2015 Declaration on Human Rights and Good Governance at a recent parliament sitting at the end of May.

“This Honourable Maneaba ni Maungatabu [Parliament] acknowledges the Declaration released at the Pacific Members of Parliament consultation in January 2015 in Denarau, Fiji and pledges full support to the Declaration and commits to uphold and fulfil the protection of the human rights of her citizens and the conduct of Good Governance,” the motion stated.

Speaking in parliament in support of the declaration, Honourable Vice President of Kiribati, Ms Teimwa Onorio challenged all members of Parliament to make a commitment to the declaration and human rights as a whole.

Honourable Ms Onorio also acknowledged the many contributions of various partners in advancing human rights in Kiribati with mention of the support by the Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

In January 2015, members of parliament (MPs) from 11 countries across the Pacific region affirmed their commitment to good governance and human rights with the signing of a formal declaration.

The MPs echoed the Pacific leaders’ vision in the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism (2014), calling for a Pacific region ‘known for its quality of governance and respect for human rights’ in a statement called the 2015 Denarau Declaration on Human Rights and Good Governance.

The MPs noted the progressive steps taken by Pacific governments in the ratification of core human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms 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).  SPC RRRT has planned this year to carry out a number of National MPs Consultations as follow up to the Regional Consultation and at the request of Governments to progress human rights, good governance and sustainable development.

SPC RRRT is funded by the Australian Government, the European Union and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Visit our website to download a copy of the declaration.

Media contact

For further information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT’s Communication Officer on phone +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].

Download the PDF version of the flyer below.

Download the PDF version of the flyer below.

YANUCA, 17 APRIL 2015 (PACNEWS) ---- Fiji's Minister for Health & Medical Services Jone Usamate launched a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Manual today, during the 11th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting.  

“This manual is the first for the pacific. The first step in prioritising Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is to address the shortage of practical information on SRHR that is tailored to the unique needs and challenges of the region”, Usamate said.  

Titled the Awareness, Analysis and Action: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Pacific”, the manual has practical, evidence-based tools and information to help practitioners, advocates, policymakers, health workers, trainers and legislators understand key concepts on SRHR.  

This also includes analysing the needs of vulnerable groups and taking action to ensure that all Pacific Islanders claim their right to the highest possible standard of health and wellbeing.  

“I would like to thank the SRHR Working Group for developing this manual together, comprised of a number of key organisations working to address SRHR in the region. We as Health Ministers can champion this valuable resource to be used in our Health Sectors and with relevant service providers.” Usamate added. 

Government commitment has progressed towards achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) goals in the Pacific. The number of Pacific Island countries with national population policies is increasing and the integration of sexual and reproductive health into primary health programmes has also improved.  

The Pacific region is doing well in reducing child mortality as 10 out of the 14 forum island countries are on track in achieving this goal. 9 countries have also made notable progress in reducing maternal mortality, reporting close to 100 per cent skilled birth attendance. These gains would not have been possible without a consistent effort from SRHR advocates across government and civil society. 

At the global level, 2015 is a critical time for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda. Last year marked 20 years since the ground breaking Cairo Consensus emerged from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). 2015 also marked 20 years since the 4th World Conference on Women and the resulting Beijing De Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the deadline for achieving the MDG targets. 

This is a crucial time for SRHR advocates around the world to unite and ensure that SRHR remains a global priority in the Post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Agenda. 

The manual is a collaborative project by member organisations of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Working Group, with secretariat support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT).  

The following organisations are represented in the SRHR Working Group: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN); Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA for Equality); Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM); International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF); Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine (OSSHHM); Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS); Pacific Youth Council (PYC); SPC Human Development Programme (HDP); SPC Public Health Division (PHD);SPC Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT); and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)....PACNEWS

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).