RRRT advocates for and supports initiatives towards both national and regional human rights mechanisms.
Currently there are no national human rights commissions in the Pacific. The Pacific is one of three regions in the world without a regional human rights commission or body.
In 2011 and 2012, RRRT prepared and published an information kit and policy paper on regional human rights mechanisms titled ‘Regional Human Rights Mechanisms – Pathways for the Pacific’ to explore the case for establishing a Pacific human rights commission.
The paper acknowledged that while various steps have been taken by individual Pacific governments to better promote and defend human rights, there is still a need for collaborative action at a regional level.
The aim of a regional body is to enhance the observance of human rights in the Pacific. It concludes that the Pacific cannot afford to be without such a commission, given the linkages between human rights, human development and the building of just and sustainable societies.
Most Pacific small island states would experience significant difficulty in establishing and maintaining an independent national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. They lack the required human resources and in many instances the cost alone would be prohibitive.
The paper outlined that such a mechanism would:
- Empower people from within the region to claim their universal human rights in a way that is sensitive to local cultural and social preferences (due to the geographical proximity of the mechanism, and the fact it is made up of people from the region)
- Assist national governments in the implementation of their international human rights obligations; for example, assisting in the implementation of concluding observations of treaty bodies which national governments are party to, and helping to follow up on recommendations of special procedures
- Help national governments to better address human rights concerns that cross national borders; for example, human rights violations and abuses that come from organised crime (including terrorism, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of migrant workers and children), migration and migrant workers, diseases and pandemics
- Provide regional input to the development of international human rights standards and the improvement of international human rights mechanisms, acting as a bridge between national systems and an international human rights system which can often seem remote and inaccessible;
- Offer people protection from human rights violations when national mechanisms fail;
- Act as a check and balance on national processes
- Provide help to national institutions to strengthen their role in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level; for example, by providing advisory services to national governments in the administration of justice, legislative reform, human rights education and capacity-building of governmental and non-governmental institutions
- Promote regional peace and security (through the promotion and protection of human rights).
The paper proposed that a step by step approach be taken to the development of a regional human rights framework. Starting with a commission with promotional, supportive and advisory roles, the governments of the region would determine whether and when it was appropriate to proceed to institute a regional charter of rights, to confer on the commission a more extensive mandate including monitoring, reporting and protection roles, and to establish a regional court with a human rights jurisdiction.
Pacific ‘ownership’ of these developments would both respect national sovereignty and encourage greater commitment and adherence to human rights values and standards.
The paper and the information kit materials have since been used at regional MPs Consultation meetings as well as disseminated to partners for greater promotion of the proposal.