Friday 2 December 2011, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva
A high-level consultation, hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in partnership with the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team has concluded with the establishment of a working group to discuss the possible establishment of a regional human rights mechanism in the Pacific region.
Central Asia and the Pacific are the only geographic blocs not covered by a regional commission or body set up to promote human rights standards and investigate complaints.
The three day event was attended by members of parliament from Samoa, Nauru, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands, and delegates from Australia, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Civil society representatives and human rights experts also attended.
Congratulating the delegates on this outcome, SPC Deputy Director-General Fekita ʻUtoikamanu said the establishment of the working group was ‘a significant achievement’.
Many opinions were aired during the consultation.
Nauruan delegate MP Aloysius Amwano said, ‘Nauru agrees in principle with the proposed pathway for a regional human rights mechanism,’ while Tongan delegate, Alfred Soakai said, ‘I think it’s too early at the moment. We need more consultation on all the issues and costs, and on potential duplication. My query would be: What’s the rush?’
Palauan delegate Risong Tarkong said the consultation had been ‘a progressive step’. In September this year Palau became a signatory to all core international human rights treaties. A regional mechanism could, according to Ms Tarkong, complement the work of national governments and institutions in safeguarding human rights throughout the Pacific.
Civil society representative Reverend Hawea Jackson from Niue said a regional human rights mechanism is needed.
‘It is very important to have this institution established, to assist the work of government, civil society, and the people as a whole,’ he explained.
The working group will explore in detail the potential benefits and pitfalls of establishing a regional human rights mechanism for the Pacific.
Pacific island Forum Leaders have expressed a commitment toward better promotion and protection of human rights regionally under the Pacific Plan. While there is no concrete proposal at this stage, the concept will be examined by the working group. The group’s findings will be discussed by the Forum Regional Security Committee next year.
For further information please contact:
Publication and Communication Coordinator
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC/RRRT)
Ph: +679 330 5582 (ext. 103)
Mob: +679 753 8426