Monday 13 May 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji
A regional dialogue for civil society organisation (CSO) representatives from across the Pacific, organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resources Team (SPC RRRT) in partnership with Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), ended last Friday, calling for the adoption and integration of a human rights-based approach in all national and regional development processes.
‘The human rights-based approach seeks to analyse inequalities that lie at the heart of development problems and redress discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power that impede development progress’ the strong CSO outcomes document stated.
The regional civil society partners also urged urgent action to put an immediate end to the acts of torture and extra-judicial killings related to witchcraft and sorcery in Papua New Guinea. In addition, recognising the detrimental effects of climate change and accelerated sea level rise in the Pacific, they called for the development and implementation of national legislation and policies to alleviate the stresses of climate induced migration, to ensure that any such migration is based on the recognition of the dignity of the person and is commensurate with the inherent human rights of the person.
Medium- and long-term priorities outlined in the outcomes document include the need for a regional human rights mechanism as well as national mechanisms; full participation of persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups; elimination of violence against women (EVAW) and girls, including the passing of comprehensive legislation that addresses violence and the need for fully resourced crisis centres that support survivors of violence; and inclusive and effective engagement with CSOs.
The five-day dialogue workshop and forum provided a safe space for discussion of human rights issues that are linked to good governance, peace, conflict and security in the region. It was also an opportune time for civil society representatives to network and build stronger coalitions for a louder civil society voice in the region as well as provide input into the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee processes and the Pacific Plan review.
Lilly Be Soer of Voice for Change, an NGO in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is grateful to the Forum Secretariat and SPC RRRT for initiating the safe space for such an important dialogue.
‘We work in isolated locations where our voices cannot be heard. This forum has given us the opportunity to bring forward our issues and, collectively, our voices can be heard. For us working in difficult environments like the highlands of PNG, the recognition of our rights as human rights defenders is our human right and this is our voice to the Forum and the region,’ Mrs Be Soer said.
To others, the dialogue has given them a better perspective of how their roles as civil society organisations in the Pacific can be enhanced and their engagement strengthened at the national and regional level.
‘We have been isolated in the past by our governments. We were not aware of the Pacific Plan until the review of the plan some months ago but the dialogue this week has given us ideas and the space to be able to effectively contribute to the review of the Plan and when we go home we need to align our national strategies and policies with it,’ said Sioneheke Leolahi, President of Niue Island United Association of Non-Government Organisations.
The PIFS-CSO is the mechanism endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee to provide a structured approach for civil society to engage with the Forum Secretariat on peace, conflict and security issues.
The CSO dialogue was attended by civil society representatives from Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected]