Pacific parliamentarians at the regional consultation on human rights
Friday 17 January 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Suva, Fiji
Eighteen members of parliament from ten Pacific Island countries are in Auckland, New Zealand this week, 15–17 January, participating in the Pacific Regional Consultation on Human Rights for Members of Parliament.
The regional consultation is organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT). It aims to provide an opportunity for Pacific members of parliament to share ideas and enhance their understanding of current and emerging human rights issues in the region, including violence against women and children, disability rights, sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV/AIDS and human rights, climate change, and mechanisms to promote respect for human rights.
Speaking at the consultation, Nauruan Minister for Education, the Honourable Charmaine Scotty, stressed that climate change is a critical human rights issue in the region and must not be ignored.
'When we lose our islands, nothing can give that back. For us it will be a permanent loss; it’s not like a cyclone blowing down your house; you can rebuild it in a matter of weeks. The risk is that when we lose our island we lose our lives, our sovereignty, everything that’s important to our identity. Us Nauruans, we have only one island and we must keep it safe – we have no other land. We will end up being at the mercy of others. Where would we go? This is thehuman rights issue. It’s the responsibility of the whole international community,' the Honourable Scotty said.
In contributing to discussions on regional mechanisms to promote human rights, the Leader of the Opposition in Cook Islands, the Honourable Wilkie Rasmussen, said that a regional human rights mechanism is a feasible means of supporting Pacific countries to progressively realise their human rights.
'In the past, social and human rights issues weren’t a priority for Pacific leaders. This is changing and Pacific governments are now realising the importance of addressing these issues. If leaders need clarification, recommendations and guidance on what steps to take – a regional human rights body would be a Pacific solution that we can turn to,' the Honourable Rasmussen said.
During the three-day consultation, the parliamentarians also discussed their roles and responsibilities as legislators and change agents in addressing emerging human rights issues at the national level through legislative and policy change.
Other partners involved in facilitating sessions include the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission and UN Women Pacific Ending Violence Against Women Facility Fund. The regional consultation is generously supported by Australian aid.
For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].