Participants at the Human Rights Consultation workshop in Nukualofa this week, 10–14 March 2014
Friday 14 March 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Suva, Fiji
Tonga is not only the first country in the Pacific to be reviewed under the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (having been reviewed both in 2008 and 2013), but is this week the first country in the region to organise a consultation to discuss its second UPR recommendations and how to implement them.
‘It is encouraging to see Tonga engage in dialogue and constructive discussions about the implementation of UPR recommendations as this will not only advance Tonga’s human rights commitments, but also promote engagement in the Pacific between governments, civil societies and citizens,’ said Romulo Nayacalevu, Senior Trainer with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT), who is part of the national human rights consultation in Nuku’alofa this week.
‘It is expected following this consultation that Tonga will work towards developing a common core document and establishing a National Human Rights Coordinating Committee. We also hope Tonga will ratify core human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and that it will report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child,’ Mr Nayacalevu added.
Speaking at the national consultation, Minister of Justice Clive Edwards said, ‘Tonga embraces the protection, promotion and advocacy of human rights for its citizens, and all humankind, as do all civilised countries.’
‘Tongan life is securely founded on the observance of respect, love, humility, loyalty, reciprocity, that is grounded on faith in a one true Christian God. These are our national treasures which we hold so dear to us, and which no Tongan should ever surrender,’ he added.
Since the completion of Tonga’s two reviews under the Universal Period Review Process in 2008 and 2013, Tonga has made considerable progress, including:
- adopting constitutional and political reform to allow a more democratically elected government;
- advancing the protection of women and children from violence in domestic surroundings;
- adopting policies and practices to ensure gender equality and protection of the rights of the child; and
- considering the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related core human rights treaties.
‘I appreciate that there is more to be done such as the creation of a national human rights institution and the ratification of fundamental international human rights treaties and conventions, and also the amendment of legislation to be consistent with international law,’ said the minister.
On behalf of the Government of Tonga, Minister Edwards welcomed all participants to the consultation and said he hoped a balanced approach to progressing human rights in Tonga would be agreed on during the consultation.
‘I encourage all participants to use this important occasion to have dialogue and debate, and to open your mind to new subjects and views, no matter how strange and foreign they may be. At the same time I would remind you that we are currently the custodians of our cultural values, and the navigators of our future. So I hope that debates and discussions are tempered with a sense of protection of what is Tongan,’ he concluded.
The consultation, which seeks to increase the capacity of government to monitor, promote and advocate for human rights and good governance standards, is funded by the European Union (EU) and coordinated and facilitated by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Pacific Regional Office and SPC RRRT.
For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].