The Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) and the Australia High Commission, Fiji, today convened a donor roundtable on the progress of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the Pacific. The roundtable was held in partnership with the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF), and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The roundtable considered recent developments in the Pacific in establishing effective and sustainable NHRIs. It discussed the requirements for them to succeed and thrive, and the types of support they need in the medium term. It also identified opportunities and challenges for development partners in supporting the establishment of NHRIs and their work.
In his opening remarks, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, said Australia remains committed to supporting human rights in the Pacific.
“Australia is thankful for the strong support it received from the Pacific region on its successful candidacy for the Human Rights Council. We want to use our three-year term (2018-2020) to amplify the voice of the Pacific, including by showcasing its human rights achievements.”
SPC RRRT Director, Mr Miles Young said “Pacific Island countries should lead the establishment of NHRIs in their countries. They are best placed to understand their human rights priorities and how to achieve them. SPC RRRT, APF and OHCHR are here to provide technical support and this roundtable is part of that process.”
Participants acknowledged the progress provided through the partnership between RRRT, APF, and OHCHR as highlighted by the recent peer learning exchange between Samoa and Tuvalu.
In addition, national and regional-level dialogue will continue to remain a key focus offered by the partnership going forward.
Development partners who participated in the roundtable included the European Union, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and the US Embassy.
Pacific Island countries who participated included Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshal Islands.
NHRIs are specialised bodies established by governments to provide an independent assessment of the nation’s protection and promotion of the human rights of its people, including the vulnerable. While governments are responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, NHRIs support governments by providing advice, monitoring standards and practices, investigating violations, and promoting education and training.
In the Pacific, the number of NHRIs, either established or under consideration, has more than doubled in the past 12 months. Tuvalu, Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Cook Islands, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), have joined Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa in strengthening their institutional environment to ensure that human rights remain a top priority for the Pacific.
Of these five countries, Tuvalu has progressed the furthest, with legislation drafted and passed to set up a NHRI. There is a growing interest from the others to follow suit, having hosted NHRI scoping missions, towards the creation of fully operational, sustainable and Paris Principles compliant NHRIs.