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Our Work in Human Rights

 

EU Human Rights Completed Activities

In 2009, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Troika and the European Union (EU) met at Senior Officials’ level and recalled that the promotion of human rights and the ratification of core Human Rights Covenants are key objectives for the EU as well as important elements of the EU-Australia Partnership Framework. In the revised Cotonou Agreement, the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific States committed to take steps towards ratifying and implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and related instruments.

Conscious of the challenges faced by Forum Island Countries (FICs) in the ratification and implementation of human rights instruments and commitments, the EU offered support for ratification and reporting on core Human Rights Covenants and the Rome Statute for the ICC to the value of €1 million. The PIF Troika welcomed the offer.

The EU offered support for ratification and reporting on core Human Rights Covenants and the Rome Statute for the ICC to the value of €1 million. The funding assistance was provided specifically to support the key strategic objectives of Initiative 12.5 of the Pacific Plan where appropriate, ratification and implementation of international and regional human rights conventions, covenants and agreements; and support for reporting and other requirements.

Progress to Date

To date the partnership with the SPC/RRRT has seen the completion of the identified activities namely the:
(a) training and capacity building for regional lawyers, the Pacific human rights lawyer’s network and Crown Law Officers;
(b) human rights training for Members of Parliament;
(c) human rights training for regional Judges and Magistrates; and
(d) mentoring and training/capacity building for SIS and Pacific Plan Desk Officers (SISPPDO) to undertake human rights activities.

Implementing project partner SPC/RRRT is currently working on a statistical guide to treaty reporting and is expected to be finalised in the coming months. This will also involve the training of HROs to use the guide to treaty reporting.

In addition, the SISPPDO/HRO’s have included human rights in their Terms of Reference which include coordinating and supporting human rights activities that are outlined in the framework of the EU-PIFS Human Rights Project. The extended terms of reference allow the SISPPDO/HRO’s to assist in the promotion of human rights, including through liaising and coordinating with member countries and relevant stakeholders, as well as the Forum Secretariat’s international, regional and national level partners.

Assistance and mentoring provided by the SISPPDO will be jointly overseen by the Forum Secretariat’s SIS Coordinating Officer and the Human Rights Adviser. Currently, SISPPDO and HROs are currently working on the:
(a) Common Core Document and
(b) assisting in the creation of human rights committee for their respective governments.

To date, the SISPPDO/HROs have also undergone a human rights training to assist them in their work nationally. The human right training was conducted by the Forum Secretariat, SPC/RRRT and OHCHR.

National Human Rights Consultations

In addition to the above, national human rights consulations have been completed for the respective governments of:
(a) Vanuatu;
(b) Palau;
(c) Niue;
(d) Tonga; and
(e) Republic of Marshall Islands.

The key objective of the national human rights consultations is to encourage support for treaty ratification, implementation and reporting of international human rights instruments, including the Rome Statute. Further to the above, the convening of national consultations have also seen movements by members towards establishment of national human rights committees in SISPPD/HRO countries.

Furthermore, as part of the ongoing support to member countries with their human rights obligations the Secretariat is currently working with member countries on their overdue reports on treaties that have been ratified by members. The Secretariat has provided assistance to the Government of Palau with its overdue CRC report and has developed new partnerships with UNICEF to expedite the implementation of the agreed project activities.

The EU-PIFS Human Rights Project identifies as key recipients of this work:
(a) Ministers and senior and middle-level officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs;
(b) Ministry of Justice;
(c) Planning and Statistics;
(d) Members of Parliament;
(e) Judges;
(f) Magistrates;
(g) Lawyers; and
(h) Civil Society Organisations.

The implementation of the project activities articulated under the EU Human Rights Project will be jointly implemented by the Secretariat and project partners namely the SPC/RRRT, and the OHCHR.

The Forum Secretariat also works closely with the OHCHR in the implementation and raising awareness of regional human rights initiatives as per its mandate from the United Nations. The Secretariat works closely with both the SPC/RRRT and OHCHR in respect of providing, members with timely and quality support for the ratification, reporting and implementation of international human rights treaties and conventions.



Universal Periodic Review

Apart from the above the Secretariat has also provided extensive and substantive assistance for member countries with respect to their national human rights report. The Secretariat and project partners will continue to provide similar technical and financial assistance to the government of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in June 2014. Similar arrangements will be made for member countries upcoming review in 2015 – 2016.

The main aim of national UPR consultations is to assist national governments in understanding new modalities for the 2nd round of reporting. The national consultations also assist in developing specific country templates for the compilation of information relating to the implementation of the agreed recommendations from the initial round of reporting. They are also aimed at reassessing progress made with respect to work undertaken as a result of the first round of reporting.

The UPR Process

The UPR Process adds value as it is the only human rights reporting process that reviews all UN member states regardless of whether they have signed or ratified any international human rights instruments. It treats states as equal and provides an opportunity for states to declare their actions towards the fulfillment of human rights and overcome challenges. It adds value by complementing the work of other treaty bodies, as well as providing an opportunity for states to be assessed against all international human rights standards in one review.

The second round of reporting has seen the Secretariat and partners liaise closely with member countries on the implementation of agreed recommendations. The partnership between members and relevant stakeholders has seen the development of specific framework on the situation of human rights within member countries. This involved: (a) identifying and analysing agreed recommendations from the Human Rights Council (HRC); (b) developing timelines for implementation by respective government office’s; (c) implementing agreed recommendations (d) planning and strategizing on assistance to FICs with regards the implementation of agreed recommendations; (e) facilitation of a one week training on the collation and implementation of recommendations; and assisting and preparing FICs with reports to the HRC.

Progress to Date:

To date the governments of Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have all reported to the Human Rights Council on the implementation of the first round of recommendations. Kiribati is currently preparing its report and subsequent national consultation before formally submitting it to the Human Rights Council in October 2014. Tonga was the first country from the Pacific region to report in the second cycle in 2013. Tonga’s second report highlighted efforts and activities carried out by Government and civil society organisations to improve Tonga’s human rights commitment, including pursuing gender equality; rights of persons with disabilities; combating domestic violence; elimination of use of torture and cruel, degrading or inhumane punishment; freedom of expression; anti corruption; right to drinking water; and the ratification of core human rights conventions. 

Tuvalu presented its report to the Human Rights Council on 25 April 2013. Tuvalu’s second report highlighted efforts and activities carried out by Government and civil society organisations to, amongst others, enhance and strengthen Tuvalu’s human rights commitments, including treaty ratification; strengthen human rights institutions; undertake relevant legislative reforms; improve efforts on raising awareness of the impact of climate change; enhance access to education; and strengthen participation with civil society organisations.

Vanuatu presented its report on Jan 30 2014. Vanuatu’s second report highlighted as priority the ratification and reporting on international human rights treaties, establishment of a national human rights institution, gender, and the rights of children’s rights as key areas of concerns.

The Forum Secretariat, together with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community/Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC/RRRT) are the main implementators of this activity. To date they have convened training for the government of Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Kiribati.



Human Rights Mechanisms

National Human Rights Institution

The Secretariat together with international partners Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institution (APF) undertaken and completed scoping missions for the possible establishment of national human rights institutions for the governments of Palau, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The key objectives of the NHRI scoping mission is to facilitate discussions on the establishment of national institutions, the different types of model, share best practices from regions and nations with dedicated NHRI and more importantly solicit views of members on the potential for a NHRI in country. Recently, the Secretariat together with the OHCHR and APF signed a MOA firmly cementing partnership on this initiative in the pacific region.

Regional Human Rights Mechanisms

The Secretariat is also embarking on a new project with regards to the establishment of regional human rights mechanisms. The work on the regional human rights mechanisms has seen the creation of a Working Group tasked/mandated with the responsibility of pursuing further scoping mission on the viability of regional human rights mechanisms to include costs etc all. Furthermore, the Working group have agreed in its second meeting to discussing ways forward particularly in the provision of information on relevant PIFS declaration that can be used as a basis for further pursuing work on the establishment of a regional human rights mechanisms; this is to include discussion on the development of a TOR for a consultant to undertake initial scoping work on Forum declarations that can be used as a basis for furthering the work on regional human rights mechanisms; and convening of a meeting with the consultant to discuss findings of the research.

The Working Group agreed that to progress the work on a regional human rights mechanisms more research was needed. The WG agreed that a TOR be developed to include examining current and existing Forum Secretariat declarations that can be used to start discussions and potentially used as a baseline for a regional charter.

Important to note at this stage, is that the TOR will be developed and circulated in the coming month. Upon confirmation of the consultant a confirmed meeting date and time will be sent to members of the Working Group.

 


 

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