Pacific dialogue centres on human rights

A regional consultation is underway in Fiji on the participation of Pacific Island countries in the United Nations-led review process of national human rights records.

The consultation will assist 11 Pacific countries to prepare for the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by sharing stories of impact and major gains, including examples of best practice in the region.

It is the latest event organised by the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) to help countries commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.

The four-day (11-14 October) human rights dialogue in Nadi provides a platform for Pacific countries to share their experiences with the UPR process and learn from one another.

In her opening remarks, SPC Deputy Director-General, Dr Audrey Aumua, saluted the efforts under the UPR process to date by Federated State of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

“The Pacific region has been able to utilise the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as well as other treaty body processes, and these have provided an opportunity to promote and protect the rights of Pacific people, focused at the national level,” Dr Aumua said. 

“This south-south learning on relevant challenges and achievements is important and so is documenting the journey of interacting with this global UN process, not only for ourselves but as an accountability process for people in our region,” she said.

All Pacific States have completed two four-year UPR cycles (2008-2011 and 2013-2016), with the third set to take place over four years from April 2017 to 2021.

For Pacific countries that are UN Member States, it provides the opportunity to draw the world’s attention to the realities and challenges of implementing human rights and declare what actions they have taken to improve human rights in their countries.

This includes how States have begun to implement the human rights recommendations from the UPR; the challenges small islands states experience in implementing accepted recommendations; and identifying possible strategies towards advancing recommendations.

The dialogue this week will raise awareness of challenges that may need addressing with the assistance of donors and other bilateral partnerships, and also map implementation strategies between reviews, including identifying policies, models, mechanisms and tools for implementation.