10 Dec 2015

Human rights challenges remain in the Pacific - UN

4:36 pm on 10 December 2015

The United Nations Human Rights Office in the Pacific says while there has been some progress for human rights in the region, many challenges remain.

Today is Human Rights Day, which is being marked across the Pacific.

The UNHRO Pacific head, Catherine Phuong, says ratification of human rights treaties is still very low in the region - one of the lowest in the world.

She says understanding of human rights is limited in some countries, rates of violence against women and children are very high and more needs to be done to address allegations of police brutality.

"There's still some limitation in some countries on freedom of expression, more work needs to be done on the rights of persons with disability, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in offshore processing centres is also of concern. So there's still a lot of work to do."

Ms Phuong says there have also been some promising developments for human rights.

She says Pacific governments now having to go to the Human Rights Council in Geneva every few years to report on progress made and agree to new commitments has brought momentum to change.

Ms Phuong says in Samoa, the government has upgraded the office of the ombudsman into a national human rights institution, which is doing some promising work.

She says in Fiji, the government has pledged to ratify the convention against torture and re-established the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.