Some Pacific states far behind on human rights reporting
A Pacific Islands Forum workshop is trying to help small island states catch up with their human rights reporting obligations.
Some small Pacific Island states are up to 12 years overdue with implementing reports on various human rights treaties they've signed up to.
To try and help them catch up with these obligations, representatives from Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have spent the past week at a workshop in Fiji.
The workshop was run by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and its Human Rights Advisor, Filipo Masaurua, says the aim of the workshop was to try and speed the countries up and to see what the forum could do to help.
But he told Jamie Tahana the Pacific's attitude towards human rights has improved immensely.
FILIPO MASAURUA: The current activity that we're doing now with the Small Island States (SIS) officers is basically having a one week intensive human rights training to equip them with the knowledge, information and awareness on where their countries are at in relation to their own human rights obligations; how they can access the human rights system; what is available in the region that can allow them to further the course of human rights in their respective countries. And in saying this I refer specifically to the promotion and protection of human rights.
JAMIE TAHANA: We've got Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Palau, Nauru and Kiribati, what is their track record leading up to this workshop that you're trying to change?
FM: With the countries that are currently being engaged to undertake this human rights activity, the focus is really on treaty ratification, implementation and reporting. Basically asking the officers in Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, "Please have a look at your national obligations in relation to human rights and tell us how we can effectively either implement treaties that have been ratified; and/or just tell us how we can help you to report on the treaties that are long overdue". And interestingly enough this morning we had discussions on overdue reports and some of them are seven years overdue, 12 years overdue, and we need to get these reports out of the way for member countries. It's actually caused a bit of a backlog in terms of their own commitments in implementing these particular human rights treaties and conventions.
JT: What are these reports that need to be cleared?
FM: Ah, well for one, because the act of ratification actually does provide a component where it says that after every three or four years after ratification you would need to come back and tell us 'what exactly have you done after you have ratified?' For example, the convention on the rights of the child, a lot of the countries have not submitted their second or their third report. And it basically outlines the situation of children in their respective countries and what is government doing, has done, or will be able to do in the future to ensure that children's rights are further promoted and protected. And with this we can look at the legislation in terms of education, in terms of health, in terms of - for example - juvenile justice, but it just differs in each country. We're not asking them to do the work per se, that's where we come in. The regional organisations that are part of this particular project are there to provide the technical and the implementation support to the SIS officers.
JT: And are these countries particularly behind, not just in reports, but in human rights themselves?
FM: That's also a very interesting question and it depends on how you see it. For me, having done this work in the region for about 11 years, I see there's a huge leap in terms of progress in human rights in this region and I say this in comparison to what was the situation say, 10 or 15 years ago where human rights was not even discussed or no one really paid attention to it. But with the creation of a Human Rights Office at the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, member countries are becoming more aware.
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