Photo: Front row (L-R): Rosslyn Noonan (APF Consultant), Sa’aga Teafa (Tuvalu Ombudsman), Maiava Iulai Toma (Samoa Ombudsman), Maualaivao Seiuli (Deputy Ombudsman Samoa). Middle row (L-R): Tracey Mikaele (Samoa), Jayshree Mangubhai (RRRT Human Rights Advisor), Violini Ieta (Tuvalu), Sina Sanele (Samoa), Akeimo Panapa (Tuvalu) Back row (L-R): Lagafuaina Tavita (Samoa), Charles Dean (Samoa), Taalo Leota (Samoa), Ieti Seiuli (Samoa), Vaiao Eteuati (Samoa)
There is a lot to learn from peer-to-peer exchanges among National Human Rights Institutions in the Pacific.
That is the conclusion from the Tuvalu Ombudsman and staff after a successful study exchange visit to the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office in Apia.
The exchange visit, conducted from 16 to 18 April 2018, was facilitated with support from the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (A.P.F.) and the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (S.P.C R.R.R.T.).
Last year the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman of Tuvalu expanded to include a National Human Rights Institution. Given this is the same model adopted by Samoa, the Tuvalu Ombudsman was interested to conduct a study visit to the Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa to observe its work and share experiences and challenges that would assist them with the establishment of its own National Human Rights Institution.
The visit saw the two Ombudsman’s offices engage in lively exchanges of information and experiences. Discussions focused on the opportunities and challenges of including a mandate on human rights and the effective ways of working developed by the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office.
The visit also allowed the Tuvaluans to interact with some key stakeholders to further understand the ways in which the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office operates in collaboration with a wide range of government and civil society in Samoa.
The visits included to the Police Professional Standards Unit, Prison and Corrections Services, the Samoan Faafafine Association as a member of the Advisory Council to the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office, and representatives from various UN agencies including U.N.Women, U.N.E.S.C.O., I.L.O. and U.N.I.C.E.F.
Sharing at the end of the visit, the Tuvalu Ombudsman highlighted the importance of this opportunity to understand how the Samoa Ombudsman Office functions and balances its three distinct mandates, which can inform their roll out of their own National Human Rights Institution.
He particularly commended the education and outreach work that the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office has done among communities and across Samoa, forging a better understanding of the links between values and principles of Fa’asamoa and human rights.
He looks forward to achieving something similar in Tuvalu and welcomed further exchanges and support from the Samoa Ombudsman’s Office as well as other neighbouring Pacific nations.