Human rights on the agenda

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TALKING HUMAN RIGHTS: The participants of the half day workshop held at Hotel Elisa yesterday.

TALKING HUMAN RIGHTS: The participants of the half day workshop held at Hotel Elisa yesterday.

The relationship between civil society and the government to meet Samoa’s human rights obligations was on the discussion table yesterday.

This was the focus of a workshop ran by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (O.H.C.H.R.) for civil society yesterday. O.H.C.H.R. has been working closely with government since 2015 to establish a permanent national mechanism to oversee all human rights implementation and reporting. 

This was approved by Cabinet and met for the first time in November last year. 

The national mechanism meets on a quarterly basis and will provide a regular platform for engagement between Government and civil society, something both parties agree has been significantly lacking for too long. 

The workshop was facilitated by Ashley Bowe, of O.H.C.H.R.

 “The government of Samoa has taken enormous steps in recent months to meet its human rights obligations and the establishment of this national mechanism is in part a recognition of the need for greater engagement with civil society,” said Mr. Bowe. 

“Used in the right way, this opportunity will allow civil society greater oversight of the Government’s implementation of human rights and involvement in the planning of activities and reporting – it will be a far more effective approach to human rights with the focus on implementation and effecting change for real people on an everyday basis.” 

During the workshop participants learned about the new role of the national mechanism and how civil society can also play a part. A demonstration was also provided on ‘Sadata’, a new piece of state of the art software designed specifically for Samoa by OHCHR and funded by U.N.D.P. and New Zealand. 

Once live Sadata will facilitate remote data collection across ministries and civil society and allow anyone to review progress of the national human rights implementation plan, which is also currently under development. 

One participant noted, “the national mechanism and Sadata simplifies things, and allows us to explore shared goals and the bigger picture. It shows us the way forward for human rights in Samoa.”

The national mechanism meets on a quarterly basis and will provide a regular platform for engagement between Government and civil society, something both parties agree has been significantly lacking for too long. 

Through increased dialogue using the national mechanism and Sadata, the Government and civil society aim to improve human rights reporting, better coordinate activities cutting down on duplication and foster a more trusting relationship – all of which will lead to greater enjoyment of human rights for regular people all across Samoa. 

“In many areas Samoa is currently leading the way in the Pacific in terms of human rights promotion and protection. 

This is another example of that and we look forward to seeing a closer working relationship between civil society and government and the increased enjoyment of human rights generally that this will bring,” concluded Mr. Bowe.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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