Samoans in European human rights study tour

Representatives from Samoa are on a two-week study tour and exchange to the United Kingdom and Geneva with human rights colleagues from Fiji and Tuvalu.

Held from the 17-26 of this month, the excursion organised under the United Kingdom-funded Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project (P.C.E.P.) and implemented by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (R.R.R.T), provides an opportunity to build the participants' capacity. 

Samoa, Fiji and Tuvalu are three fully established National Human Rights Institutions in the region, and will be joined by Cook Islands, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Samoan Ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma is expected to also deliver a statement on the rights of women and girls during the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council (H.R.C.41), from 24 -26 June in Geneva on behalf of the N.H.R.I. Samoa.

The three Pacific N.H.R.I. delegations will also participate at the council meeting as part of the third and final phase of the study and exchange tour, confirmed a statement by the P.C.E.P. 

P.C.E.P. Project Manager, Ashley Bowe said the first phase of the excursion starts from 17 - 19 June in partnership with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in Belfast. 

“Participants will get the opportunity to discuss areas of work with their Irish counterparts such as how they engage with sensitive issues and conduct legislative review to ensure compliance with human rights standards. 

“Discussions will also focus on human rights monitoring and how National Human Rights Institutions can exercise investigatory powers through national inquiries.”

The second phase of the tour will be from 20 – 21 June in partnership with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in London.

“Pacific participants will get a better understanding of how N.H.R.Is can work effectively with parliamentarians. They will also get an opportunity to learn from their London counterparts on how to communicate human rights and monitor treaties.”

Mr Bowe said on 25 June, the Pacific delegation will take part in a Pacific side-event at the H.R.C.41 on the topic “Overcoming Global Implementation Challenges”. 

“The side event at H.R.C.41 will be an opportunity to discuss challenges and success stories of establishing N.H.R.I. within small island states where resource and geographical constraints can make meeting the Paris Principles a challenge,” Mr Bowe added.

He said the side-event will discuss how contextualised approaches to human rights could address perception of rights as foreign and foster greater understanding, acceptance and ownership. 

“A contextualised approach is the use of cultural values, traditional songs and stories and faiths, to communicate human rights standards and principles.”

Miles Young, the Director of R.R.RT., said “N.H.R.Is play a crucial role in monitoring, reporting and investigating human rights abuses, advocating for individuals and groups in need of protection, and holding governments accountable to their human rights obligations.”

He said for Pacific Island Countries to make progress in human rights, it is essential to build the capacity of their N.H.R.I.s so that they are able to function to their full potential.

Mr Young acknowledged the support of the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and for investing in projects such as P.C.E.P. 

“It is commendable that the U.K. realises the important role played by N.H.R.Is in educating communities, the public and the State on human rights and has invested in this initiative to enable Pacific countries to build the capacity of their NHRIs,” Mr. Young said in the statement.

P.C.E.P. was launched by the U.K. as Chair in the Office of the Commonwealth to support the implementation of human rights commitments made by leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018. 

Melanie Hopkins, British High Commissioner to Fiji and the Head of the South Pacific Network, said P.C.E.P. provides critical technical assistance to strengthen human rights institutions and mechanisms across Pacific Commonwealth countries, with a focus on equality and adherence to international human rights obligations. 

The Governments of Australia, Sweden and the U.K. support the events in Geneva.

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