Human rights reforms get mediocre grades

Just four recommendations made by the Office of the Ombudsman are graded as close to being fulfilled by Government ministries or organisations, a new report has found.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Ombudsman, the country’s National Human Rights Institution (N.H.R.I.), made 65 recommendations to Government  on the state of human rights in Samoa.

In a new report, those suggestions have been reviewed against their progress and graded accordingly. Most have been assessed with a 50-75 per cent implementation rate.

But only four came away with a 90 per cent mark, meaning they have been nearly perfectly implemented.

Two relate to people with disabilities in the N.H.R.I.’s own consultations, and increased efforts to have them vote.

The report states the Office of the Electoral Commission has been working well with Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.L.A) to register P.W.Ds to vote, and to conduct outreach to ensure they actually do vote.

“Commendable effort has been taken by Government to raise awareness among people with disabilities of their ‘right to vote.’”

Electoral laws are being translated into Braille, and, under the Electoral Act 2019, people can choose whether to vote in the pre-polling period or on polling day, making access to voting better.

Regarding greater including of people with disabilities in human rights reporting, the report states its own work in this area is the reason for the high score.

"The Government has yet to fully address recommendations contained in the Office 2016 S.H.R.R (State of Human Rights Report) and progress in considering the report itself has been slow and is given little attention and priority,” the report states.

Another high scoring recommendation is tasking the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development with “preserving human rights through its participation in all climate change adaptation projects and programmes.”

The Government has been active in ensuring the Ministry be the one to plan and prepare climate change adaption programmes, and it has worked with other ministries to meet community needs across all phases of project designed.

“This is a positive move and should be continued in future to ensure that the rights of village communities are not greatly affected by the impacts of climate change,” the report states.”

Resources and funding to improve access to water also won the 90 per cent tick, and the Ombudsman praised the Government’s ability to fund the Water for Life Sector Plan 2012-2016.

Adequately funding that plan meant several water management issues could be improved, including increasing supply to vulnerable areas, improving flood resilience, and improving drinking water quality.

But there are still financial challenges ahead, the Ombudsman notes, which government intends to counter with more development funding.

The report recommends government regularly monitor and evaluate the impact of the water plans and the funds coming in to sustain them.

But overall, the N.H.R.I does not come across impressed with Government action on its recommendations.

“To date, Parliament has discussed and tabled the Office’s 2015, 2016 and 2017 SHRRs. Government responses to these reports have also been provided in relation to recommendations by the relevant parliamentary committee. 

“However, so far, there is no information to suggest results and outcomes of these discussions in Parliament have been disseminated or relayed to the relevant ministry for action. 

“It is the view of the Office that part of problem is the lack of awareness of Parliament and also Government of the process for implementing recommendations contained in these reports.”

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