Minister ups the ante on human rights push

The Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Talalelei, has called for increased participation from the Pacific in efforts to promote human rights.  

Tuitama made the call during a virtual side event of the 75th session of the General Assembly. The event was co-sponsored by the Government of Samoa in partnership with the Pacific Community (S.P.C.) and other partners.

It was convened virtually on Wednesday 23 September 2020 (New York) and around 6am Samoa time on Thursday. 

The side event looked at the ‘Treaty Body Reform – Lessons from the 84th Extraordinary Outreach Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (C.R.C.).

Samoa hosted the extraordinary session earlier this year in Apia from the 2nd to the 6th of March 2020.  This was the first time the Committee met outside of United Nations’ (U.N.) headquarters in Switzerland and the United States of America. 

Tuitama presented on the Government of Samoa’s experience as host nation of the 84th C.R.C. which he said was an historic event not only for Samoa but also for the Pacific region.

Also participating as panelists were local student representatives who had engaged in the March C.R.C. session: Danise Margraff, Marion Fruean, Audrey Lee Hang and Kaylin Bartley.

They talked about their experience in the sessions, understanding on rights of the child and their thoughts on how to address children’s rights issues.

Other panelists in the virtual side event included Ilze Brands, U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, and Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Miles Young, Director for the Human Rights and Social Development Division S.P.C., and H.E. Mitch Fifield, Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. 

The side event session was moderated by Professor Philip D. Jaffe, Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Samoa’s Minister of Women, Community and Social Development relayed that the result of the session led to the important collaboration between Government, U.N., the Committee of the Rights of the Child and its Secretariat, and our regional organisations particularly the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (‘SPC RRRT’).  

“More importantly, the active engagement of the non-government organisations, civil society, schools and children from Samoa and across the Pacific was essential providing insights on life in the Pacific islands,” he said.

In addition, the Government of Samoa also used this as a platform to improve engagement and consultation of different stakeholders to feed into our Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights Conventions implementation and review processes. 

“Hosting the C.R.C. in Samoa has increased the visibility on the rights of the child and the specific issues children face in the Pacific region,” said Tuitama. 

“It allowed for the promotion of the implementation of the Convention, and a key opportunity for Samoa to hear the articulation of children’s views.

 “The extraordinary session served as an exemplary learning opportunity for Samoan and Pacific officials, civil society, National Human Rights Institutions and all involved in promoting rights of the child.”

Furthermore, he stressed that the increased participation from the Pacific is of great importance in the work of human rights.  

“With many pacific islands without representation in Geneva, this was a long awaited opportunity for our region to engage and share our specific realities with a treaty body.

 “Our island contexts and diverse voices provide a different viewpoint that is not often heard in Geneva due to the lack of representation. We firmly believe that one size does not fit all in terms of application and implementation; it is essential to have our say in these U.N. Human Rights processes. 

“The lessons learnt and experience from the C.R.C. meeting in Samoa is an important input to the current U.N. Human Rights Treaty Body reform discussions.”

He also mentioned that for Samoa as host of this extraordinary session, we looked at the totality of the experience of all participants and coordinated closely with all partners to ensure the participation of the children.

Tuitama thanked the S.P.C. and all the co-sponsors of this important event, as it provided an opportunity to discuss the review and importance of such regional meetings to the effective implementation of treaty body obligations.

 “We look forward to more extraordinary sessions such as this one, and for the Pacific region to again play host.  

“This will further the work of the treaty bodies and allow for enhanced visibility, increased participation and better understanding of the treaty bodies on human rights in the Pacific.” 

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