The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s officers from Smaller Island States (SIS) will now engage in human rights work. Five SIS officers representing Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu are currently undertaking a one-week human rights mentoring and trainingprogramme organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community/Regional Rights and Resource Team (SPC/ RRRT) in Suva, Fiji.
Contracts of SIS Officers recently renewed by the Forum Secretariat will enable the SIS officers to continue to contribute to the overall development of the Smaller Island States, and in particular to facilitate and coordinate the effective implementation and progress of the decisions of SIS and Forum Leaders. Of the seven SIS officers, five have seen the inclusion of human rights work to their workprogramme. The mentoring and training programme jointly undertaken by PIFS and SPC/RRRTprovides an opportunity for SIS officers to familiarise themselves with human rights and related work in the Pacific region, and activities that they will be expected to undertake.
The week-long mentoring and training programme is focused on facilitating treaty ratification, reporting and implementation activities. Working closely with SPC/RRRT and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Forum Secretariat will assist SIS officers with the development of specific activities in support of their human rights work.
“This is indeed a positive sign of commitment of the Secretariat and its development partners towards the protection and promotion of human rights in Forum member countries. Through the generous support of the European Union, greater attention will now be given to implementing international conventions on human rights,” said Ms. Andie Fong Toy, Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat.
“Human rights are a part of the vision of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders – to see a Pacific region that is respected for the quality of its governance, the full observance of democratic values and for its defenceand promotion of human rights. This is just one of several avenues of achieving this vision,” added Ms Fong Toy.
Ms. Holly Yamada, a SIS officer based with the Ministry of State, Republic of Palau, expressed support for the training. “As a SIS officer, this human rights training is timely as it will help with implementing my county’s human rights obligations.”
“This week’s training is valuable to all of us, as it is providing us with the opportunity to learn more about human rights norms and standards and how these can be applied or translated into national priorities, practices and commitments,” said Ms Yamada.
“There is great merit in utilising the opportunity provided by the presence and availability of SIS officers to support and undertake, amongst other responsibilities, human rights work in the region. These officers are well established within SIS governments and as such have access to key government offices through their own reporting processes. With continued training, SIS officers will be in a position to complement existing national capacities and resources in respect of developing national systems for ongoing human rights treaty reporting,” remarked Fakavae Taomia, SIS Programme Officer of the Forum Secretariat.
The week-long training of the SIS officers is made possible with funding support provided under the European Union-PIFS Human Rights Project 2012-2015.The European Union and the Forum Secretariat signed on 20 February 2012 a contribution agreement to the value of 1 million Euros to support Pacific island countries in their ratification and implementation of international Human Rights Treaties and the Rome Statute. The funding assistance is provided specifically to support the key strategic objectives of Initiative 12.5 of the Pacific Plan in respect of the ratification and implementation of international and regional human rights conventions, covenants and agreements.
The Smaller Island States comprises the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.