Kiribati human rights under scrutiny

Radio New Zealand International:

Friday, 23 January 2015


Kiribati has had its human rights reviewed by the United Nations, highlighting a number of areas of concern.

It was Kiribati's second review, which all members undertake.

While progress has been made since the first in 2010, as Koro Vaka'uta reports, there is still work to be done.

Kiribati has told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that a lot of its focus is on the right of its people to survive climate change as it has the potential to affect the most basic of human rights as a distinct culture to survive and the right to have islands to call home. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Pacific agrees that climate change is interwoven with basic rights and has echoed calls for action. An officer Satya Jennings also says Kiribati deserves commendation for its work in establishing a Human Rights Taskforce, creating a Ministry for Women and Youth and various legislative changes like the Family Peace and Education Acts. However Ms Jennings says while progress has been made, other issues were also brought up at the review.

SATYA JENNINGS: Domestic violence and protection of women and children including in the context of prostitution and trafficking. Access to primary education. Lack of accession to key international instruments including the ICCPR, convention against torture and ICC as well as concerns over freedom of expression and opinions.
The European Union Ambassador to the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs, says regional assistance is available when it comes to signing up to international conventions.

ANDREW JACOBS: We do have a programme which is being implemented by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat which provides support for Pacific partner countries to help them to ratify and implement different United Nations treaties, particularly those related to human rights, so we do have assistance that could come on stream there.
Kiribati will be reviewed again in four years and Ms Jennings says it is hoped it will have undertaken even more legislative changes by then and fully implement existing ones.

SATYA JENNINGS: Concerns of implementation remain. Now the deceive step will be really in focussing on effective implementation of these new policies and instruments in order to ensure that actually the still very high rate of violence against women will decrease. A real different human rights situation on the ground remains to be seen.

Kiribati is looking at creating a national human rights institution to assist. Romulo Nayalevu from the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team says such a body can play an important role.

ROMULO NAYALEVU: The National Human Rights Institutions of course provide the government and the system of government the opportunities to be able to address its human rights concerns. Of course depending on what the functions of the NHRIs are for different countries, that function can include providing training, providing educational awareness, a whole range of support.

Kiribati also promoted the idea of a regional rights organisation under the Pacific Islands Forum. Mr Nayalevu says the Pacific region is the last remaining part of the world without an institution but the Forum is conducting scoping studies to change that. 

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