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SPC provides technical support PNG to establish their Human Rights Commission

Submitted by onorinas on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 16:47

The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development Division (HRSD) team visited PNG last week to provide technical support to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Department for Justice & the Attorney General (DJAG) and the Department for Community Development and Religion (DFCDR) to assist in the establishment of a PNG Human Rights Commission (HRC).

A week-long workshop brought key stakeholders together, including Deputy Directors from DJAG and DFCDR, representatives from the Law Reform Commission and Ombudsman’s Office and SPC partner organisations the Asia Pacific Forum for NHRIs and OHCHR. A roadmap for establishment of the PNG HRC was developed through the week and several key working relationships, which will drive the initiative forwards, were agreed.

The outcomes reflected a renewed commitment towards the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in PNG, which would be a major achievement for the government, not least in realising SDG goal 16 and would also address several recommendations recently received from the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of its Universal Periodic Review.

HRSD Director, Miles Young, remarked “the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution is essential for all Pacific Island Countries, and we congratulate PNG in taking these steps towards realisation that goal.”

HRSD’s participation was welcomed by the PNG participants with one Deputy Director remarking that this international support would ‘build momentum and lend credibility’ around the establishment efforts. It also represented SPC’s efforts to engage more substantively with PNG and support large scale human rights initiatives and other development activities. The workshop was therefore also an opportunity for the team to discuss SPC’s new strategic plan with senior officials to explore additional future opportunities for technical assistance.

The request for technical assistance on the PNG HRC establishment resulted from consultations carried out under SPC’s PROJECT Governance – a USAID funded 5-year programme which seeks to build sound, just and responsive governance across the Pacific. HRSD’s participation was therefore made possible by the generous support of the American people through

#PROJECTGovernance #PacificGovernance #PNG #PacificPeoples

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New Disability Law for Kosrae State to enhance Protection of Persons with Disabilities

Submitted by onorinas on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 15:38
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Kosrae State Legislature enacts Bill 191 – Protecting persons with disabilities

For many nights, sleep eluded Isao Mike from Kosrae State in the Federated States of Micronesia. Racked with great concern for his child living with a disability, Mike constantly worried about his son’s future, particularly in the event he and his wife were no longer living or able to care for him.

He would frequently say to himself, “As a parent, I have no peace. If something ever happens to me or my wife, who will take care of my son? Who will make sure he is cared for?”

But on the back of this worry and countless nights of elusive sleep was born a determination to take action. Action that would secure his son’s future, and that of other children and people living with disability in Kosrae.

When the Kosrae Disability Act (Bill 191) was passed on 3 December 2021 by the State Legislature of Kosrae, it was victory for Mike and many parents in Kosrae raising and caring for children with disabilities. It was a win for Kosrae.

Bill 191 is a significant step forward for FSM and the Kosrae State Legislature. It sends a clear signal about the country’s determination to follow the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) which the 19th Congress of the FSM ratified on 7 October 2016.

International human rights conventions are an effective way of holding states accountable and serves as a guide for national legislation to safeguard marginalised groups in our societies. While many countries in the Pacific have ratified CRPD and, over time, have passed laws to comply with international human rights treaties, others such as FSM have only recently taken positive legislative action to protect and support persons with disabilities.

For Mike, the urgency to act came in the wake of an attack on his son.

“For me ultimately, the motivation to do something, to have a law in place to protect my son and others living with disabilities, came about when my son was hit on the head by someone, and despite the court hearing, the perpetrator only got two months outside of jail,” he said.

“This was an eye opener for me, as a parent. I realised that simply educating people to respect persons with disabilities was not enough. We needed better protective measures for people with disabilities.”

Despite the existing resolution supporting the CRPD ratification, Mike said it did not come with a law for Kosrae State, and people living with disabilities continued to experience high rates of sexual and physical violence, inaccessible health and social services and inequality. 

“Two years ago, we revisited our legislature and realised that we don't have a specific law that provides for persons with disabilities. While the government has some laws in place which protect us all, nothing specific was available to support and protect persons with disabilities,” Mike said.

As part of the Kosrae Special Parent Network (KSPN), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) under the Kosrae Department of Education, Mike and other parents drafted a Bill titled the Kosrae Disability Act. They submitted it to the 12th Kosrae State Legislature and lobbied the State through awareness and advocacy to pass the Bill. These were key steps to ensuring the enactment of Bill 191.

The Pacific People Advancing Change (PPAC) programme of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division and aims to build advocacy capacity among Pacific Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) engaged with human rights issues, while also advancing those issues by supporting specific campaigns.

KSPN is one of the PPAC grantees supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the “Promoting Just, Engaged, Civic-minded and Transparent (PROJECT) Governance”. Through the PROJECT Governance grant program, KSPN managed to advocate, raise-awareness and lobby the State to pass Bill 191. This speaks volumes of the initial success of PROJECT Governance and its support to the Pacific.  PROJECT Governance is a USD 19.8 million five-year partnership between SPC, the Blue Pacific Alliance partners (International Federation of Electoral Systems, East-West Centre and Care USA) and the United States Government through USAID.

Mike said Bill 191 promotes equal opportunities and respect for all persons with disabilities by ensuring accessible reserved parking spaces, building facilities, inclusive education, employment and social services in both public and privately-owned or controlled areas accessible to the public. 

Berla Nena, a parent raising two children living with disabilities in Kosrae, said the passing of the Bill was a step in the right direction. She and her family moved to Kosrae from the United States.

“In the US, all services were provided to my children from birth. But when we moved to Kosrae, things became difficult for us because there were just not enough services for persons with disabilities here,” she said. “With this law in place, this means they have a better future.”

Among the significant change to the Kosrae Disability Act was that now the State of Kosrae was under obligation to provide services to persons with disabilities of all ages.

Power of Legislation in improving lives of vulnerable groups

Too often, we overlook the power or value of legislation in maintaining order in our countries and communities. What would life be like if we did not have existing rules and laws maintaining peace in our societies?

Be it related to health, social security, housing, education, environment, commercial/trade/business issues or protection, some of us may have taken for granted laws and legislations that directly impact our daily way of life. Legislation provides government a legal mandate to utilise available resources to offer services that will promote, protect and fulfil the constitutional rights of its citizens.

And there is no exception when it comes to people living with disabilities who equally deserve laws that protect their interests and rights, including fundamental human rights like freedom, respect, equality and dignity. Like every citizen, people living with disabilities also have the right to live to their full potential and to live free from abuse or neglect.

Speaker of Kosrae State Legislature, Honourable Tulensa Palik, believes the passing of Bill 191 was long overdue.

“I believe having laws in place, specifically for persons with disabilities will definitely enhance their ability to participate in community life and society as a whole and thus improve the quality of their life,” Hon. Palik said.

“I wanted to highlight that this is something we have to do. When our country ratified the CRPD then it became incumbent upon us to make an appropriate legislation that complements the convention,” he said.  

He said the government recognised that there are a lot of persons living with disabilities in the community and in Kosrae State alone, there were approximately 600 people living with some form of disability. “We cannot just leave them behind,” he said.

“People with disabilities make up a sizeable portion of our community. Development is for everyone and we cannot leave them behind. It is timely that our country ratified CRPD and we as government must do our part,” Hon. Palik said.

“I think what we did is the easiest part of it. Now we are trying to enter the implementation phase of the law, of the Bill. What we will now try to do is get the public behind what we just enacted into law, otherwise it would not make any difference to what we did so it is important that we go out to the public and explain to them why we enacted this law,” he said.

Senator Andy Andrews, author of Bill 191, highlighted that the implementation of the Bill would commence with a focus on providing comprehensive education programmes and services for infants, toddlers and children with disabilities. He said they were also looking to amend some existing State laws such as provision of legal services and medical services at the hospitals.


Strengthened Partnership between Government and CSO

Through the support provided by PPAC, KSPN was able to strengthen advocacy and awareness efforts to lobby the members of the 12th Kosrae State Legislature.

KSPN set the wheels in motion for the passage of this Bill by initiating discussions with relevant stakeholders through its membership of the Kosrae Inter-Agency Committee. Other important stakeholders included the Kosrae Special Education Office, Kosrae Social Security Office, Kosrae College of Micronesia, Department of Health, Department of Education, and the Kosrae Women Association.

Hon. Palik shared that whenever a Bill comes up for passage, public awareness, consultation and information gathering was a crucial part of the process.  

“We have already gone through that process; we have already had public hearings at the legislature, but we have yet to go out to the communities to make them aware of this Bill,” he said.

As a result of these interventions by KSPN and other stakeholders, the Bill was passed and signed into law by Governor Carson Sigrah in December last year.

KSPN is currently finalising a documentary on the processes of advocating for the passage of the Bill and is now raising awareness and lobbying for its full implementation.

Hon. Palik has pledged the State’s commitment towards the implementation of the Bill.

“We have set a timeline of three months with the Director of Health Services for the implementation of this Bill,” he said.

The process that led to the enactment of Bill 191 is a model and shows how CSOs and governments can work together for the greater good of the community.

For Mike Isao, the engagement process with the State has resulted in sustainable partnerships on the ground. “We have now been offered an office space by the Department of Education to assist us in our day-to-day operations,” he said.

“We have also seen a change in people’s attitudes after the Bill was signed into law. We see a lot of changes in terms of creating disability-friendly surroundings. Members of the legislature are now taking a keen interest in the Bill itself and it gives me confidence that our leaders are talking about it and willing to see through their commitments towards implementation,” he said.

For Mike, having the legislation and law in place is enough for now. It has given him peace of mind.

“Now that there is a Bill in place, I am at peace knowing my son will be well taken care of if anything happens to me or my wife. The Bill does not only benefit my son, but it also benefits me, my wife and our entire family.”

“I know that the bill will create the necessary measures and laws to protect persons with disabilities and I am looking forward to the positive changes this bill will bring about,” he said.


Removing barriers for fuller participation in society by persons with disabilities

To date, 13 of the 16 Pacific Island Forum Countries have ratified CRPD. Of concern however is the low domestic resource allocation for the inclusion of persons with disabilities which is below 0.15% of the GDP for most countries, and a stronger reliance on donor funding to invest in developing the required disability specific and disability inclusive services. Persons with disabilities in the Pacific face entrenched cultural and physical barriers to full participation along with exclusion from communities, education and workplaces.[1]

Furthermore, many countries have not yet adopted a whole-of-government approach to inclusion. Most countries do not yet have adequate support services and regulations to create a barrier free environment.

However, Bill 191 demonstrates that the political will of the governments and advocacy efforts by CSOs can bring about positive benefits for the marginalised in our communities.

Hon. Palik said that legislations such as this is intended to create an enabling environment for persons with disabilities so that they can participate in their societies and positively contribute as full members of the community.

PROJECT Governance is focussed on achieving sound, just and responsive governance to foster the participation and inclusion of all persons in social, economic, political and cultural life. Bill 191 is a shining example of how governance can create enabling environments for all people in their diversities.

The success of Bill 191 is not one-off and other FSM States, such as Chuuk, are following Kosrae’s lead in creating an enabling environment for persons with disabilities which has recently also passed their Disability Act. These concrete actions by FSM States are opening doors for other countries in the region to ensure international treaty body commitments are incorporated into national laws and policies to practically benefit those it was intended to serve.


[1] Human Rights in the Pacific – A situational analysis 2020 – page 22 (accessed 16 February 2022). Available at:

Country List

Open Data and Good Governance

Submitted by onorinas on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 15:08
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Open Data: What does it mean for our Blue Pacific?

The world was in its grip. And it wasn’t long before the COVID-19 pandemic brought countries all over the globe to a crippling halt. Almost immediately, a new way of life emerged as people everywhere turned to the online and internet world to stay informed and updated during the crisis. From work and school to funeral gatherings and shopping for basic needs, the new normal was at our fingertips.

While the pandemic has changed many of our world views including how we work and the way we respond to emergencies, it has also greatly emphasised the importance and value of quality open data, and the need for robust data systems.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people relied heavily on information supplied by governments by way of updates on traditional media and social media channels - a clear demonstration of how open data can ensure a strategic and effective way of responding to disasters. 

So, what is open data and why should we care? It is valuable information and content that is free and easily accessible to anyone, without limitations or restrictions. Data is open if anyone is free to use, re-use or redistribute it, subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness (World Bank[1]). Quality open data allows us as citizens to be informed and to be able to monitor government activities while holding our governments accountable.

Open data and good governance

Good governance is an approach that is committed to creating a system founded in justice and peace that protects an individual’s human rights and civil liberties. It is the process of measuring how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources while allowing for monitoring, and guarantees respect for human rights with due regard to the rule of law.

When it comes to good governance, quality open data is critical and can lead to more effective and efficient governments. It is also critical for credible institutional and political processes and the delivery of outcomes necessary to achieve sustainable development.

Good governance has eight characteristics - participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law[2]. These characteristics have guided governments and organisations good governance practices. Quality open data underpins each of these. For instance, integrity in government transactions can only be achieved through transparency and accountability, and the latter will only be realised if citizens and organisations have access to quality government data and information.

Open data brings wide-ranging benefits to governments and many different groups of people, organisations and individuals. It keeps duty bearers or governments alert and responsive to society and responsible for their actions. Similarly, it empowers rights holders or citizens to know what their government is doing and hold them to account. It further empowers citizens to be directly informed and involved in decision-making processes of governance, both in public and political spaces. It allows opportunities for collaboration and helps establish trust and credible relationships between government, organisations, private sector and citizens during emergency situations and the development process.

Notably, in the Pacific, as a good start some governments have developed ministerial websites and information systems that people can access to get information on the government’s activities, budget and policy implementation, including online public services. Samoa’s database – SADATA - on development and human rights recommendations tracking is a relatively successful open data mechanism currently being implemented in the region and globally. These, however, must be well resourced and managed to ensure their reliability and accuracy. Moreover, users – citizens – should be educated on how to read and use open data to make informed decisions and demand responsive governance.

The pandemic and unprecedented weather events have underscored the need for access to quality open data more than ever. It provides an impetus to effective collaboration between all sectors of society to ensure inclusive effective emergency response and to address the wide-reaching effects of the pandemic. These partnerships and inclusive participatory approach build trust during such critical moments and steer concerted efforts to make our societies resilient and build back civil liberty.

Without quality open government data, there is a lack of engagement and collaboration between government and the public, transparency and accountability would be lacklustre, citizens would not be able to carry out public oversight of government conduct, processes and transactions, delivery of public services and corruption prevention.

Promoting good governance is a central priority for Pacific leaders and peoples. These commitments were entrenched in the Biketawa Declaration over 20 years ago, and recently reinforced in the Boe Declaration to allow free, healthy and productive lives for all Pacific people. Despite these commitments, the dearth of data and open data challenges in the Pacific - compounded by the nature of its people, values, culture, faith, politics, geography, resources and history - present a unique governance development challenge. It inhibits the ability of PICs to adequately develop evidence-based policies and implement targeted measures to implement better standards of governance and adhere to rights-based approaches. Hence, this reinforces the call for and underscores the importance of quality open government data as a critical tool for good governance in the Pacific.

Political buy-in and political will are critical for open government data to materialise. Having legal instruments is equally vital and their due enforcement requires resolute action to ensure the benefits of open data materialise. In the Pacific, several countries have enacted laws on the Right to Information or Information Act or formulated relevant policy viz Cook Islands, Palau, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga while the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia are work in progress.

A critical gap that continues to undermine efforts to implement sound governance is the limited availability of key data on governance and human rights[3]. Responsive governance exists when government institutions and policies are accessible, accountable and responsive to the people they serve, especially the disadvantaged groups. Sound public governance consists of the formal and informal rules, procedures, practices and interactions within the State, and between the State, non-state institutions and citizens, that frame the exercise of public authority and decision-making in the public interest (OECD).

To build on and complement the work of good governance in the Pacific, the launch of the “Promoting Just, Engaged, Civic-Minded and Transparent (PROJECT) Governance program came at a timely moment for the region, with an overarching goal of achieving a stronger Blue Pacific through the sustainable practice of sound, just and responsive governance. PROJECT Governance is a five-year US Government-funded program administered by its development arm USAID in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC).

The key outcome areas inter alia comprise increasing public sector transparency and accountability through access to government data and networks and strengthening governments’ capacities to prevent corruption and promote integrity within the governance structures. In keeping with the principles of a People-Centred Approach, the project will be implemented with a deep cultural understanding of the region.

SPC, in partnership with USAID, is committed to help Pacific leaders realise their commitments in achieving good governance and sustainable development through PROJECT Governance over the next five years and beyond.

[3] The PDH dashboard re SDG 16 notes that the majority of indicators are not included as part of the 132 indicators in the Pacific SDG indicator subset -

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East West Center part of the Blue Pacific Alliance under PROJECT Governance

Submitted by Admin on Mon, 27/09/2021 - 15:18
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About the East-West Center

The East-West Center(link is external) promotes better relations and understanding among the United States, Asia and the Pacific through collaborative study, research, and dialogue. Across Asia and the Pacific Islands, and at our campuses in Honolulu and Washington DC, the Center hosts conferences, exchanges, and in-depth trainings for policymakers, educators, cultural and civil-society leaders, and entrepreneurs. The Center conducts multidisciplinary research on environmental issues, public health, demography, economic policy and geopolitics, and provides graduate degree fellowships for the next generation of leaders. The Center also hosts the Pacific Islands Development Program(link is external)—the focal point of EWC programming for Pacific nations, and the seat of the secretariat of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders.

EWC and PROJECT Governance

The East-West Center is proud to join SPC, IFES, and CARE as part of the Blue Pacific Alliance implementing PROJECT Governance. EWC will lead four mutually reinforcing activities focused on supporting financial-governance offices and officials across the region:

For more information about the East-West Center and PROJECT Governance, please contact us at [email protected].

Pacific Human Rights Situational Analysis Report 2020

Pacific Human Rights Situational Analysis Report 2020

The Pacific Human Rights Situational Analysis Report 2020  analyses the situation of human rights across 16 Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) in the region:  Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Republic of Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Republic of Vanuatu.

This edition covers the period from June 2016 to December 2019 and includes a special chapter on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights in the Pacific in 2020.   The situation of human rights in the Pacific has been assessed through desktop research compiled from open sources including the United Nations Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies. It is brought to you by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and SPC’s Human Rights and Social Development Division.

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