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Call for applications - Regional Youth and CSO Dialogue 23-27 June 2014

Submitted by Admin on Thu, 22/05/2014 - 15:54
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A coalition of regional partners, including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT), UNDP Pacific Centre, Pacific Youth Council and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) will be convening a Youth and civil society dialogue to be held from the 23-27th of June in Nadi, Fiji.

SPC RRRT is pleased to invite one representative from Civil Society and one youth representative from each of the following Pacific Island Countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu

Download the conference announcement below for further details and the application form if you are interested to represent your country. Email us your completed form as soon as possible.


Pacific representatives meet to develop campaigns to address violence against women

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 14/08/2013 - 08:59
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Tuesday 13 August 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji

Twenty-six representatives from government as well as non-governmental organisations in six Pacific Island countries are in Suva this week for a five-day regional workshop to develop concrete action plans to address high rates of violence against women in the region.

The workshop organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) in partnership with the UN Women Fiji Multi-country Office is part of the support provided to Pacific organisations that are recipients of grants from the UN Women Pacific Regional Facility Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women.

Speaking at the opening of the consultation, guest speaker Maha Muna, Gender Adviser with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Suva called on participants to remember youth in their campaigns and to ensure that interventions also focus on empowering young people as a vital way forward in ending the intergenerational cycle of violence in homes and communities in the region.

‘Today, in the spirit of International Youth Day, let us recommit to removing the scourge of violence from the lives of Pacific women and young people,’ she said.

In highlighting examples of the high prevalence of violence amongst young people in the region, Ms Muna spoke of the findings of a 2010 United Nations Children’s Fund study, Understanding HIV and AIDS. The study reported that 38% of sexually active youth in Solomon Islands had experienced forced sex, with 20% reporting their first sexual encounter as forced. In Vanuatu, the study reported that 45% had experienced forced sex, with 36% reporting that their first sexual encounter had been forced, and in Kiribati, it reported that 43% of sexually active youth had experienced forced sex, with ongoing vulnerability for 79%, and that for 21% their first sexual encounter was forced.

Ms Muna also reaffirmed the findings of Family Health and Safety Studies in the region, supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and UNFPA in collaboration with SPC and national bureaus of statistics, which demonstrated high prevalence of violence against women in the Pacific, particularly in the context of intimate relationships. The recent research shows that 68% of ever-partnered women between the ages of 15 and 49 in Kiribati have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner. The rates are 64% in Solomon Islands and 46% in Samoa.

‘Breaking the cycle of violence in the region is a big challenge. Your country advocacy and action plans must focus on how you can engage in changing hearts and minds, behaviours and attitudes, along with services, policies and laws,’ Ms Muna said.

Activities on the agenda for this week’s consultation include reviewing national country strategies and advocacy initiatives in addressing violence against women, enhancing capacities of the participants to effectively challenge discriminatory laws and practices in countries using a human rights based approach and developing two-year advocacy and action plans to address gender based violence in the countries.

Participants are government and civil society stakeholders from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. This consultation and work to support legislative change in addressing violence against women is supported by UN Women and AusAID.

For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected] or Olivia Owen, Inter-Agency Initiatives Coordinator on +679 330 1178 or email [email protected].

Pacific judges and magistrates consultation focuses on human rights issues in the region

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 05/06/2013 - 09:34
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Wednesday 5 June 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji –

A three-day regional consultation for judges and senior magistrates from across the Pacific, organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resources Team (SPC RRRT), took place this week in Brisbane, Australia.

The consultation focused on judicial independence, rule of law, and human rights issues in the contemporary Pacific context. They included sexual- and gender-based violence, disability inclusiveness and impacts of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on adoption.

The consultation serves as a forum for judges and magistrates from the Pacific region to share their professional experiences, with the aim of expanding their knowledge of human rights issues and best practices in the region.

The keynote address at the opening ceremony on Monday was delivered by Justice Logan of the Federal Court of Australia. The Pacific judges and magistrates were later hosted to a cocktail reception by the Chief Justice of Queensland, the Honourable Paul de Jersey, and judges of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

The consultation was attended by judges and magistrates from Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

SPC RRRT has supported the work of regional judges and magistrates for over a decade, mainly focusing on the promotion and application of international human rights treaties and universal standards in Pacific courts. This work supports state obligations derived through the ratification of international human rights treaties and the application and domestication of international human rights standards in Pacific courts.

The regional consultation this week is generously supported by AusAID.

For more information, please contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected]

Pacific MPs united on ending violence against women

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 29/08/2012 - 11:49
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Wednesday 29 August 2012, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji –

Members of parliament in the Pacific have expressed alarm at the disturbing level of violence affecting women in the region. The Pacific has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.

Sitting MPs from Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu met in Brisbane last month to discuss the issue and demand responses.

Dame Carol Kidu, former leader of the opposition in PNG, who attended the meeting, said MPs 'were alarmed that the Pacific has the worst record globally for violence against women.

Parliamentarians from around the region wanted to unite to create a, 'strong political commitment to ensure that Pacific women can lead lives free from fear and violence' she said.

The meeting prompted fourteen MPs to write a letter in support of the UN Secretary-General's global UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. They are hoping more Pacific Island MPs will take up the cause to address the high rates of domestic, sexual and other types of gender-based violence affecting women and children in the Pacific.

'Leaders from all 22 Pacific nations should commit to this statement and lead the region to change this shameful reality faced by Pacific women,' said Kidu.

Studies conducted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have found that in Kiribati 68 per cent of women aged 15 – 49 have experienced physical and or sexual violence.

In Solomon Islands the figure was 64 per cent and in Samoa it was 41 per cent. These figures are considered indicative of the scale of the problem across the region.

MPs are increasingly affirming that they have a pivotal role in addressing the issue through supporting law reform in parliament. Many of the present laws relating to violence against women in Pacific Island nations are decades old and do a poor job of recognising and responding to this complex social problem.

The introduction of new laws that provide more comprehensive legal responses and remedies can have a big impact on reducing rates of violence and providing support services to those affected.

The members of parliament signing in support of the UN Secretary-General's UNiTE campaign and calling for increased action in the Pacific were the Honourable Nandie Glassie and Tangata Vavia from Cook Islands, the Honourable Paliknoa Welly and Joseph Uresemal from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Honourable Martin Tofinga from Kiribati, the Honourable Regina Mesebeluu from Palau, former Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu from Papua New Guinea, the Honourable Clay Forau Soalaoi, Peter Tom, Martin Sopage and Vasian Lonamei from Solomon Islands, the Honourable Faalesa Pitoi from Tuvalu, and current Speaker of the House, the Honourable Dunstan Hilton, and former Minister for Justice, Isabelle Kora, from Vanuatu.

The MPs want their action to act as a catalyst for increased political awareness and effort throughout the Pacific to better protect women and children and ensure their right to live free from violence.

Pacific Leaders have, through the 2009 Cairns Communiqué, acknowledged that violence against women is an impediment to Pacific societies. They recognised sexual and gender based violence as a sensitive issue in Pacific cultures and noted that it is pervasive and underreported.

Addressing the problem 'at all levels of the community' is a priority, according to Leaders.

In 2010 the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee established a Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

The Reference Group's mandate is to raise awareness and guide national efforts to meet Forum Leaders' commitment to eradicate sexual and gender based violence and to ensure all individuals have equal protection of the law and equal access to justice.

For more information, contact Daiana Buresova, Senior Human Rights Legal Policy Researcher, SPC Regional Rights Resource Team: [email protected] +679 330 5582

Dame Carol Kidu challenges Pacific Parliamentarians

Submitted by Admin on Fri, 20/07/2012 - 12:01
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Friday 20 July 2012, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Brisbane, Australia –

Dame Carol Kidu, former Leader of the Opposition in Papua New Guinea stated that, "Pacific countries are fighting issues of commonality such as climate change and violence against women despite the diversity of culture and language in the region".

Dame Kidu's remarks opened the Regional Human Rights Consultation for Members of Parliament held in Brisbane this week.

Dame Kidu shared the challenges she encountered in implementing human rights approaches as a PNG parliamentarian and emphasised that legislative reform especially in human rights related issues demanded courage of the parliamentarians and sensitising of one's constituency of the relevant human rights issue.

She posed the following critical question to parliamentarians in attendance, "Why are we defaulting on our social justice contracts and yet we are not defaulting on our economic contracts?"

Dame Kidu highlighted that, "globalisation poses a greater threat to the region than colonisation and therefore it is imperative that human rights standards are adhered to."

She relayed her experience as the former PNG Minister of Community Development in which she was instrumental in lobbying for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; adding that national ownership of such international treaties is vital.

Members of Parliament from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are being exposed to critical human rights issues facing the Pacific region such as: climate change, sexual and gender based violence, national and regional human rights commissions, HIV and inclusivity of persons with disabilities at the 4th Pacific Consultation on Advancing Legislative Reform in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

The consultation is aimed at providing an opportunity for Pacific Parliamentarians to gain further information on, and discuss current and critical human rights issues in their national parliaments.

The week long consultation ended with a mock parliament in which regional Parliamentarians raised and debated human rights issues.

The consultation is currently underway at the Park Regis North Quay Hotel in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia from 16 to 20 July 2012.

The annual consultation is facilitated by the SPC RRRT team in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and in partnership with UN Women and the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions.

The consultation is made possible thanks to the generous funding of AusAID.

For more information, contact Lionel Aingimea ([email protected])

Sub-Regional ‘writeshop’ accelerates HIV Law reform in the Pacific

Submitted by Admin on Mon, 12/09/2011 - 14:11
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High Level representatives from the Justice, Health and Civil Society Organizations from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu gather in Nadi to share their experience on human rights compliant HIV Policies and Laws.

The 3 days 'writeshop' (11-14 September, 2011) is organized by a partnership between the UNDP, UNAIDS, PIAF (Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation) and the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC/RRRT).

The objective of the workshop is to provide support and technical assistance that is required to advance human rights compliant HIV legislative change by analysing the current legislative status per country, providing various models of legislative reform, looking at the rationale for human rights compliant legislative responses to address the spread of HIV and writing a policy papers to step up progress to legislative reform.

While most HIV interventions target individual behavioral change, it is equally important, if not more, that the norms and structures that shape these behaviours are addressed. There is extensive and longstanding evidence that strategic structural investments can contribute to 'break through' progress.

It is expected that the delegates will leave the 'writeshop' with a strategic plan to implement the policy framework which will work towards guiding the respective countries in their response to HIV.

Garry Wiseman, Manager of UNDP Pacific Centre in his opening remarks highlighted that "...some countries in the region have already passed human rights-based legislation to better address HIV and AIDS: PNG, FSM and more recently Fiji. Others are in the process to start drafting new HIV laws such as Tuvalu and Cook Islands; and some are starting to develop new policy framework to do. This week will be an opportunity to share lessons learned and help each other."

The event represents an opportunity for intra-regional cooperation on these issues and uses an interactive format to ensure countries gain maximum benefit from experience sharing.

Ruby Awa from SPC/RRRT commented that "...this is great, it will allow those countries who are still working on having a HIV legislation share their progress and pick up pointers from those who already have HIV legislation in place."

The event includes the participation of people living with HIV who are taking an active role in the policy dialogue.

"We do not just need representatives, we are present and must take an active part of the dialogue and the policy and law making to address HIV, this is what Meaningful Involvement of People living with HIV means," Temo Sasau, Fijian AIDS Ambassador in his address.

For further information contact: Ferdinand Strobel, email: [email protected] or Mahezabeen Khan, email: [email protected].

Violence against women costs money

Submitted by Admin on Tue, 15/12/2009 - 18:28
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Press Release – 15 December 2009

'Violence against women costs the Australian economy close to $8.1 billion per year,' said Queensland's Attorney General Hon.

Cameron Dick MP at the opening of an annual consultation with regional members of parliament in Brisbane, Australia held by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC / RRRT).

'In Fiji, the Governor of the Reserve Bank estimated in 2004 that the direct costs of domestic violence was about $300 million a year, which was about 7% of GDP,' said Dick.

Twenty-five MPs from Tonga, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati attended this year's event, which focused on violence against women legislation.

The Attorney General stated that he was 'pleased that so many fellow parliamentarians from the Pacific Island countries have shown their commitment to improving the lives of Pacific people.' He made the comments in light of the recent data revealing extremely high prevalence rates of violence against women in the Pacific.

Both Kiribati and Solomon Islands were amongst the countries with the highest rates in a 17-country study by the World Health Organisation. In this study, only Ethiopia and Peru surpassed Kiribati and Solomon Islands in prevalence rates. PNG, Fiji Islands and Samoa have also been shown to have high prevalence rates in other studies.

In a conference room packed with members of parliament from nine Pacific countries, Queensland's Attorney General quoted the recent Cairns Communiqué in which Forum Leaders addressed the issue of sexual and gender-based violence and called for a range of measures to address it, including legal measures.

The Hon. Cameron Dick reiterated the stance taken by the Forum leaders by acknowledging that sexual and gender-based violence 'is now widely recognised as a risk to human security and a potential destabilising factor for communities and societies alike.'

The acknowledgment from Forum leaders is 'most welcome', he said because violence against women is a serious global problem that affects every country.

In 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling on all member states and the United Nations system to intensify efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Such violence has compounding human rights implications; causing trauma to women, families and communities. Sexual and gender-based violence is both a symptom and a cause of gender inequality and discrimination.

The Minister of Justice from the Republic of Nauru, Hon. Matthew Batsiua, stated

'it is necessary for regional leaders to consult on issues of violence, especially when it is perpetrated against vulnerable people like women and children because the statistics do show that it is a prevalent problem with damaging consequences.'

The Hon. Cameron Dick once served as the Attorney General of Tuvalu and was quite proud of that fact. He jokingly said that

'Tuvalu recognised talent when it saw it.'

He also said that he was proud that Tuvalu was 'mixing it with the big guns in Copenhagen.' The consultation in Brisbane will also discuss human rights implications of climate change.

The members of parliament have a week to look at human rights issues, including violence against women and HIV legislation, the new compulsory Universal Periodic Review process and the potential of a regional human rights mechanism to serve the needs of Pacific Island governments and peoples.

The consultation is funded and supported by SPC / RRRT, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid), the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund.

The Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) is a programme under the Social Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. For more information regarding this event, please contact Gwen Philips at [email protected] or Imrana Jalal at [email protected].

Pacific laws on violence do not protect women: Jalal

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 11/03/2009 - 18:00
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Tuesday 11 March 2009, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, New York

Pacific laws on violence against women (VAW) are outdated and treat women with indifference despite the globally high rates of VAW in the Pacific region.

Pacific Island governments need to make a concerted effort to review this legislation so that laws can better protect women.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community/Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC/RRRT) Gender and Human Rights Advisor, Imrana Jalal, made the comments whilst addressing members of the Pacific Islands Forum who attended the 53rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) held recently in New York.

Pacific representatives from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, as well as Australia and New Zealand attended the meeting.

Jalal told those Pacific government representatives that only a handful of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) had made some progress.

"Only Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and more recently, Vanuatu, had made any progress in changing outdated and discriminatory laws and interpretations. PNG and RMI had made changes to sexual assault laws but not domestic violence and family law, whilst Vanuatu had addressed the issue of domestic violence."

Jalal said Fiji had addressed some elements of domestic violence in its family law but had not touched sexual violence or domestic violence in its criminal or civil codes. Despite being the first country in the region to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, Samoa had not passed any legislation addressing any area of women's rights, since ratification.

Jalal was at the UNCSW as chair of the high-level UN Expert Group on Best Practices in Violence against Women Legislation. The panel advises the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on best practices from around the globe in terms of laws which relate to violence against women (VAW).

She told the PICT government representatives that SPC/RRRT had won a substantial grant from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Trust Fund. SPC/RRRT had to compete with 1027 applicants worldwide for the grant.

The grant, worth USD 720,000 provides SPC/RRRT with some resources to work with PICT governments and non-government organisations to help reform laws which relate to VAW. SPC/RRRT was the only Pacific organisation to win one of the 28 grants available.

Jalal said the grant focused on addressing the issue of legislation specifically, and SPC/RRRT's effort is meant to build on the groundwork already laid by organisations such the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC) Pacific Women's Network on VAW.

"NGO partnership is critical otherwise the effort would fail. In most PICTs the best legislation was driven by NGOs dedicated to its passing."

The UNIFEM Trust Fund Pacific project ties in with the expert group's findings on best practices globally. Jalal said the best VAW laws emanated from the developing world, not the developed world, citing Mexico, Albania and India as examples.

Jalal said that compared to global standards, Vanuatu's new domestic violence law is also 'pretty decent legislation', although it is far from perfect. She said there were no perfect laws in the arena of human relationships.

Jalal said that the goal of the SPC/RRRT UNIFEM Trust Fund project was 'changing laws protecting women and lobbying for legislative change in violence against women and family law in order to enhance protective legislation for women and girls in six PICTs'.

Initially, SPC/RRRT will begin the legislative reforms with the governments of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Samoa.

'The project recognises that laws are not the be all and end all, but can be an effective catalyst of social change as well.'

Jalal said that there was no need to re-invent the wheel as the UN Expert Group on Best Practices in VAW Legislation had come up with a compilation of best practices from around the globe which could be adapted to suit the Pacific context.

Whilst in New York Jalal made four presentations at various CSW panels as Chair of the UN Expert Group on Best Practices in VAW Legislation and also a half-hour video on VAW legislation for the UN's Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW). The video will be available on UNDAW's website shortly.

For more information, contact Sandra Bernklau, Programme Manager SPC/RRRT +(679) 3305 582 or email: [email protected]

Background: The Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), which is a programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), works with partners in nine focus countries (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa,Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru and Vanuatu) to offer training and expert advice on the development of human rights advocacy, lobbying, mobilisation strategies and the drafting of national human rights legislation. The team provides human rights training, technical support, and policy and advocacy services tailored specifically for the Pacific region. Its mission is to seek a Pacific region that is respected for the quality of its governance, the sustainable management of its resources, the full observance of democratic values and for its defence and promotion of human rights.

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