On 03 July, the Pacific launched the Pacific Principles of Practice (Pacific Principles) of National Mechanisms for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up (NMIRFs) during a virtual side event at the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council.

The Pacific Principles are the result of a group of UN member States in the Pacific (Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu) coming together to agree on how to ensure better implementation (as well as tracking and measuring of progress) of their human rights and sustainable development commitments.

The launch was convened by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) in partnership with the Universal Rights Group (URG), the Fiji and Australian Missions in Geneva, and supported by the Pacific Island Countries that participated in developing the Pacific Principles. Over 60 human rights practitioners, government representatives, international organisations, NGOs and CSOs, participated in the virtual launch.

Miles Young, Director of RRRT, said that other regions around the world are looking at the Pacific Principles to inform their own work on NMIRFs.“The Pacific is leading the way globally on NMIRFs.  I am grateful to the governments of Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu, for working together to reach consensus on the Pacific Principles – this is an excellent example of regionalism at its best. The Pacific should be proud to know that other regions around the world are now looking at the Pacific Principles to inform their own work on NMIRFs.”

Permanent Representative of  the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ambassador Doreen de Brum reiterated the sentiments of Young and added that the consensus ensured that all PICs are committed to using this framework as the Pacific’s guiding document of NMIRF and “in turn enhance our ability to continue to act in the spirit of regional corporation and peer to peer learning in developing our national mechanisms by making our experiences comparable and the resources we are developing relevant through a unified guiding document.”

Marc Limon, Executive Director of URG highlighted that in many ways it is shocking that it has taken the international community over 70 years to take this step.

“While the international community has invested enormous time and energy in building the international human rights system over the past seven decades, it has expended far fewer resources in considering how best to implement the obligations, commitments and recommendations generated by that system – or in tracking and measuring impact on the enjoyment of human rights,” Limon said.

Casten Nemra, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of RMI highlighted during the launch that implementation; reporting and follow-ups for international treaties and commitments can be a challenging enterprise for small island countries given the limited human and financial resources.

“In our view, the Pacific Principles is a practical way forward for the Pacific region to meet its human rights obligations,” Nemra said.

He expressed the support of the RMI Government in utilising this document as a guide to effective establishment and functioning of NMIRFs, while highlighting his views on the importance of having such a guide in place for states.

He stated that RMI is very pleased to support the Pacific Principles of Practice and looked forward to other island nations and countries supporting and possibly adopting the Pacific’s approach in this regard.

de Brum at the conclusion of her statement during the launch concisely termed the Pacific Principles as “potentially transformative”.

“Transformative from the ad hoc approach to our human rights recommendations to one that is implementation driven and makes the best use of our limited time and resources,” de Brum said.

Rose Martin, RRRTs’ Senior Human Rights Advisor, shared that the journey of having NMIRFs as state mechanisms to track implementation and reporting of human rights in the Pacific region was introduced by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and many PICs have since established their coordinated human rights mechanisms.

“There are now h seven PICs who have a National Human Rights Committee or Task Force while others have some form of mechanism or task force focused on one particular treaty or the Universal Periodic Review and are working towards  having a national coordinating mechanism that addresses all the different treaties that their country ratified,” she said.

Martin stated that the countries that have national coordinating mechanism/taskforce realised that “having a structure in place is paying off by enabling them to get on top of outstanding reports, identifying implementation gaps and receiving targeted technical assistance from development agencies such as RRRT. The Pacific Principles will help guide countries’ next steps to ensure implementation and tracking of human rights obligations, while some countries in the Pacific are taking baby-steps at developing their NMIRFs, others such as Samoa have taken it a step further with the use of technological tools to assist in the considerable task of coordinating implementation and tracking of recommendations from international treaty bodies.

Peseta Noumea Simi, CEO of the Samoa Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Chair of the National NMIRF of Samoa shared via a video statement the importance of Samoa’s NMIRF in easing the reporting burden since its establishment in 2016 and the use of an online tool: SADATA to track implementation.

“To complement the efforts of our NMIRF, Samoa has used a web application: SADATA, to help us guide implementation and reporting on human rights obligations. The tool helped the NMIRF develop a National Implementation Plan by clustering recommendations, identifying implementation gaps and regularly collecting data and we aim to use this to eliminate duplication of efforts by tracking information against all relevant recommendations, SDGs and the development priorities,”Simi stated.

She added that Samoa continues to work with its partners such as SPC RRRT to upgrade this tool to suit the purpose of their NMIRF.

While it is hoped that the Pacific Principles will be potentially used as a guide to assist other regions and countries across the globe in strengthening and establishing their NMIRFs, for the Pacific region, the work does not end here.

Young highlighted that this is just the first step in building the momentum of NMIRFs in the Pacific and that SPC RRRT stands ready to provide technical assistance upon request to the countries in the region establishing or strengthening NMIRFs and Sadata upgrades as a tool to help with implementation.

He added that at the global level, it is anticipated that countries and regions around the world will build on a dialogue series convened in Nadi in 2019 on NMIRFs and will use the Pacific Principles to frame the conversation which could potentially even go on to have international endorsement.

“The notion of NMIRFs globally is fairly new with clusters of meetings on this happening at different levels around the world. This document can be used be used as a catalyst to strengthen state mechanisms for implementing human rights at the international/global level,” Young emphasised..

To read the full Pacific Principles of Practice, click here: https://rrrt.spc.int/resources/publications/pacific-principles-of-practice

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