While Pacific Community governments and regional organisations gather in Samoa this week for the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, a Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) delegation is in Switzerland highlighting the human rights impacts of climate change at a United Nations review.

The RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Tony A. deBrum, has presented the country’s performance in protecting and promoting human rights to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has supported RMI in drafting its Universal Periodic Review report – the country’s second – and hosted a mock session last month to prepare their delegation.

In his opening statement to the 22nd session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group yesterday, Minister deBrum said that RMI has made significant strides since its first review in 2010, but that the country continues to face challenges associated with climate change.

“We’re starting to see these [climate change] impacts in our local communities, such as a recent drought which affected a quarter of our nation and necessitated the involvement of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,” Minister deBrum said.

“Unusually strong king tides and coastal flooding have devastated local communities. While natural events have always occurred in small islands, it is irrefutable that there are climate drivers.

“The principle, that every nation commits to action, large and small, rich and poor, has helped influence how multiple countries work together on this issue. We’re also working very hard to secure a strong and practical post-2020 climate agreement in Paris,” the Minister said.

The Universal Period Review process is a key mechanism which allows all UN Member States to declare the actions they have taken to improve human rights in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Through its Regional Rights Resource Team, SPC is this year also providing technical assistance to governments and civil society groups in Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, in preparation for their respective universal periodic reviews.

Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa will be reviewed before the Human Rights Council in 2016, and will be the final Pacific Island states to be reviewed under the Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (2012–2016).

RMI has been outspoken in seeking to address the human rights dimension of climate change, including in early 2009, when the country told the UN Human Rights Council that climate risks would seriously threaten nearly every core human right, including the right to statehood.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) the RMI perspective on maximising new climate financing will be presented at an SPC-hosted side event at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Apia by the Acting Director of the RMI office of Environmental Policy and Planning Coordination, Ywao Elanzo.

The RMI delegation has thanked SPC, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, their bilateral partners and Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ms Nazhat Shameem Khan, and her team for their assistance with the submission of RMI’s 2nd State Report.

With funding from the Government of Australia and Kingdom of the Netherlands, SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. See www.spc.int/rrrt/.

Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, +679 330 5994, [email protected].

Photo caption: seated: (left to right) Hon Tony A. deBrum, Minister of Foreign Affairs; H.E. Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations. Standing: (left to right) Mr Mark Atterton, Deputy Director, Regional Rights Resource Team, Secretariat of the Pacific Community; members of the RMI delegation.