Pacific Community donors see the 84th Extraordinary Outreach Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child as a smart investment for the region’s future
History is being made this week in Samoa as the 84th Extraordinary Outreach Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) takes place in the capital of this Pacific island nation. This is the first regional meeting of any United Nations treaty body – of which the CRC is one – to take place outside of Geneva or New York, and as such, required substantial commitment and dedicated funding in order to be realised.
For the key donors to the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), which collaborated with the UN to deliver the session, the investment is seen as an invaluable opportunity to bring long-term benefits to Pacific children, as well as provide the members of CRC with fresh insights on the practical challenges faced by children in the Pacific.
According to Miles Young, Director of RRRT, the advocacy of Acting Chief Justice Clarence Vui Nelson – a member of the Committee and the only Pacific Islander to sit on a UN human rights treaty body – was a key factor in the 84th outreach session being held in Samoa. Just as important was the UN’s willingness to hold the event in Samoa, the Government of Samoa’s enthusiasm to host, and the unwavering support of RRRT’s donors – the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.
The United Kingdom represents the largest donor to this event contributing over half of the meeting budget. The UK has a growing presence in the Pacific with an impressive history of supporting work on human rights, most recently through its Pacific Commonwealth Equality Programme. As British High Commissioner to Fiji and Head of the South Pacific Network, Her Excellency Melanie Hopkins explained, the UK’s support to the CRC is a natural extension of her nations priority areas, “CRC84 is an excellent opportunity to focus on addressing the rights of young people and the UK will continue to support countries to promote, protect and fulfil these and all human rights.”
CRC84 is an excellent opportunity to focus on addressing the rights of young people and the UK will continue to support countries to promote, protect and fulfil these and all human rights
British High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency David Ward, echoed this sentiment and highlighted how the UK is demonstrating its focus on a brighter future for the region. “We are privileged to be part of this extraordinary session and strongly believe that by building a human rights foundation for the children of this region, we are contributing to a stronger and more resilient Pacific.”
Countries undergoing a dialogue with the CRC on the status of children’s rights in their respective countries are all members of SPC – the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu, as well as Kiribati which will also undergo a pre-review before their formal committee sitting later in 2020.
In addition to the state dialogues, the CRC is taking advantage of their presence in the country to include sessions with over one hundred children from Samoa and the wider Pacific region. These discussions have proven dynamic with a broad range of issues openly and honestly debated. The importance of Pacific culture and faith has been strong theme throughout the event with children urging the Committee members to consider and explore how Pacific values and practices can be utilised and strengthened to realise the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa His Excellency Dr Trevor Matheson highlighted the value of having the CRC meeting take place in Samoa. “Giving children the right to freely express their views on the matters and decisions that affect them, and having those views taken into account will help strengthen the work of the CRC and provide the regions children with greater ownership over their futures. We are greatly honoured to be able to support such an historic event in the UN treaty body system.”
In addition to the main sessions, a number of side events have been taking place throughout the week. These are addressing topics such as a child’s right to health and early childhood development. Children and Pacific civil society organisations are taking advantage of these sessions to discuss issues with the committee members and showcase their work.
Holding the event outside of Geneva has allowed a contextualised approach to proceedings that is fostering greater Pacific participation and relevance. The side events are being conducted in ‘talanoa’ discussions and traditional Pacific performances and practices are being showcased throughout week. Attendees are reporting how this approach has all helped to demystify the United Nations and show the value of the Committee to the children of the Pacific.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa, Her Excellency Sara Moriarty expressed her confidence in the value this meeting is bringing to the region, “this event is an opportunity to celebrate the great progress a number of Pacific countries have made in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, while bringing to the forefront some of the challenges facing children in the Pacific in realising their right to health, nutrition, education, rest, leisure and engagement in play. Australia is committed to amplifying the voices of our neighbours during our inaugural term on the UN Human Rights Council and there’s no better way to do that than by supporting the hosting of this session in the Pacific.”
Australia is committed to amplifying the voices of our neighbours during our inaugural term on the UN Human Rights Council and there’s no better way to do that than by supporting the hosting of this session in the Pacific
It is already clear that holding the 84th outreach session in Samoa has succeeded in bringing the UN treaty bodies closer to their stakeholders, namely the people, and in this case, the children of the Pacific. SPC’s involvement in the event is well aligned with the organisation's objective of strengthening a culture of human rights in the Pacific, and the Committee members’ first-hand experience in the region and opportunity to directly engage with Pacific children will be invaluable in guiding their work.
On the first day of the CRC meeting, SPC’s Deputy Director-General, Dr. Audrey Aumua, stressed the importance of understanding and cooperation with like-minded partners and donors. She reminded the participants of the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” and pointed out that in the context of children’s rights in the Pacific we are all part of that village. “Investing in the future well-being of children will be an investment that will pay dividends to our Pacific communities for generations to come.”
A number of the formal sessions and all of the side events are open to the public at the Taumeasina Island Resort, Apia Samoa. The public sessions are also being livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/unsamoa. Recordings of the public sessions will subsequently be made available at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events.