Good governance is essential for any Paris principle-compliant National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) to effectively discharge its functions.
This was the main message shared with representatives of NHRIs from the Pacific in a recent study tour and exchange to the United Kingdom organised by the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) with funding from the Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project (PCEP).
The study tour and exchange provided Pacific participants from the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu the opportunity for face-to-face exchange and learning with NHRIs in the UK through visits to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in London.
According to the Director of Samoa’s NHRI, Ms Loukinikini Vili, the visit to the NIHRC provided insight to participants from Samoa about the importance of meeting the basic requirements of good governance, which should form the pillar of human rights institutions.
“One of the useful topics shared by the NIHRC was their Code of Governance,” Vili shared.
Director of NIHRC, Mr David Russel told Pacific participants that a Code of Good Governance allows for clear structure, processes and procedures in the operation of staff and the Commission and allows for robust and transparent systems in place.
He stated that by having some of the very highest standards of good governance, NHRIs can defend its position and hold governments, individuals and institutions to account by having in place multiple levels of decision making.
Ms Vili concluded that “it is important to have one in place as it: decreases conflicts, confusion and duplication of roles and responsibilities of each staff member; enhances sustainability; and staff are able to quickly identify and resolve issues. We see it as something that we need to strengthen our NHRI”.
Mr Sa’aga Tafea, Ombudsman of Tuvalu highlighted that the lesson on good governance was essential for Tuvalu’s NHRI, as it took its first ‘baby steps’ towards establishing itself as a model human rights institution.
“For countries that have not yet established or have just recently established an NHRI, this is lesson 101, to become fully accountable as a human rights institution,” he added.
The importance of having NHRIs in place was emphasised by Mr Miles Young, Director of RRRT, in terms of the crucial role they play in monitoring, reporting and investigating human rights abuses, advocating for individuals and groups in need of protection, and holding governments accountable to their human rights obligations.
He highlighted that for Pacific Island Countries to make progress in human rights, it is essential to build the capacity of their NHRIs so that they are able to function to their full potential.
“The study tour and exchange was very beneficial as it has allowed Pacific NHRIs an opportunity to build their capacity and share best practices with established NHRIs in the UK,” he added.
The two week excursion from 17- 21 June, gave Pacific participants the chance to discuss areas of work with their Irish and English counterparts such as how they engage with sensitive issues and conduct legislative reviews to ensure compliance with human rights standards. Discussions also focused on: human rights monitoring; how NHRIs can exercise investigatory powers through national inquiries, communicating human rights and monitoring treaties; and how to work effectively with parliamentarians to promote and protect the human rights agenda.
Kalpana Nizarat, Communications and Visibility Officer, Regional Rights Resources Team (RRRT), Pacific Community (SPC) | Email: [email protected]
The Pacific Community has been supporting sustainable development in the Pacific, through science, knowledge and innovation since 1947. It is the principal intergovernmental organization in the region, owned and governed by its 26 member countries and territories.