Connecting human rights and culture
Graphic: Pacific NHRIs address the side event
NHRIs in the Pacific have shared how they make human rights relevant for local communities at a side event at the UN Human Rights Council.
Representatives from national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in the Pacific have shared how they make human rights relevant to their local communities at a session on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A common theme of the discussion was the importance of communicating human rights principles through cultural values, traditional stories, proverbs and religious faiths, rather than legal language and jargon.
Maiava Iulai Toma, Ombudsman of Samoa, said there had been confusion and opposition within the community following the country's ratification of treaties on the human rights of children and the human rights of women.
One of the first tasks of the newly-established NHRI, he said, was to "try to go back and change the attitudes which had set itself in the minds of Samoan people that human rights is a foreign concept that the UN was trying to shove down our throats".
"We felt that it was highly necessary to put human rights in the Samoan context for the Samoan minds, alongside their cultural and faith beliefs," Mr Toma said.
In this short video, Maiava Iulai Toma, Ombudsman of Samoa, explains how human rights link to the traditional Samoan values and Christian faith.
The video is part of a series produced through the Commonwealth Equality Project, implemented by the Regional Rights Resource Team of the Pacific Community.
The side event on 'Overcoming Global Implementation Challenges' – a first of its kind involving Pacific speakers – was held on 25 June 2019, during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.
Other speakers at the side event included:
- Mr Sa'aga Teafa, the Ombudsman of Tuvalu
- Mr Ashwin Raj, Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission
- Ms Joey Joleen Mataele, Director of the Tonga Leiti's Association
- Mr Francesco Motta, Chief of the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa Branch, OHCHR
Ms Mataele stressed the need for Pacific people to see human rights within their own regional and national context.
"Human rights is not a foreign word or concept, we were born with it, and we need to train our Pacific people in our way," she said.
She added that it was important that Pacific people to examine their religious faith and see how closely faith and cultural values support human rights principles and gender equality.
Graphic: The Ombudsman of Samoa addresses the side event
A video of the side event is available on the Facebook page of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
The side event was organised by the South Pacific Community's Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) through the UK-funded Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project.
It was co-sponsored by the APF, GANHRI, OHCHR, the governments of Australia and Sweden and the Permanent Mission of Fiji in Geneva.
Date: 17 July 2019
- Pacific NHRIs address the side event - RRRT
- The Ombudsman of Samoa addresses the side event - RRRT