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Ombudsman holds human rights dialogue with parliamentarians

Graphic: Group shot of roundtable participants

Samoa’s Ombudsman has held a two-day dialogue with parliamentarians, engaging them in a discussion on efforts to promote and protect human rights.

The Office of the Ombudsman – Samoa's national human rights institution (NHRI) – has held a two-day roundtable dialogue with parliamentarians, engaging them in a lively discussion on efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country.

The dialogue involved parliamentarians with a direct connection to the work of the Office, including members of the Special Committee tasked with reviewing the Office's annual 'State of Human Rights' reports and Members of Parliament of those villages that are playing a leading role to respond to the recommendations of the National Inquiry into Family Violence.

In his opening statement, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma explained that his role was "to keep Parliament well informed of the state of human rights in Samoa and of developments that are vital to the protection and promotion of human rights".

"The Parliament in turn scrutinises NHRI reports and … from these reports the Parliament can make recommendations to the Government on actions to enhance the enjoyment of human rights by the people of Samoa," he said.

The Ombudsman noted that, in healthy democracies, the people, the Parliament, and the administration form an essential circle of trust. The people must trust the Ombudsman and the administration must trust the Ombudsman. In turn, the Ombudsman must trust the administration to accept its recommendations in most cases and, if not, must trust the Parliament for support.

If that trust is damaged in any part of that circle, the Office of the Ombudsman cannot function as it should, Maiava Iulai Toma said.

Graphic: Schoolgirls at the launch of the national inquiry report say no to violence

Inquiry report breaks ‘veil of silence’ on family violence


A landmark inquiry has found that family violence affects almost all families in Samoa, with very high numbers of people experiencing acute violence.

Over the course of the two days, parliamentarians had the opportunity to ask questions on a range of commonly misunderstood human rights issues, which has limited discussion of these issues in the Parliament.

For example, participants discussed sexual and reproductive health rights, which is about supporting the overall health and development of both men and women, as well as ensuring access to health services and information that allows people to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

Issues around freedom of speech, children's rights and limitations on the exercise of rights were also discussed during the roundtable dialogue.

Graphic: Parliamentarians in discussion on human rights issues

Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, the Hon. Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, said it was important for these sessions to be held on a regular basis so that Members of Parliament could become more familiar with the role of the Ombudsman and the national human rights institution.

"It is important that we are well informed of issues raised in the State of Human Rights Reports and, in turn, can better advocate and discuss them," he said.

"We need a shift of mindset in our system … our people are best served when all arms of Parliament are working in sync to support and balance each other's role."

The Office of the Ombudsman acknowledged the support and commitment of Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through UNFPA, for making the dialogue possible.

Date: 11 September 2020

Source: Office of the Ombudsman

Image credits

  1. Group shot of roundtable participants - Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa / NHRI
  2. Parliamentarians in discussion on human rights issues - Office of the Ombudsman of Samoa / NHRI