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Pacific NHRIs meet with regional human rights bodies to address climate change issues

Graphic: Participants at the talanoa in Fiji, May 2023

Pacific NHRIs met with regional human rights bodies and civil society organisations to discuss strategies for engagement on climate change issues.

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National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from across the Pacific met with regional human rights bodies and civil society organisations in Nadi, Fiji on 10-11 May, to discuss strategies for engaging on environmental rights and climate change.

The Talanoa (dialogue) was part of the APF’s Inter-governmental Mechanisms (IGM) Project, funded by the European Union (EU), which aims to strengthen relationships between NHRIs and IGMs to address human rights issues in South-east Asia and the Pacific.

The event was attended by representatives from the NHRIs of Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, together with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIF), Pacific Community (SPC), Secretariat Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

In her opening remarks, Dr. Erja Askola, Chargee d’Affaires at the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, reiterated the EU’s strong commitment to protecting human rights and addressing climate change. 

This was followed by a welcoming address by APF Director, Kieren Fitzpatrick, who commended the work of NHRIs in the Pacific for their climate change initiatives and strengthened engagement with regional human rights bodies.

Graphic: Participants at the talanoa in Fiji, May 2023

Under the IGM Project, the APF awarded small grants to the NHRIs of Fiji and Samoa (in the Pacific) and the Philippines and Thailand (in South-East Asia) to undertake national activities on climate change and the environment. During the Talanoa, the Pacific grantees shared their experiences and outcomes resulting from their activities, which included the following: 

  • In Samoa, the Office of the Ombudsman worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Pacific Climate Change Centre, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to facilitate a High-Level Dialogue and workshop for Samoan Government agencies. The aim of the activities was to support government officials in understanding and applying a rights-based approach to addressing climate change issues, such as incorporating human rights language in training and capacity development activities. 
  • In Fiji, the Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Commission conducted a community awareness campaign on human rights and climate change and documented the impacts of climate change on human rights. The findings will be presented in a report to be submitted to the Fijian Government. 

The dialogue included a panel discussion dedicated to strengthening partnerships with inter-governmental mechanisms, featuring representatives from NHRIs, the Pacific Community (SPC), and SPREP. This was followed by presentations from civil society organisations Oxfam in the Pacific, the Fiji Council for Social Services and the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.

In a virtual address, Dr. Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to a Healthy Environment and Climate Change, explained the role of the UN Special Rapporteur and highlighted the obligations of States and corporate accountability on climate change. He expressed the need for NHRIs to develop campaigns and grievance mechanisms to protect environmental human rights defenders. 

Representatives from the Australian Human Rights Commission and Te Kāhui Tika Tangata New Zealand Human Rights Commission also contributed to the rich discussions, sharing how the IGM project has enabled their work with Pacific regional bodies.

The final Talanoa Outcomes Document will available soon. 

Date: 31 May 2023

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Funded by the European Union

Image credits

  1. Participants at the talanoa in Fiji, May 2023 - Office of the Ombudsman, Samoa
  2. Participants at the talanoa in Fiji, May 2023 - Office of the Ombudsman, Samoa
  3. EU logo - European Union