Vanuatu reviewed by the UPR
Tuesday, 12 May 2009 09:53


On 12 May 2009 the Working Group on the UPR considered the human rights situation in Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s delegation was led by Ms Roline Lesines, representative of the Labour Department and Vice-Chairperson of the Vanuatu UPR Committee. Ms Lesines did not to summarise the national report in her presentation, but instead addressed recent developments in relation to climate change and natural disasters, prisoner’s rights, equal access to labour, access to education and women’s rights. She also answered most questions submitted in advance by States. During the interactive dialogue of less than two hours, the same emerging block of 20 States that engage in all reviews participated. Most States welcomed Vanuatu’s comprehensive report and constructive participation, and acknowledged the difficulties faced.
The concerns raised included:
  • Discrimination and violence against women: Most States commended Vanuatu for ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and for the recent adoption of the Family Protection Act, but noted that discrimination remains a major concern. The Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ghana drew attention to cultural customs and traditions. Others expressed concern that violence against women, especially domestic violence, is still very common. In responding to customs and gender equality, Ms Lesines underlined that it is part of Vanuatu’s cultural and Christian values that the husband is the head of the family. She admitted that these values ‘are sometimes used to undermine women’ and noted that the Government is addressing the issue.
  • Access to education: While recognising efforts made, Algeria, France, Brazil, the Philippines and others noted that access to education remains limited and recommended more effective measures to promote education, especially for girls. The head of delegation underlined that by 2010 all children from grades one to eight should have access to free education.
  • Prison conditions and rights of detainees, especially juveniles: Concerns were raised by many States about poor prison conditions, allegations of human rights abuses by correctional services officers and the police, repeated escapes of prisoners,  the rights of juveniles and the minimum age for criminal responsibility (Brazil, Azerbaijan)
  • Climate change and natural disasters: In the opening statement, Vanuatu underscored that major challenges are faced in relation to climate change and natural disasters, affecting its development. The Maldives, Ghana and the Philippines addressed Vanuatu’s environmental vulnerability, using the UPR as a platform for addressing climate change.
  • Establishment of a national human rights institution: Mexico, the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Germany and the Maldives recommended the establishment of an independent NHRI in accordance with the Paris Principles. In responding, Ms Lesines stressed that the first step in establishing an NHRI had been the appointment of Vanuatu’s UPR Committee, and that it is seriously considering such a move. She extended an open invitation to OHCHR for technical assistance.
  • Ratification of international instruments: Most States congratulated Vanuatu for its ratification of several core international human rights instruments, especially for its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and being the first of Pacific States to do so, but also recommended ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers. Vanuatu responded that, with regard to CAT and the Optional Protocol, it is in the preliminary stage of ratification, but that due to financial constraints it is not in a position to ratify ICESCR yet.

Other issues raised included adequate access to health care and safe drinking water (Algeria, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Germany, the Philippines), corruption (Azerbaijan, Morocco, the United States), discrimination on the basis of disability (the Netherlands, New Zealand), sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS (the Netherlands), access to employment (Germany), and the independence of the judiciary (Azerbaijan, Germany, Czech Republic, the United States)

In answering questions, Ms Lesines mainly referred to her opening statement or stated that questions will be answered before the plenary session of the Council in September.
The report of Vanuatu was adopted on the afternoon of 15 May. The troika informed the Council that after the word ‘recommendations’ the words ‘of the governments commission of inquiry’ should be added (page 17, paragraph 30). Italy then took the floor to highlight a slight amendment regarding paragraph 9 on page 14, to be moved alongside the similar recommendation made by Canada related to CEDAW. This was accepted by the troika.

The delegation declared that the State’s responses to all recommendations will be included in the outcome report adopted by the HRC at its 12th session in September 2009.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2009 02:36
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