Civil Society Organisations in Vanuatu Champion Human Rights through Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions

    Suva, Fiji – In a significant move to promote and protect human rights, six Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Vanuatu have submitted their stakeholder report to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by 11 October 2023. The reports submitted include two joint and four individual submissions.

    The Vanuatu Government is poised to submit its national UPR state report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) in January 2024. The Vanuatu UPR stakeholder report submission deadline was confirmed for October 11, 2023.

    The UPR is a pivotal process that takes place every four and half years, examining the human rights records of 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. This review enables each nation to reflect on the actions taken to enhance the human rights situation within their countries.

    CSOs play a vital role in advocating for the implementation of UPR recommendations to enhance the human rights situation on the ground. Additionally, their stakeholder submissions, often referred to as UPR alternative reports, balance the national report and provide an additional, comprehensive view of the human rights situation.

    The Pacific Community's (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development Division (HRSD), in partnership with the Vanuatu Association of Non-Government Association (VANGO), co-organised a write shop from 25 to 29 September aimed at equipping the CSOs in Vanuatu with the skills and knowledge required to develop their UPR stakeholder submissions.

    This writeshop followed a capacity-building event conducted by HRSD in August. Both training provided the CSOs with the necessary tools to draft their submissions, ultimately leading to finalising all stakeholder submissions.

    Speaking on the importance of CSOs' role in the UPR process, Mr Johnny Marango, Acting Director General of the Ministry of Justice, Vanuatu, acknowledged their contribution in balancing the state report, calling for “continued collaboration between the government and CSOs.”

    Ms Neomai Maravuakula, Team Leader of Governance and Institutional Strengthening, emphasised the crucial role of CSOs in the UPR process, both at the implementation and reporting aspects of the process and reiterated SPC’s commitment to providing technical and capacity-strengthening support to both government and CSOs throughout the UPR process.

    Mrs Vivian Obed, Director of Further Arts Vanuatu, expressed gratitude for the support and opportunities that enabled her organisation to submit an individual UPR.

    She highlighted the importance of promoting traditional knowledge and positive expressions of culture using the UPR platform, emphasising that the writeshop was tailored to the local context.

    Jenny Ligo, Founder of the Women Against Crime and Corruption advocacy group, shared that “the writeshop was very practical - we went through a hands-on process of writing our own submissions. It is a great achievement.”

    I am grateful for the technical support we received as part of the writeshop and now know the format and how to do submissions. I am proud of what we have achieved, and we successfully submitted our report. For the next cycle, I am confident, I know what to do,” Ligo said.

    The stakeholder submissions included: The Vanuatu Coalition for Gender Equality (VCGE), comprising representatives from Women Against Crime and Corruption, Tongoa Shepherd Women Association, Mitingar Women and Girls Association, Silae Vanua Market Vendors Association, Kivhans Vanuatu Women and Girls Human Rights Association, Port Vila City Council of Women, Vanuatu Young Women for Change, and Vanuatu’s Widow’s Association, jointly submitted recommendations calling for affirmative actions to address the underrepresentation of women in political and public spaces.

    Another joint submission, led by VANGO and comprising other CSOs, including Further Arts Vanuatu, Human Capacity Development International, Kolisen blong Leftemap Edukesen, Oxfam in Vanuatu, Save the Children, and Transparency International Vanuatu, recommended the urgent integration of human rights into Vanuatu’s national planning, reporting, and follow-up mechanisms, as well as improvements in education, healthcare, and the exploration of a national social protection system.

    Four CSOs submitted individual reports. These included: V-Pride’s submission focused on developing anti-discriminatory legislations and policies to protect People with diverse Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression. Further, Arts Vanuatu called on the government to promote and mainstream the positive expressions of culture into climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and the education curriculum. Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Organization addressed accessibility issues for People with Disabilities and the importance of developing a Vanuatu Disability Inclusive legislation and a national social protection system. Transparency International Vanuatu recommended the urgent enactment of bills for Political Parties Registration and the Anti-Corruption Authority and the implementation of the Right to Information Act.

    In 2024, through VANGO, CSOs will develop advocacy plans to push to implement the UPR 4th cycle recommendations after the Vanuatu Government 4th cycle state report is reviewed at the 46th Session of the UPR Working Group.

    The UPR writeshop for CSOs in Vanuatu was supported through funding by the Government of Sweden, the Government of Australia through the Pacific Women Lead Programme, and the United States Agency for International Development.

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