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UN: Pacific lagging behind

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE Pacific region is lagging behind in the international level in ratifying the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This was revealed by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the Pacific Dr Chitralekha Massey at the opening of the Regional Training Workshop on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights and Human Rights Indicators in Denarau yesterday.

She said only two countries had become parties to the convention so far.

"The Constitutions and relative laws of several countries of the region contain an increasing catalogue of ESCR, for example, the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji provide for the rights to access to education, housing, health, adequate food and water and very interestingly freedom from evictions and the right to social security," she said.

"The Constitution of the Solomon Islands recognises the rights to every citizen to hold or acquire a perpetual interest in land.

"However, at the international level, the Pacific is lagging behind. There are only two countries that have actually become party to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to date."

Dr Massey said while achieving the obligations of the convention on a national level would take time, regional countries must take steps towards implementing ESCR laws. "International standards to recognise that economic, social, cultural rights cannot be achieved overnight. Two points, however, must be noted. One, there is a core minimum obligation under each right which must be met. Two, the State has an obligation to undertake steps to the maximum of its available resources with the view to achieve progressively the full realisation of the rights of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by all appropriate means, including the adoption of necessary legislations.

"Thus, the term progressively must not be misinterpreted as justifying inaction or action that renders the State's obligation meaningless. It refers to the need for flexibility, reflecting the realities of the real world and the difficulties involved for any country.

The workshop was held at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa.

"The reason the Act of the Covenant remains, to establish clear obligations for the State parties in respect of the full realisation of the rights in question."

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