[Press-releases] Pacific MPs should take lead in human rights
HannahH at spc.int
Tue Dec 16 18:27:32 EST 2008
Pacific MPs should take lead in human rights
Wednesday 17 December 2008, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Brisbane, Australia Two Australian Parliamentarians in Brisbane early this week encouraged their Pacific Island counterparts to take the lead in advancing human rights.
They were speaking during a regional consultation for Pacific Members of Parliament on integrating human rights standards into national policy and law.
Australias Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Honourable Duncan Kerr, said that legislators played a vital role in shaping both the Pacific debate on human rights and the way that debate is ultimately reflected in policy.
The consultation has been organised by the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (RRRT/SPC) with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat (Human Rights Unit) and UNDP Pacific Centre.
You should never underestimate the power of example, Mr Kerr said.
Changing society and social mores takes time and effort, but people like you are better placed than most to lead by example.
The Speaker of Queenslands State Parliament, Honourable Michael Reynolds, said the decisions of MPs helped shape society.
As members of Parliament we are not only representatives of our constituents, we are also leaders of our communities. Our words and actions have a strong influence in our societies, Mr Reynolds said.
The Australian parliamentarians also spoke of the importance of human rights protection to development.
Mr Kerr said that Australias development assistance policy recognised that development and human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing and were linked to overall development.
Human rights dialogue should not be seen separately in such an approach, but rather be encouraged as an integral part of the developmental experience, he said.
Mr Reynolds said that although the connection between human rights and a healthy, vibrant society was not always clear, active engagement with human rights would help address many of the challenges currently facing Pacific Island countries in relation to development, the rule of law and climate change.
Human rights empower citizens to demand transparency and greater accountability from their leaders, in decision making, in better laws and increased fairness in the distribution of resources, he said.
Twenty MPs from 10 Pacific Island countries are attending the five-day consultation, which started Monday at Brisbanes Diana Plaza Hotel.
They are discussing the integration of international human rights standards into national policy, practice and law in line with the regionally endorsed Pacific Plan, which commits Pacific Island governments to ratify and implement international human rights conventions, where appropriate.
The consultation serves as a forum for parliamentarians to share experiences, issues and dilemmas encountered in their use of human rights standards to address human rights concerns in legislation and parliamentary debates, and to explore how human rights have been applied locally and regionally in a positive way to enhance the development of Pacific peoples.
The Honourable Duncan Kerr first entered Federal Parliament in 1987. His ministerial positions have included Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. He was a member of the Opposition Shadow Ministry for five years and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in late 2007 under the Rudd administration. A former Dean of Law at the University of Papua New Guinea, Mr Kerr also served as Legal Counsel for the Ombudsman Commission of Papua New Guinea.
The Honourable Michael Reynolds has been the Labour Member for Townsville in the Queensland State Parliament since 1998. Before being elected Speaker in 2006, he held the child safety and emergency services portfolios, as well as serving as Minister Assisting the Premier in North Queensland. His local government service included 16 years as a member of the Townsville City Council, during which he served as both Mayor and Deputy Mayor. In 1985 he was made a member of the Order of Australia for service to local government and community.
RRRT provides human rights training, technical support, and policy and advocacy services tailored specifically for the Pacific region. RRRT is an SPC programme under the Social Resources Division.
For more information, please contact Hannah Harborow, RRRT/SPC Communications Coordinator at (+61) 400628997 or email: HannahH at spc.int.
Mr Kerrs speech is available at his parliamentary webpage (http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/parlsec/).
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