Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu, 17 February 2012: This workshop and the follow up meetings will help Tonga identify any problems that Tonga sees, or the International community sees in the human rights aspects of Tonga’s governmental system and society,” says Tonga’s new Attorney General, Mr Neil Adsett in opening a four day preparatory workshop towards Tonga’s second round of reporting in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
In his opening address, the Attorney General emphasised to participants from Government Ministries, Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) that Tonga prides itself on being an active member of the International community and this conference and what will emerge from it is part of the responsibilities of its international obligations.
The UPR is a unique mechanism and process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 United Nations (UN) member states once every four years. UPR reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is a State driven process and the Tonga Prime Minister’s Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Crown Law Office is taking the lead in facilitating the second round of reporting in consultation with non governmental and civil society organisations as vital players in the process.
In 2008, Tonga was the first country to go through the UPR Review Process. In its review process, Tonga accepted 31 recommendations that focused on political reform, freedom of speech and press, establishment of human rights institutions, domestic violence against women among others.
The second cycle of the review will focus on the, ‘implementation of the accepted recommendations from the previous review and the developments of the human rights situation in the State Under Review’.
Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, Alfred Soakai said that it is crucial for Government and NGO’s and CSO’s to work closely in this second round of reporting and take an open approach to sharing of information with each other.
“The preparation of the Report provides an opportunity for review of domestic laws, policies and practices to determine the extent to which human rights standards have been implemented in Tonga, identifying shortfalls, addressing them and building on
the progress made so far,” Mr Soakai says.
The workshop is being facilitated and led jointly by a team from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat(PIFS) and the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with the financial support by the Kingdom of Netherlands.