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Promoting and Protecting Children’s Rights through Legislative Reform in Six Pacific Island Countries

Suva, Fiji, September 17, 2008 – One of the most important steps for promoting and protecting children’s rights in a sustainable manner is to ensure that they are established in national legislation.

At a recent sub-regional meeting, national teams from Six Pacific Island countries have shared experiences, updated their skills, and commenced a new set of action plans to reform legislative systems guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The meeting was hosted by the Government of Vanuatu, the University of South Pacific Law School, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Based on their own analysis of the meeting’s contents and national progress, and with inputs of children and young people, Government delegates and youth representatives from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu developed action plans to better promote and protect the rights of children through strengthened laws, legal institutions, services, policies and budgets. The plans also identify possible entry points for future support of UN agencies (including UNIFEM, UNDP, ILO, UNDP Pacific Centre, and UNICEF), regional agencies, NGOs, and donors in relation to legislative reform.

Dr Will Parks, UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of Policy, Advocacy, Planning and Evaluation, said UNICEF alongside other partners will help governments to finalise these plans over the next month and to commence implementation of key activities in 2009 onwards. More Pacific Island Countries will be encouraged to join this legislative reform initiative as future activities get underway.

“The six countries and the other agencies came away with a good understanding of achievements made so far by Pacific Island countries in legislative reform in accordance with the CRC and what they could do to achieve more in the immediate future,” said Dr Parks.

“There is a lot to learn from countries like Fiji, who have introduced the Family Law Act, the Cook
Islands, who have completed legislative reviews in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW, and several other Pacific Island countries that are working with UNICEF and agencies such as Save the Children and RRRT/SPC to reform legislative systems and national laws and implement the CRC.”

The meeting also provided a platform for a mock session on reporting on the CRC to Professor Yanghee Lee, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of a Child, for those countries who have ratified the CRC but are yet to submit a report to the committee.

“This event could not have been better time! Last year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child celebrated its eighteenth birthday. I guess one could say that it has, so to speak, ‘come of age’. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and next year will be the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Professor Lee.

“We are all here at this groundbreaking event, trying to understand and discuss about the unique challenges that face the Pacific Island States and the Small Island Developing States. I am here to listen about achievements, common constraints and challenges; with a goal of supporting country endeavors to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, so that the world will indeed be ‘fit for every child’,” added Professor Lee.

Senator Caleb Otto from Palau said the mock delegations for a made up Pacific islands was well done and it was very interesting to see that members of the mock delegation really took their role seriously.

“The experience with the real Chairperson of the Committee had to be one of the highlights of the meeting. It gave a real sense of the reporting situation and, I am sure, would go a long way to prepare Pacific islands in the preparation and reporting of their own upcoming reports.”

“Professor Lee is to be congratulated for her sincere efforts to assist the Pacific people to understand issues relevant to the implementation of the CRC, including reporting requirements and procedures. She did these not only in a clear and professional way, but in a very understanding and friendly manner. It is our good fortune to have the Chair person come from our Asia Pacific region,” added Senator Otto.

The CRC has been ratified by all 14 Pacific Island Governments supported by UNICEF Pacific.




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