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UN Human Rights Commissioner views on Pacific challenges

UN Human Rights Commissioner shares view on Pacific challenges

Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein during the public lecture hosted by USP.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein acknowledged Pacific tradition and culture while giving a public lecture at The University of the South Pacific (USP) on 10 February, 2018.

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP welcomed Mr Hussein to the Laucala Campus, saying it was an honour and a privilege to be able to host such a respected individual.

Titled, Navigating new challenges with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mr Hussein warned of challenges that will be faced by this generation including climate change.

“Climate change is an inescapable reality exacerbated by the extreme weather events which has been occurring in many Pacific Island Countries (PICs) in recent years causing loss of life and damage to livelihood on an unprecedented scale,” he said.

Mr Hussein said the impact of Tropical Cyclone Winston remains enormous, “and you will face the risk of losing habitable land and homes, salinisation of fresh water resources and other kinds of related risks that can drive massive displacement.

He mentioned that rising sea levels have threatened the very existence of some islands and nations in the Pacific where extraordinary resilience and cultures are common.

“PICs have almost no involvement of generating climate change, they did not contribute significantly to the process of industrialisation,” he said.

He noted that PICs have contributed very little to global greenhouse gas emissions and its future depends on the action taken by other states, particularly those with jurisdictional control of major fossil fuel polluters.

“Under international human rights law all states have an obligation to cooperate with one another and take measures to ensure the rights of all are protected. These obligations of international cooperation and assistance are particularly important in the context of climate change,” he noted.

According to Mr Hussein, the Pacific Islands have taken a markedly positive stance towards human rights laws and principles.

Many states he said, have ratified core international rights and treaties particularly the Conventions of the Rights of the Child and the Convention of the Rights of persons with Disabilities.

“In Fiji, Nauru, Samoa and Vanuatu, work is underway to train judges and police officers on human right law,” he noted.

"I hope you will enable human rights law to inspire a number of reforms and that you will respect and honour one another, and work for the common good of everyone because every human being is valuable."

Furthermore, Mr Hussein mentioned he is “particularly glad to observe a growing openness across the region to the voices of civil society”.

“Herein lies great hope and it is essential that everyone in society feels engaged and have a voice for the common good,” he added.

The audience was also reassured that the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner would do everything possible to assist Fiji in the fight for justice not only at a national level but internationally as well.

“We can assist in advocating and monitoring meaningful implementation, working with government officials and civil societies, including youth groups," Mr Hussein said.

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