Pacific Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu yesterday made history by signing the Port Vila Declaration on Human Rights, Good Governance and Sustainable Development at the conclusion of a three-day Pacific Regional MPs Dialogue in Vanuatu.

The Dialogue from 5 – 7 November was organised by the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and supported by the UK-funded Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project, with programme funding from Australia and Sweden.

Albert Seluka, Senior Human Rights Advisor for RRRT highlighted that the signing of the Port Vila Declaration is the product of a constructive dialogue, not only on substantive topics such as the human rights context of climate change, Pacific cultures and faiths, but also on exploring ways to strengthen the national human rights mechanisms, and especially through the establishment of National Human Rights Institutions.

The Dialogue enabled the participants to engage on these topics and, through the Port Vila Declaration, reaffirmed the 2015 Denarau Declaration on Human Rights and Good Governance and its promulgation of the following: “As [Members of Parliament], we embrace the opportunity to draw upon, and localise to our context and cultures, the international human rights treaties, conventions and laws which serve as tools for policy, legislative and normative change to enhance good governance and the realisation of human rights for all Pacific peoples.”

Miles Young, Director of RRRT said this Declaration offers parliamentarians in the region a conceptual framework to inspire and guide work on human rights in their respective countries especially in the areas of human rights implementation, good governance and sustainable development.

He added that through the Port Vila Declaration Pacific MPs recognised that human rights, good governance and sustainable development could be achieved when by drawing on Pacific cultures, traditions and faith.

“As part of the Declaration the MPs recognised the importance of promoting culture as an enabler of human rights given our growing understanding of their mutually reinforcing nature,” Young highlighted.

According to Honourable Phillip Reklai, Senator from Palau, the MPs Port Vila Declaration highlights important guidelines for legislators and parliamentarians on their roles and responsibilities in terms of the implementation of human rights across national policies and laws, and especially to explore ways in which they could work together and stand in solidarity to address climate change in the region.

“For me as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Maritime and Climate Change, I am proud to attend this Dialogue and be part of this Declaration to reassert our commitment to battling climate change and protecting human rights,” Hon. Reklai said.

“Together we can work with the rest of the world to ensure that sustainable development goals are reached so that the fairer and more equitable world we all desire becomes a reality.”