The Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (VANGO) and the Pacific Community (SPC) have collaborated to facilitate a 3-day “Universal Periodic Review (UPR) 4th Cycle: Vanuatu CSOs Capacity Building and Planning” workshop from Tuesday, 29 August – 1 September 2023 at The Melanesian Hotel.

There are a total of 30 participants representing 21 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Vanuatu.

The workshop was opened by the National Human Rights Coordinator at the Ministry and Community Services, Mr. Albert Nalpini. He reminded all the participants that Vanuatu has diverse culture and 76 islands that are inhabited and emphasised the importance of harmonising our efforts to recognise the traditional culture, Christian Principles, and our human rights.

The UPR workshop provided the opportunity for the participants to review the UPR recommendations endorsed by the Vanuatu government during the third UPR cycle in 2019.

Freda Willie, a participant representing people with disabilities, raised the importance of government accountability in the UPR recommendations. The participants attending the workshop noted that the many policies and laws are enacted however, there are challenges in implementing these policies and laws.

Rufynar Banimataka, representing the Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC), commented, “I have learnt how important it is for the CSOs to be part of the 4th UPR cycle.” She further stated that there are recommendations in the 3rd cycle endorsed by the Vanuatu government to address the gender based and domestic violence issues in Vanuatu, but are partially implemented.

Mr. William Nasak, the chairman of VANGO, delivered the opening remarks by saying that NGOs should freely raise their voice on the issues that is affecting their lives and the community they are living in.

The UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193-member states of the United Nations (UN).

The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.

The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.

The role of CSOs is an important part of the UPR process. Under the UPR, CSOs are entitled to submit reports to the Human Rights Council as an alternative to the State’s report. An alternative report may highlight issues not raised in the State report or provide a different perspective to issues raised by the State report. In doing so, the alternative report UPR stakeholder picture of the human rights situation in a particular country. Under the 4th UPR cycle, Vanuatu’s UPR stakeholder submission is due by 11 October 2023.

The Human Rights & Social Development (HRSD) Division of the SPC has a vision for just, equitable and resilient Pacific societies and aims to achieve this by advancing human rights, equality, and social inclusion for all Pacific people, grounded in cultural values and principles. VANGO is the national umbrella organisation for CSOs in Vanuatu and works to strengthen CSOs’ program coordination and linkages to the government’s priorities.

It recognises SPC through HRSD for the partnership to conduct the valuable workshop here in Port Vila.

Both VANGO and SPC acknowledge the Governments of Sweden and Australia through the Pacific Women Lead Program, as well as the United States Agency for International Development for the continuous funding support.