Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific

EU annual report on Human Rights and Democracy in Tuvalu, 2018

16/05/2019 - 05:49
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Overview of the human rights and democracy situation in Tuvalu.

There have been no reports of systematic violation of human rights in Tuvalu in 2018. Gender-based violence is rooted in traditional behavioural norms of a patriarchal society and often remains unreported due to the "culture of silence". Tuvalu has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and criminalised domestic violence in 2014 under the Family Protection and Domestic Violence Act. Domestic Violence Unit has been established within the police. However, women's rights and gender equality continue to be areas which need further improvement, including, inter alia, employment discrimination, land inheritance aspects or local governance arrangements. Legislation does not prohibit discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Consensual same-sex relations between men remain criminalised under the Penal Code (with no reports of law enforcement). By law, parents and teachers may use corporal punishment. Discrimination against persons with disabilities is not expressly prohibited by law, and school attendance rate is lower among students with disabilities.

There are a number of policy documents in place, including National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2020, which sets out action towards improving the quality of life, and National Human Rights Action Plan 2016-2020, capturing Tuvalu's commitments under the international Human Rights instruments and the Universal Periodic Review. It is essential that strategic policies are effectively implemented and measures are adopted to fully domesticate provisions of the Human Rights Conventions Tuvalu is a party to. The on-going Constitutional review, initiated by Tuvalu to address the pertaining issues and conducted through a participatory approach, has been facing challenges. The review provides an opportunity to strengthen the protection and enforcement of human rights and fundamental freedoms to ensure full alignment with international human rights standards, which is not to be missed. In 2017, National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) Act was adopted by the Parliament, aiming at providing a mechanism to ensure protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tuvalu thus became the third Pacific Island State to establish a NHRI.

EU action - key focus areas: Tuvalu is one of the most environmentally fragile countries in the Pacific and an adverse impact of climate change on the ecosystem, sources of

livelihoods, infrastructure and, most importantly, the population, is affecting human rights such as, inter alia, the rights to life, development, food, health, housing, water and sanitation. Gender based and domestic violence was also among the key human rights’ concerns.

EU bilateral political engagement: The EU followed up on the first enhanced EU-Tuvalu Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement which was held in Funafuti on 31 May 2017. Progress and remaining human rights challenges in Tuvalu were discussed. Tuvalu's Human Rights National Action Plan 2016-2020, first in the Pacific, was developed with co-funding from the EU. Areas for engagement have been further discussed in the bilateral meetings at various levels, including in the margins of the PIF summit in Nauru in September 2018. The EU carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting Tuvalu to support human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level.

EU financial engagement: Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential elements for the implementation of the regional roadmap for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the Pacific. One of the focal areas for EU assistance to Tuvalu is environmental protection. Civil Society Support component of the programme provides for a specific financial allocation for CSOs and envisages measures to support to CSOs to actively engage in the programme and promote its sustainability. The programme addresses, inter alia, limited capacities of CSOs and weak linkages between CSOs and Government in development cooperation.

Tuvalu has become a focus country under the regional programme Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls, launched in November 2018 and bringing together governments, CSO, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls and increase access to quality response services for survivors. This regional programme is funded primarily by the EU with targeted support from the Australian Government and cost-sharing from UN Women. Tuvalu, in particular, will benefit under the components focusing on enhancement of formal in-school and informal education on gender equality and prevention of violence against women and girls, and on empowering national and regional CSOs to advocate, monitor and report on regional institutions and government commitments to enhance gender equality and prevent violence.

Multilateral context: Tuvalu underwent its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2018. Recommendations which are examined by Tuvalu, focused largely on ratification of the core Human Rights conventions, introducing into legislation, including at Constitutional level, of a prohibition against discrimination based on gender, disability and sexual orientation, the establishment of the national human rights institution, implementing policies aimed at mitigation of the effects of climate change, taking into consideration a focus on human rights, decriminalisation of homosexuality and full implementation of the national Human Rights Action Plan. Next UPR for Tuvalu is envisaged in May 2023.

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