1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: There have been no reports of systematic violation of human rights in Tuvalu in 2019. Phenomena such as violence against women are often accepted as social norms and practices and are deeply rooted in the patriarchal power imbalance. They often remain unreported due to the ‘culture of silence’. Tuvalu has a normative framework in place to address violence against women and a Domestic Violence Unit has been established within the police. However, women’s rights and gender equality require 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, although there are no reports of law enforcement.
A Constitutional review, initiated to address the pertaining issues and conducted through a participatory approach, has been facing challenges and is still on-going. The review provides an opportunity to strengthen the protection and enforcement of human rights and fundamental freedoms to ensure alignment with international human rights standards. The government has been reviewing a bill on child protection policy and a policy to protect people with disabilities. Tuvalu held its four-yearly parliamentary election on 9 Septemb er 2019 with a large turnout. Political transition was peaceful and orderly.
2. EU action - key focus areas: Gender based and domestic violence are among the key human rights’ concerns.
Tuvalu is one of the most environmentally fragile countries in the Pacific. 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.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: On 26 April 2019, the EU and Tuvalu held their second high-level Enhanced Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement in Funafuti. The parties discussed, inter alia, preparation to the general election, progress in the area of human rights, accession to the core Human Rights Conventions and some outstanding human rights issues in Tuvalu, including domestic violence and empowerment of women, as well as the impact of climate change challenges on human rights. Tuvalu's Human Rights National Action Plan 2016-2020, first in the Pacific, was developed with EU co-funding. Areas for political engagement have been further discussed in the bilateral meetings at various levels, including in the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Tuvalu in August 2019.
The EU carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting Tuvalu to support human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level.
4. 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 CSOs in the Pacific. One of the focal areas for EU assistance to Tuvalu is environmental protection, more specifically waste management. This assistance is implemented through the ‘Sustainable Waste Programme in Tuvalu’, in the form of sector budget support of EUR 5.9 million. A complimentary support provides EUR 300,000 for the engagement of civil society, to actively engage in the programme and promote its sustainability, and is currently under tendering process with a foreseen start in mid-2020. The activities aim to encourage participation and involvement from civil society, especially community-based groups, women and youth, in awareness activities, promotion and support of behavioural change. CSOs participation includes involvement in monitoring of the Integrated Waste Action Plan and other national strategic documents. The programme addresses, inter alia, limited capacities of CSOs and weak linkages between CSOs and the 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, benefits 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.
5. Multilateral context: Tuvalu is a party to three core international human rights instruments: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The recommendation to increase efforts to ratify fundamental human rights treaties, which Tuvalu has accepted, is yet to be implemented.
Recommendations from its third Universal Period Review (from May 2018) focus largely on increase the accession to the core human rights treaties, introducing into legislation, including at constitutional level, of a prohibition against discrimination based on gender, disability and sexual orientation, proceeding with 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. The next UPR for Tuvalu is scheduled for 2023.
There is limited potential for administrative capacity due to the low population (10,000), and this creates particular constraints with regard to the supplying of regular reports under UN instruments. Tuvalu’s report to the CEDAW Committee is due since March 2019.
Tuvalu has extended a standing invitation to the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council and in September 2019 received the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights. Tuvalu is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.