1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Regular democratic elections, combined with an independent judiciary and media ensure that basic human rights are respected in the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI). The country held its last parliamentary elections on 18 November 2019. The ban of offshore postal voting, later declared unconstitutional by RMI’s Supreme Court, was a controversial issue during the process. Following this ruling, postal ballot voting will return to RMI as from the next election. RMI is viewed as a promoter of human rights in the Pacific region, especially as regards to climate change (to which it is particularly vulnerable), and anti-nuclear testing, and has been elected as member of the UN Human Rights Council this year. However, human rights’ concerns remain, and encompass gender-based violence, domestic violence, child abuse and cases of human trafficking. Parliament has since passed the 'Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act', and the government approved the ‘National Gender Mainstreaming Policy’. While RMI passed the 'Child Rights Protection Act in 2015', there is a low awareness of issues pertaining to children’s rights. Corporal punishment is illegal in schools, but is still permitted at home. There is no minimum age for employment for children. Only 80% of students who attend primary school reach eighth grade and only 70%-75% of those enter high school. There are few services for the protection of children, and the Human Rights Office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs is understaffed. Although the government has been reported to be making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, a recent case involved a US citizen charged with running a human smuggling scheme which brought pregnant women from RMI to the US to give birth and paid them to give up their children for adoption. Presently, RMI has been reported not to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.
2. EU action - key focus areas: EU actions focus, inter alia, on supporting the ratification of or accession to the remaining core human rights instruments, elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls and supporting CSOs engagement with the Government of the Republic of Marshall Islands on policy dialogue and governance.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: During 2019, the EU delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting the Pacific Islands States including RMI, to support EU human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level. The EU delegation for the Pacific continued to actively promote climate change awareness. In the Pacific region, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined.
4. EU financial engagement: A Regional Financing Agreement worth EUR 13 million to tackle the root causes of gender inequality and violence against women and girls in the Pacific was signed in the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting in Apia in September 2017.
Awareness-raising and support to civil society and non-state actors were essential element for the implementation of the regional roadmap for CSOs in the Pacific. To this purpose, the EU also worked closely with the government, regional organisations, civil society and other donors. In the National Indicative Programme designed under the 11th EDF, a specific financial allocation has been set aside for CSOs (EUR 1 million).
5. Multilateral context: In 2019, RMI was elected as a new member to the UN Human Rights Council. It will serve a term of three years as of January 2022. The then RMI President Hilda Heine, particularly noted the capacity of RMI to contribute on ‘the complex issues of human rights and climate change and nuclear testing’.
RMI has signed and ratified a good number of the core human rights treaties. Nonetheless, legal protection of human rights remains weak. This is primarily due to poor incorporation of human rights treaties into domestic law and a lack of domestic legislative provisions for human rights protection. RMI’s capacity to implement international human rights treaties is constrained by financial considerations as well as by the reporting burden.
The second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for RMI took place in May 2015, and the next UPR will take place in 2020.
RMI is a party to the 'Convention against Torture (CAT)', the 'International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)', the 'Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)', the 'International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)', the 'International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)', the 'Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)', and the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)', and one of its Optional Protocols – on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC). RMI is party to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.
RMI has accepted the individual complaints procedures of both the CEDAW and CRC Committees. RMI is compliant with its reporting duties to the CEDAW, CERD, CRC and CRPD Committees, and has due reports to the Committees of CESCR (June 2019), CCPR (June 2019), and CAT (April 2019). RMI has extended a Standing Invitation to the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.
RMI has not yet signed nor ratified the 'Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (CAT-OP)', the 'Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming to the abolition of the death penalty (CCPR-OP2-DP)', the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict(CRC-OP-AC)', the 'Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC)', the 'Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)', the 'International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)' and the 'International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)'.
RMI has expressed interest in joining the UN's 'Human Rights Recommendations Database (NRTD)'.