1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Samoa’s Government generally respects and enforces human rights provisions of the country’s Constitution and legislative framework and is strongly committed to continue improving human rights standards. There are, however, persisting human rights’ concerns that need to be addressed, particularly gender based / domestic violence. Consenting relationship between adults of the same sex is still criminalised in Samoa (no reports of the law enforcement). There is a potential pressure on freedom of religion following amendment in June 2017 of the Constitution to transform the country from a secular to a Christian state. A traditional system of governance co-exists
249 with democratic process in Samoa, affecting the participation of women in politics and public decision-making. While there is universal suffrage for all Samoan citizens aged 21 and over, still only chiefs of villages (matai) may contest the elections. The number of women holding matai title remains low, which constitutes a barrier to increasing number of women candidates in the elections. Women's participation in the village council decision-making is mainly indirect. A constitutional amendment, which introduced a 10 % parliamentary quota for female MPs in 2013, resulted in five female MPs (out of total 50 MPs) in the current parliament.
2. EU Action - key focus areas: Through dialogue with the government and non-state actors in conjunction with various financial instruments, the EU has been promoting human rights, gender equality and increased participation of women in decision-making.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: Meetings at various levels were used as a platform to promote respect for human rights and gender equality in the Pacific region including Samoa. The EU bilateral engagement followed up on issues discussed in the enhanced EU-Samoa Political Dialogue under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, held in Apia in October 2016, where human rights and democracy issues, as well as policy measures taken by the authorities, were addressed. Samoa committed to continue its active engagement in the discussion of human rights issues with CSOs, which were represented at the political dialogue, and the development partners. The EU invited Samoa to accede to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and invited Samoa to examine the possibility of decriminalising male homosexuality.
In the Pacific region, including Samoa, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined. In this regard, the EU delegation for the Pacific will continue actively promoting climate change awareness.
4. EU financial engagement: The EU provides support to the Samoan civil society to strengthen engagement between the civil society and the Government of Samoa in strategic planning, implementation and oversight along the key sectors of the Strategy for the Development of Samoa. Human rights and gender related issues are addressed through support to CSOs working with communities, village councils, government institutions and the NHRI in order to challenge gender stereotyping, increase public awareness of existing legal rights, as well as protection offered to victims, contributing to the reduction of violence against women and greater empowerment of women in Samoan society.
Samoa is a focus country under the new regional Pacific Partnership to End Violence against Women and Girls programme, launched in November 2018 and funded primarily by the EU with targeted support from the Australian Government and cost-sharing from UN Women. The action is implemented in partnership with government, CSOs, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls, and increase access to quality response services for survivors. The activities under the programme will support, inter alia, the implementation of key recommendations from the National Inquiry into Family Violence Report 2018; working out a violence prevention approach; linking Samoan partners to a regional Community of Practice that encourages knowledge sharing; assisting survivors of gender based violence, especially in remote and hard to access locations around Samoa.
5. Multilateral context: Samoa has been actively and positively engaging in the UN for a. The country makes efforts to implement the UPR recommendations and has a leading role in the construction of Pacific regionalism. On 28 March 2019, Samoa acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The next UPR for Samoa is expected in 2021