European Union External Action


23/06/2020 - 06:33
News stories

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)'.

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