1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation
Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy. In 2019, gender equity, the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) and LGBTI rights remained at the forefront of civil society engagement. After pressure from various domestic and international stakeholders, the government issued temporary registration cards for Venezuelan nationals entering Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), which are valid for up to one year. At the end of the year, the government decriminalised the possession of marijuana. This Bill is expected to positively affect the situation of persons who are either on remand or convicted of minor marijuana-related offences; thus reducing the number of inmates in the prisons, which are in problematic condition.
2. EU action – key focus areas
3. EU bilateral political engagements and their impact
On the political level, the EU delegation engaged with local authorities on human rights through a demarche, encouraging T&T to vote on numerous resolutions, which related to several human rights topics presented to the 74th UNGA Third Committee.
Throughout 2019, the EU delegation actively promoted the EU’s human rights priorities by organizing several public diplomacy activities that mainly focused on children's rights, GBV as well as prisoners' rights and the death penalty. For instance, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the 2019 edition of the annual Let's Talk TT campaign focused on youth. In collaboration with the British High Commission, secondary school students were encouraged to use song, dance, drama, art, spoken word, or any other creative expression to convey their views on gender equality.
The EU Delegation also organised its 2nd annual online Photo/Art Competition. As a component of the event, young people were encouraged to submit entries to the competition under the theme 'For Every Child Every Right,' in order to raise awareness of the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC.
Another public diplomacy event directly related to the UNCRC was a primary school mural art project. The aim of this campaign was to raise awareness of the UNCRC and the need to protect and care for children. In collaboration with the Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (CA), the project saw students across T&T create and present to the media powerful murals on the rights of the child. These murals will remain on public display at the offices of the CA.
Together with Embassy of Spain and the Coalition against Domestic Violence, the EU delegation organized a public dialogue on domestic violence. The objective was to encourage dialogue and policy reform on the issues of GBV, as well as to support the works of CSOs and to educate the public on this topic.
The EU delegation together with the Canadian High Commission organized a Prisoners' Rights Dialogue in order to raise awareness about prison conditions and encourage a restorative approach to justice and incarceration rather than a punitive one.
On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the EU Delegation together with the Catholic Commission for Social Justice organized a panel discussion "Children, Unseen victims of the Death Penalty". The aim of this discussion was to support advocacy for the elimination of the death penalty in T&T.
4. EU financial engagements and their impact
Through the EIDHR thematic budget allocations, the EU delegation continued to provide support to T&T’s civil society organizations through various projects. DECIDES TT has tackled, through a specific approach, the link between GBV and LGBTI discrimination. This engagement is highlighted here since it has proven to be a very innovative way to address, through gender, issues of violence and respect of fundamental human rights related to sexual orientation. This link is particularly important in T&T, which has no laws specifically protecting LGBTI people who, in consequence, generally fear reporting to the police incidents of abuse and/or violence.
"A Sexual Culture of Justice: Strengthening LGBTQI & GBV Partnerships, Capacity & Efficacy to Promote & Protect Rights in T&T”, is an activity-based, human rights project implemented by the University of the West Indies, Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) in collaboration with six LGBTI and feminist organisations in T&T. The project is a collaboration between the community and university that provides three years of support for some of the longest-standing and emerging local efforts to transform approaches to partner violence, homophobia, bullying and policing, while building partnerships and organisational capacity.
Under the CSO thematic budget line, the project, Beneficial Ownership Disclosure Sensitisation Campaign, has the objective to assist T&T to better meet its international obligations as they relate to company ownership disclosure, the disclosure of politically exposed persons (PEPs) and to deter anti- terrorist financing, has created an Online Beneficial Ownership (BO) declaration Form and BO Kit which is used to gather BO information data of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) reporting companies to be included in the 6th T&T EITI Report; it conducted a workshop for Civil Society/Business Associations, to encourage active advocacy and initiate lobbying efforts; and continued traditional and new media campaign on the importance of BO and PEP disclosure.
Two new projects were approved. T&T was allocated €4.5m, under the SPOTLIGHT Initiative. Following collaboration with stakeholders from the UN system, Government and Civil Society, the programme is expected to commence implementation in the first quarter 2020, for a period of three years. The overall goal of the SPOTLIGHT Initiative in T&T is to reduce family violence. This will be done through ensuring implementation of integrated services and prevention approaches. This approach recognises that an architecture of laws, policies and institutions is in place to address family violence. Nevertheless, SPOTLIGHT will build on, consolidate and scale up this progress whilst addressing significant implementation deficits and programmatic gaps.
The second new project, "Addressing Human Rights Abuses of Remand Prisoners with Special Emphasis on Domestic Violence Murder Cases" is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2020, for a period of thirty months. It is expected to address the remand practice whereby persons are incarcerated without trial for lengthy periods. Previous work on the issue has revealed that female remand prisoners suffer a double jeopardy, given that a high percentage of them have been charged for murder in circumstances where they have been victims of domestic violence themselves. This phenomenon reveals significant underlying dimensions of gender inequity in the criminal justice system.
5. Multilateral context
Within the UN context, T&T voting is similar to EU Member States voting. Exceptions to this voting relate to country-specific resolutions. Specifically, during the UNGA 74 Third Committee, T&T abstained on the main resolutions concerning human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Syria, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine. The resolutions on freedom of religion or belief, rights of the child, and human rights in the DPRK were adopted without a vote.