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FOCUS: Climate Change, Refugees Priority

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has called on the international community to uphold the collective human rights of Pacific islanders and others living in Small Island Developing States who are
04 Mar 2015 07:41
FOCUS: Climate Change, Refugees Priority
Refugees packed into a centre on Manus Island, PNG Photo: The Guardian

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has called on the international community to uphold the collective human rights of Pacific islanders and others living in Small Island Developing States who are threatened by climate change.

In an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Prime Minister said that while the Council was rightly concerned with the human rights records of individual countries, Fiji also wanted equal consideration to be given to transnational issues.

“By far the biggest of these – for a Small Island Developing Country such as Fiji – is the collective failure of the global community to address the negative consequences of climate change. The repeated failure of the industrialised nations to curb their carbon emissions is a direct threat to the human rights of people living in vulnerable small island States like Fiji, including the right to life”, the PM said.

Warning that the very existence of some of Fiji’s neighbours is threatened, the PM said he welcomed the fact that the UN Human Rights Council was setting aside time to debate the issue later this week. “I urge you all to take concrete steps to place the human rights impact of climate change at the centre of your deliberations. Because time is running out and the world needs to act urgently and decisively”, he said.

The PM also called on the Human Rights Council to examine the human rights position of refugees who had sought asylum with Fiji’s larger neighbours, but who have been rebuffed and resettled among Pacific peoples.

“The impact of the policy of operating refugee camps in small Pacific Island countries on local people – as well as the refugees themselves – deserves the closest scrutiny if the United Nations conventions have any relevance or significance at all”, he said.

“If human rights are universal, no country should be able to contract out an obligation to respect them, especially when dealing with the displaced, the vulnerable and children. And Fiji’s position is that the international community can no longer continue to turn a blind eye to what we consider to be one of the greatest human rights challenges in the Pacific”, the PM added.

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