DFID and RRRT
Originally titled the Pacific Regional Human Rights Education Resource Team, the project’s goal was to increase the legal literacy and social status of women across eight Pacific Island countries – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
In 1998 RRRT won the United Nations Maurice Pate Award for our groundbreaking work in the Pacific region. While the original focus was on gender and legal literacy, the project expanded its focus in 1997 to encompass a broader spectrum of human rights and gender.
This expansion included:
- initiating a regional community paralegal training programme;
- delivering training in human rights and gender equality to government and civil society organisations;
- providing gender sensitisation training to those who administer the law, including judges and magistrates;
- provision of information and technical support on human rights and the law with a particular focus on women’s rights.
UNDP and RRRT
Following a decision by DFID to cease support in the Pacific region, RRRT became a project of the United Nations Development Programme in April 2002. RRRT's new project was titled Poverty Reduction through Access to Justice for All (PRAJA). Its aim was to increase access to information, legal aid and justice services as part of a holistic approach toward poverty reduction in the Pacific region.
RRRT focused on increasing access to basic services and support through a 'rights based' framework. This included access to economic and social rights, such as the right to adequate housing, education, water and sanitation, and healthcare. RRRT’s efforts contributed to the increased ratification of international human rights treaties in the Pacific region, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW Optional Protocol, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
RRRT also contributed to the development of domestic legislation under PRAJA including:
- the Vanuatu Family Protection Act;
- the Fiji Family Law Act (RRRT / Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and Fiji Government initiative);
- amendments to the Kiribati Evidence Act;
- the Tuvalu Citizenship Act;
- the Vanuatu Crimes Act – amended definition of rape;
- the Tonga Citizenship Act – amendments for women to have the same citizenship rights;
- Proposed new Bill of Rights for Solomon Islands to include economic, social and cultural rights.
A component of the implementation of PRAJA included exploring options for the long-term sustainability of RRRT. Several options were considered between 2003 and 2006, including becoming a regional non-governmental organisation.
In 2006 a decision was made that RRRT would be best placed under the umbrella of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). This decision was based on the ongoing nature of the services provided by RRRT to Pacific Island governments and civil society organisations, specifically training and technical assistance in ratification and reporting of human rights treaties and domestic legislative reform. The move to SPC, an intergovernmental organisation, was favoured over other options as it would allow RRRT to work more closely with Pacific Island governments in the areas of human rights and law reform.
SPC and RRRT
In July 2008, RRRT become a programme within the Education, Training and Human Development Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. SPC is ‘owned’ and governed by its member states, including 22 Pacific Island countries. As a programme of SPC RRRT provides policy advice, technical support and training services in human rights, governance, democracy and the rule of law directly for the benefit of SPC member governments and civil society throughout the Pacific region.
The programme partners with Pacific Island governments to improve access to justice, service delivery, equality and effective governance, in line with international standards and international law.
Since 2008, Pacific Island countries have been increasingly valuing the services offered by RRRT. This is evidenced through the increased ratification and implementation of human rights conventions and the increased volume of requests for support in areas of legislative reform, gender equality and responses to violence against women.
From its beginnings in gender rights and legal literacy, RRRT has evolved to become the leading regional human rights agency in the region. The Team’s focus has evolved from education and advocacy to the provision of training and technical assistance. RRRT’s work has become increasingly technical and include the provision of advice on policy and legislative reform.
Since joining SPC, RRRT has:
- assisted all UN member states in the Pacific to report to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process;
- established committees and task forces in six Pacific Island countries to advance legislative reform on violence against women;
- drafted legislation to address violence against women in three Pacific Island legislatures;
- assisted three Pacific nations to advance policy and legislative changes to address HIV, based on principles of human rights.
Throughout its history RRRT has built on core values of gender equality and human rights. The focus of service delivery outputs has evolved from education and training to the provision of policy advice and technical assistance as a result of the increasing dialogue and acceptance of human rights among governments in the region. RRRT has contributed substantially to this process.
The programme continues to partner with United Nations agencies, regional organisations and civil society organisations to leverage enhanced outcomes for the people of the Pacific with respect to their rights.