Final Conculsions & Recommendations
Conclusions and Recommendations of the Colloquium and Workshop for Judges and Lawyers on the Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Pacific region
1-3 June 2006
1. The colloquium and workshop for judges and lawyers on the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights in the Pacific was organized in Suva, Fiji from 1 to 3 June 2006, by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC), Interights and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
2. In the context of the colloquium and workshop, definitions used for economic, social and cultural rights were those embodied in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ISECR).
3. The event was convened in the context of the United Nations Framework on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asian-Pacific Region, which aims to promote consideration of the establishment of regional and/or sub-regional human rights arrangements for Asia and the Pacific.
4. Twenty one judges and four lawyers from the following twelve countries pf the Pacific from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu attended the colloquium and workshop. Justice Chandrachud (India), Justice Chaskalson (South Africa), Mr. Iain Byrne, Senior Lawyer, Commonwealth Programme, Interights, Ms. Cassandra Goldie, Director of the Homelessness Legal Rights Project, and representatives from OHCHR and FHRC acted as resource persons. Ambassadors and representatives of embassies of Australia, China, the United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the United States of America attended the opening segment. Observers included UN agencies and law association staff.
5. The Honourable Senator, Mr. Qoriniasi B. Bale, Attorney General and Minister of Justice opened the colloquium and workshop on behalf of the Government of Fiji. Opening statements were delivered by Mr. Hans De Graaf, United Nations Acting Deputy Resident Coordinator, Mr. Paulo David, Regional Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Pacific, Mr. Iain Byrne, Senior Lawyer, Commonwealth Programme, Interights and Mr. Walter Rigamoto, Chairperson of the Fiji Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman.
6. Participants examined the approach of judges and lawyers in a number of jurisdictions to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights embodied in the international human rights treaties, in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They also considered the approach of regional and international decision-making bodies to these rights.
7. Participants in the Colloquium and Workshop expressed their gratitude to OHCHR, the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Interights and the Commonwealth Secretariat for convening the event. They also encouraged the organization of similar events in the future.
8. The participants acknowledged the universality, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They encouraged the universal ratification of international human rights treaties. They stressed the importance of the treaty monitoring system, including the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a framework for establishing a culture of human rights. They also acknowledged the general comments of the treaty bodies, which provide guidance for the interpretation of human rights obligations, and the concluding observations of the treaty bodies, which provide guidance for state parties in implementing rights. They further noted the work towards the formulation of an optional procedure which would allow individuals to complain about violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Participants also recognized that some economic, social and cultural rights embodied in domestic law and international instruments have been held to be justiciable by several national, regional courts and in international decision making.
9 Participants recognized the key role of an independent, impartial, informed and adequately resourced judiciary, which is essential for the interpretation and enforcement of all rights. They noted that the judiciary in many jurisdictions has employed innovative approaches to ensure the effective implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.
10. The judiciary in many jurisdictions including in the Asia-Pacific region has interpreted domestic law guarantees such as the right to life to include aspects of economic, social and cultural rights. Participants acknowledged procedural innovations such as public interest litigation which has also led to the enhanced protection of human rights in some jurisdictions.
11. Participants recognized the key role of independent, active and accessible legal counsel.
12. Participants recognized the important role that independent national human rights institutions can play in the judicial process and the promotion and protection of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
13. Participants acknowledged the role of NGOs in protecting and promoting human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
14. Participants also stressed the importance of raising awareness among the general public about their rights and the remedies available to them, including judicial remedies. They also acknowledged the role of free and independent media in this regard.
The participants recommended :
15. The promotion of the understanding of the indivisibility, interrelatedness and interdependence of human rights and that these involve positive and negative obligations, and the recognition that some civil and political rights can contain elements of economic, social and cultural rights, and vice versa.
16. The encouragement of the ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and all other core international human rights treaties, as encouraged in the Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration.
17. The promotion of a domestic legal framework which provides effective remedies for those persons whose human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, have been violated.
18. In countries where they do not exist, the encouragement of the establishment of an independent national human rights institution mandated to promote and protect human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.
19. The encouragement of academic institutions, professional bodies and judicial education programmes to include the study of international human rights standards and the relevant jurisprudence of regional and international human rights bodies, as well as comparative national jurisprudence in their curricula and training programmes.
20. The promotion of human rights capacity building for judges and lawyers including by periodically conducting regional and national level workshops and seminars in cooperation with Governments, United Nations bodies, national human rights institutions, relevant professional bodies, and relevant international and national NGOs.
21. The promotion of the exchange of judges and other relevant professionals in and outside the Pacific who have experience and knowledge of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
22. The support of existing efforts to collect the decisions of national courts which refer to international human rights, and encourage regional or international bodies to support the collation of the full text of these decisions and ensure their dissemination, including through websites and databases.
23. Where this is otherwise not required under domestic law, the consideration of using international human rights norms and standards to assist in the interpretation of bills of rights and other legislation, including in relation to economic, social and cultural rights.
24. The recognition that in cases involving human rights violations, justice may require the relaxation of requirements relating to standing, evidence, rules of court and procedures generally, and a flexible approach to remedies.
25. The encouragement of the submission of amicus briefs in appropriate cases involving human rights.
Walter Rigamoto, Sir Moti Tikaram, Justice Chandrachud & Justice Chaskalson
Indonesian Ambassador to Fiji with Mr Paulo David, Regional Representative OHCHR-Pacific Region
Media Reporter with Director-FHRC, Dr Shaista Shameem, OHCHR Regional Representative, Mr Paulo David & Justice Ian Byrne-Interights
Pariticipants at the Colloquium
Participants at the Colloquium
Participants at the Colloquium
Photos courtesy of the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FFHR).