STRENGTHENING the role of Parliamentarians in the implementation of Universal Periodic Review Recommendations was the theme of a two day seminar organized jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
It was held at the IPU Headquarters in Geneva from the 12th to the 13th of November 2012 attended by more than 40 Parliamentarians and supporting staff from over 14 countries, Tonga included.
Issues discussed during the seminar included;
1. Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as a United Nations human rights mechanism.
2. The role of Parliament and other stakeholders in the UPR Process
3. Challenges faced by Least Developed Countries (LCDs) and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the UPR.
Tonga has completed the first cycle and the second phase is due in January 2013.
Peter Reading the Human Rights Adviser to the Commonwealth who conducted the seminar told participants that Parliaments and Parliamentarians have a fundamental role in promoting the protection of human rights domestically and internationally.
“Parliamentarians are one of the key stakeholders that can help to implement UPR recommendations through various parliamentary processes.”
According to Peter Reading, they can do this in a number of ways.
“1. Parliamentarians can influence the development of new legislation or by amending existing legislations which seeks to give effect to UPR recommendations.
2. They can ask oral or written parliamentary questions or hold parliamentary debates to key human rights concerns raised in UPR recommendations and call for reform in government policy.
3. Parliamentarians can work collectively in formal committees or informal groups that have a mandate to consider the extent to which governments and public bodies are complying with their domestic and international human rights obligations.”
Member of Parliament for Tongatapu Constituency 10 Sēmisi Tapueluelu represented the Tonga Parliament to the conference and the Acting Deputy Clerk, Dr. Sione Vikilani.