Tel: (+44-20) 7799-1460
Fax: (+44-20) 7222-6073
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December, recalling the date that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948.
On Human Rights Day 2021, Hon. Akierra Missick (Turks and Caicos Islands), Chairperson of the CPA Working Group on Human Rights, tells us about the aims and priorities of the Working Group.
What is the CPA’s Working Group on Human Rights?
The CPA Working Group on Human Rights was established by the CPA Executive Committee in March 2021 to review the CPA’s work on human rights and explore how best to strengthen the implementation of our shared commitments.
We are a group of nine Members, one from each of the CPA’s Regions, supported by our respective CPA Regional Secretaries. I represent the CPA’s Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic (CAA) Region and was appointed to Chair the group at our first meeting in November 2021.
It is vital that the CPA’s work on human rights is taken forward with support from all nine CPA Regions and that we take the opportunity to learn from examples of best practice from across the Commonwealth, so I am very pleased to be working alongside experienced colleagues from across the CPA on this initiative.
Tell us a bit more about the aims of the CPA Working Group?
In previous years, the CPA has worked alongside organisations such as the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Universal Rights Group to create important human rights initiatives which have resulted in declarations, commitments and resources.
With the establishment of the Working Group on Human Rights, we have an opportunity to progress these endeavours and further strengthen the CPA’s future work on human rights. Within the Working Group our role is to consider the best way to take this CPA work forward in a fair and systematic way, learning from the varied experiences of our membership and successful methods used by other international, interparliamentary organisations.
How does the Working Group link to the CPA’s Strategic Plan 2022-25?
During the open consultation that was undertaken prior to developing the CPA’s Strategic Plan 2022-25, the CPA Secretariat received numerous responses from the membership, and external partners, emphasising the importance of human rights and urging the CPA to be more proactive in this area.
This strength of feeling is reflected in the Strategic Plan. Driven by one of the CPA’s key values, “…to promote democracy, good governance and human rights throughout the Commonwealth”, the Strategic Plan emphasises the crucial role of effective and democratic Parliaments in safeguarding human rights.
Strategic Objective Two focuses on protecting and upholding “the independence of Parliaments, the principle of the separation of powers and broader human rights” and lays out the CPA’s desire to increase our visibility as a vocal champion in doing so. The CPA Working Group on Human Rights is a vehicle by which we can look at how best to achieve this commitment.
What is the Working Group focusing on at the moment?
As part of its remit, the Working Group is looking at what methods may be best for the CPA to address human rights issues and how to provide the most relevant support to our member Parliaments, Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff in protecting and promoting human rights in their own jurisdictions.
In order to shape the Working Group’s focus and best address the needs of the CPA’s membership, we are undertaking a survey of all of the CPA’s 180 Branches to provide us with more information on how their Parliaments address human rights and what specialised mechanisms they have in place, if any.
If you are a CPA Member and haven’t already responded to the survey, please take a minute or two to do so - the more responses we receive, the more specific and tailored the Working Group can be at establishing resources which best support our member Parliaments' work on human rights.
CALLING ALL COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARIANS AND PARLIAMENTARY STAFF!
Please take a moment or two to complete our survey on human rights mechanisms in Commonwealth Parliaments. Your views can help shape the focus of the Working Group as it explores how the CPA can provide support to its Members to protect and promote human rights.
What are your personal aims as Chair of the CPA Working Group on Human Rights?
My personal aim as Chair of the CPA Working Group on Human Rights is to provide Members with an opportunity to highlight in a full and frank manner the challenges that we face in our respective Regions. Once we are aware of the challenges, we can exchange best practices and ideas on developing a framework that can be implemented by all Regions. We are cognisant of cultural, religious and socio-economic differences that will guide regional views, and as a Group we will find ways to respect those overarching beliefs whilst ensuring that we advance human rights globally.
The theme for Human Rights Day 2021 is ‘Equality: Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.’ What does this idea mean to you?
The theme of 'reducing inequalities, advancing human rights’ is a reminder that, whilst major strides have taken place in reducing inequalities around the world, there is still much more work to be done. We now see greater diversity in many Parliaments, but Parliaments still need to do more to reflect the various views and lifestyles of their citizens. By having a legislature that reflects the citizenry of the jurisdiction, solutions to societal challenges would be brought to the forefront and championed, whether it is equal pay for equal work, greater access to health care for indigenous persons, or the acknowledgement of the right to form a family by all citizens.
Hon. Akierra M. D. Missick is the Turks and Caicos Islands Minister of Infrastructure, Housing, Planning & Development. She is the elected Member for the constituency of Leeward and Long Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, and was first elected in 2012. She was appointed to chair the new CPA Working Group on Human Rights in November 2021.