The course, held in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO), focused on enabling civil society participation and networking in PNG’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR is the UN process that reviews every country’s human rights record at five yearly intervals. The review, by other governments, considers reports from the government under review, the UN and civil society organisations (CSOs). The DTP course was timed and designed to enable course participants to submit their human rights concerns and recommendations to the UN by the deadline of 25 March.
“This was DTP’s first online course in PNG, and its first course dedicated to enabling dialogue and civil society engagement in the UPR process,” said DTP’s Executive Director, Patrick Earle.
Following nine online sessions, including presentations from the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Civicus, a record number of CSO submissions were made to the UN in PNG.
The sessions provided introductions to human rights standards and the UN human rights system, and enabled participants to share their human rights concerns. These concerns included violence against women, sorcery killings, albinism, LGBT+ discrimination, disability, child rights, business and human rights, HIV discrimination, the rights of older people, refugees and asylum seekers and the use of cyber-crime laws to limit freedom of speech.
“People from different areas of advocacy shared their experiences and concerns on issues affecting their communities. It's an exciting experience,” shared one of the participants.
Among the participants were women and community representatives affected by the notorious Porgera Gold mine in the PNG highlands and the Panguna Copper mine in Bougainville. Participants highlighted the connections between human rights, the environment and campaigns to stop Deep Sea Mining, Sand Mining and the Frieda River Mine in the Sepik region and the destruction of precious rainforest for destructive palm oil plantations.
“The vast experiences of people on this program blew my mind,” shared another participant.
There was a focus on not just describing abuses and issues of concern, but on proposing positive recommendations for change that can be made to the PNG government during the UPR process.
“…this program was the first ever provided by DTP, PIANGO, CCF- Fiji and OHCHR to collect all the human rights defenders in PNG and join us as a team; and from now on we shall stand together in unity...,” said Cressida Kuala, PNG Human Rights Defender, and DTP participant and alumna.
The first phase of the DTP course finished with participants making their submissions to the UN as both individuals and in coalitions to contribute to consideration of human rights in PNG. An overall summary of issues and recommendations made over the course of the training program was also submitted.
“The feedback of the participants has been very positive, and we are very pleased with this approach to human rights capacity and network building in PNG,” said OHCHR Representative, Josephine Mann. “OHCHR works with civil society and government in PNG and values the partnership in this capacity building program with DTP at UNSW.”
The next phase of the program will begin in coming months. For more information on the program, visit DTP.