The UPR is a routine process by which the Human Rights Council, (an intergovernmental body made up of 47 United Nations Member States elected by the UN General Assembly), cross-examines government officials on their rights record. Samoa’s third UPR will take place in November 2021 most likely via video link. A series of reports will be submitted to the Council including from the United Nations, the independent Human Rights Institution in the Office of the Ombudsman, the government, NGOs and civil society. These will detail the official and public perception of how human rights are enforced in the country – and where access to rights is lacking.
The UN in Samoa is writing its report now, to be submitted by 25 March.
Samoan individuals and organizations will also have an opportunity to submit to the Human Rights Council during this UPR find out how here.
The reports and the review will reflect on progress made since the last UPR (in 2016) that made 129 recommendations. Ninety one (73 percent) of these recommendations were “supported” by the Government of Samoa, while 38 were “noted.” Additionally, the reports will highlight any emerging issues from the 2016 UPR that affected or have the potential to affect people’s full exercise of human rights. They will include an analysis of whether or not Samoa is aligned with international standards on human rights, and how well Samoa is doing in terms of protecting and enforcing the rights of children, women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQI community as a result of the ratification of five major human rights treaties, including:
Samoa’s Constitution guarantees certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, personal liberty, a fair trial, religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom from inhumane treatment, freedom from forced labour, freedom of assembly and free association, freedom of movement and residence, individual rights regarding property, and freedom from discriminatory legislation. However, while the country’s rights record is generally well respected on a global level, the last review noted several issues remain. Of prominent note was the fact that gender equality advances at a low pace due to Samoa’s patriarchal culture, and women’s poor access to employment, property, credit and bank loans. The review also urged the government to act urgently to reduce gender-based violence – which continues to occur at high levels.
Other challenges likely to feature in the upcoming review include the measles crisis in 2019, which may have highlighted inequalities in the provision of healthcare, and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in 2020 and the resulting increase in inequality and poverty. Progress on reporting on ratified treaties as well as recent legislative changes including the package of laws adopted in 2020 (the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, the Judicature Amendment Bill 2020 and the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020) will also be analyzed in the UN report from a human rights perspective.
This is will be the third time that Samoa’s rights record has been reviewed through this process, with previous reviews occurring in 2011 and 2016.
In preparation of the UPR report, the Government of Samoa launched on 27 January national consultations with key duty bearers in a meeting of the National Mechanism on Implementation Reporting and Follow Up that reviewed the process of development of the national report to the HRC, which is due on 9 August.