Pacific Forum on Business and Human Rights

By Len Garae

Director and Spokesperson for Women Against Crime and Corruption (WACC) and Member of Diplomacy Training Programme (DTP) Alumni Network in the Pacific, Jenny Ligo, has assured partners who have been invited to the training sessions at the Grand on Monday this week, to know that they have been invited based on their expertise and experience as Human Rights Defenders and Advocators.

She is confident that during the three-day sessions which opened yesterday, the participants are contributing meaningfully to formulate a firm statement from November 22nd to 23rd at The Grand. The 24th session will be held at Golden Port Hotel at the top of the hill.

Asked how WACC is linked to the United Nation’s 2nd Forum on Business and Human Rights, Mrs. Ligo says linking with her is not something new because UN Human Rights Linkages are already in place in the Region.

The Founder of WACC is a member of the Diplomacy Trading Programme Alumni Network in the Pacific. As such she accepted the invitation to participate in the Vanuatu Hub and quickly networked with her Partners including Dr. Andrina Thomas and Manina Pakete and a string of prominent women and men to attend the Diplomacy Training Programme.

“I have decided to accept it to be held here because we feel that our human rights record in the country needs to be revisited. Various sectors of development are taking place but what we want to see is fairness, gender equality and transparency in all recruitment programmes,” she said.

“Let me be clear that we who are active today are volunteers and are committed in our programmes because we believe in what we do to contribute towards a better work environment where everyone respects one another while we collaborate to work against discrimination, towards achieving fairness, unity, peace and prosperity in our country.”

She is appealing to the Government to see them not as “attackers” but collaborators to help achieve the Goals of its National Development Plan.

“Our focus nationally remains the same; to work against corruption while ensuring that people’s human rights are not abused but respected,” she said.

Dr. Thomas has been invited to work with Ligo to coordinate the Second Pacific Forum on Business and Human Rights. “In the Pacific we have the Vanuatu Hub and Solomons Hub, while Fiji and PNG remain Virtual Hubs,” she said

“UN wants us to mobilise our professionals to contribute our ideas towards a set lists of topics towards UN’s Guiding Principles.

“But before that we are with WACC to advocate against Crime and Corruption, to advocate for good governance principles for use in our workplaces.

“We also work as Human Rights Defenders. The role of human rights defenders and national human rights institutions are very important, to ensure that the Government recognizes what we strive to achieve”.

Dr. Thomas says it is clear that in some countries, discrimination is a common practice. “While in Vanuatu, we can say there is no active discrimination but there are issues in place, and one of them which Mrs. Ligo and I worked on several years ago, referred to alleged corruption in recruitment into the Public Service. We were manhandled and taken to the police station. Even though we reported the case to the Ombudsman’s Office, nothing has happened”.

She said this is one case that can be included in the list to the UN to see how it can be resolved, to help WACC to ensure that good governance always prevails.

The topics to be discussed during the sessions include Land and Territorial Issues, Climate Change and Environment, Reaching Net Zero, Mandatory Human Rights Defenders and Access to Remedy, Extractive Industries, Diversity, Gender, Inclusion, Labour, Decent Work, Modern Day Slavery and Technology, Digital Space and Artificial Intelligence and so forth,

All the topics have been selected for their relevance to the Pacific Region and Vanuatu.

Pakete says the void regarding lack of women’s political representatives in Parliament remains their concern. “Not having a female voice in parliament is tragic especially when any wrong decision remains wrong for four years and women suffer as a result,” she said.

“Increasing challenges facing our young people remain untouched especially with unemployment, teenage pregnancies and a seeming lack of concern for them is alarming especially when our leaders keep labeling them the ‘future of tomorrow’.

“Youth have skills that are not made use of. We hear of so much money coming in to develop the country. Where has the money been diverted to? Why not put the money in the horse’s mouth? We’ve come 41 years without resolving our problems. What people want is not how many millions of vatu that come in but where it is spent to help them to improve their lives. This is where human rights come. People are not even aware that their rights have been breached. This issue is frightening, it is a sleeping giant

“Undoubtedly this is the right time for all our partners to attend these three days of meetings to brainstorm to draw up the right programme to set our human rights challenges in focus to find the answers to help our young people”.