It is with great honour that I address you at this launching ceremony of the Seminar on Human Rights Education Training, a commendable initiative pursuing the promotion and protection of human rights in Seychelles and in the region.
As a nation, we are fortunate and proud of the array of opportunities available for the development and training of our citizens in this inherent fundamental aspect of our civil, economic and political livelihood. Today, we applaud the first cohort of twenty Seychellois individuals in their commitment and efforts to undertake the online Human Rights Education Training organised by the ‘Droits Humains Océan Indien’ which, has in no doubt, inscribed them with the necessary knowledge and expertise to actively engage in the promotion and protection of the rights of our people.
We are grateful to the ‘Droits Humains Océan Indien’ for this prestigious initiative and to the Australian Government in the advancement of these efforts. We further recognize the impressive work which this civil society organisation has undertaken in the region in the promotion of a human rights-based culture, particularly in training hundreds of citizens, including in our neighbouring Small Island Developing States.
This is an exceptional example of the substantial contribution and impact which civil society organisations bring to our community and its governance, notably in matters of human rights.
Civil Society Organisations evidently play an important role in the enhancement of transparency and good governance, and in effecting beneficial social change. Through their work and influence, civil society organisations have a significant ability to improve communities, monitor policies and encourage civic engagement.
Today, the Government and citizens of Seychelles are evermore so determined to achieve the full realisation of the effective and efficient fulfillment of human rights of all persons living on our islands, an approach which sits at the forefront of our national priorities. We have remained dedicated to this commitment which is enshrined in the core provisions of our Constitution, and over the years, we have seen the country take great strides to further the rights of all persons.
The recent establishment of the National Human Rights Commission is a notable illustration of our continued devotion to strengthen our national human rights mechanisms. The new Commission replaces the previous institution established in 2009; a decision that was taken to ensure that our National Human Rights Institutions adhere to the highest of international standards, including the Paris Principles which ensure the independent and fair functioning of such bodies. The process of setting up this new mechanism was extensive, and it involved consultations with governmental stakeholders, international partners, as well as civil society. Crucial decisions – such as whether we should have a hybrid institution or stand-alone human rights mechanism – arose from these exchanges of diverse stakeholders. Therefore, given its strong foundation, I am confident that the Commission will enhance the transparency, accountability, and inclusivity of our citizens in advancing our country’s human rights based approach and development.
On the international front, the Government of Seychelles has sought to maintain full cooperation and supported the various human rights agendas of the international community, particularly in the mechanisms of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.
Most recently, Seychelles established an International Law and Human Rights Unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs. This Unit has a major role to play in coordinating Seychelles’ engagements at the international level. The Department of Foreign Affairs also posted an officer at the head of our diplomatic mission in Geneva, where much international work on human rights is done.
For the first time, Seychelles participated in a full session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, where fourteen States were reviewed on their national human rights records. Amongst these, Seychelles made recommendations to eight countries, including countries from distant China to our neighbouring Comoros, with all these recommendations asserting great emphasis on achieving full ratification and implementation of all core international human rights treaties, and the establishment and proper allocation of resources to suitable national human rights structures.
Furthermore, Seychelles underwent its own review under the Universal Periodic Review in 2016, where it accepted 142 out of 150 recommendations made to it by other countries. The acceptance of the vast majority of recommendations is a testament to the commitment of Seychelles to further guarantee the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and also reflective of our readiness to engage in constructive conversations with our international partners on how best to improve the promotion and protection of human rights for all persons.
Ladies and gentlemen, as a small nation we are proud of our achievements, but at the same time, we remain ever so cognizant and committed to identifying and addressing our shortcomings, especially in line with new emerging challenges.
Every individual citizen has an important role in the fulfillment of our country’s visions. Let us embody today’s achievements as a pillar and exemplary step towards achieving our commitments in the promotion and protection of human rights for all.
Our country counts on this cohort of human rights trainees, to ensure wherever you decide to work, whatever you decide to do in life or with your life, that you will take a human rights-based approach.
I congratulate you and wish you well in your future undertakings.