“It’s critical for small island nations like Tonga to have our voices heard at the Human Rights Council. Being here allows us to speak directly to the global community about the human rights issues that are of greatest concern to us,” Tonga delegate Elsie Fukofuka said at the 38th Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva.
Thanks to the support of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the work of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Fukofuka became the 100th beneficiary of the Fund.
At a ceremony to honour the Tonga delegate, held on 22 June 2018 during the 38th Human Rights Council session at the Palais des Nations of the UN at Geneva, Eva Kjer Hansen, Danish Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation, praised the Fund for its continuing support of SIDS and LDC representation at Human Rights Council sessions.
“We are celebrating the work of this special Trust Fund, which promotes and makes it possible for delegates from the least developed countries and small island States to come and participate in the work of the Human Rights Council,” said Ms. Hansen. “This is important because universal participation in the Human Rights Council is crucial, irrespective of a country’s size, wealth, population or strength.”
As a leading donor of the Fund, Denmark has played a vital role in ensuring the engagement of States like Tonga in the international discussions hosted by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Fund is supported by contributions from 23 other countries. Since it became operational in 2014, the Trust Fund for LDCs and SIDS has brought 105 delegates and fellows (62 women, 43 men) from 69 countries that do not have permanent representation and that would otherwise not have access to the Human Rights Council sessions.
“I come from a small island that faces resource constraints, which makes it difficult for us to participate consistently in the Council sessions in Geneva,” Ms. Fukofuka said. “On behalf of the 99 others who have benefited from this Trust Fund, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the Fund, and who have, in doing so, made it possible to give voice to SIDS and LDCs at the Human Rights Council sessions.”
Deputy High Commissioner of Human Rights Kate Gilmore noted the important achievements of the Fund, including the vital training and capacity-building support it has provided to beneficiaries, as well as the benefits that the participation of SIDS and LDCs bring to the Human Rights Council discussions.
“Together, let us ensure that the LDCs - SIDS Trust Fund success story continues and that we are able to achieve our goal of securing universal participation at every session of the Human Rights Council,” Ms. Gilmore said.
Ms. Fukofuka noted the importance of Tonga’s representation at the 38th HRC session for the adoption of Tonga’s Universal Periodic Review outcome report.
“Being present at this HRC session not only allowed us to participate in the Council’s adoption of our UPR outcome report, but also allowed us to share the human rights areas Tonga will continue to focus on,” she said.
Ms. Fukofuka stressed the invaluable experience that participating in Human Rights Council discussions offered Tonga and other small island States, particularly in bringing to the global community their concerns about the right to development and the importance of addressing climate change as a fundamental human rights issue.
“We see climate change as a core human rights issue. It affects every aspect of our lives,” she said. “Erosion and sea level rise may eventually result in the disappearance of our islands and the very existence of our country. It is our human right to survive.”
She said it was critical for Tonga and other SIDS delegations to continue to play an active role in Human Rights Council discussions to call attention to the urgency of acting on climate change.
“Our small islands are the least responsible for climate change, but are among the most vulnerable,” she said. “We look to countries that have contributed more to this global security threat to take responsible measures to mitigate and adapt in accordance with the Paris Agreement, so that we can reduce the warming of our climate and its effects on the Pacific.”
More information on the
Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States
26 July 2018
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