The existing Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Peace and Security will now be expanded to become the Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and Human Rights.
Deputy Speaker and Chairperson of the Committee, Francesca Semoso, said with human rights underpinning the existing thematic areas of the committee, it was a logical choice to see its mandate expanded and portfolio broadened.
The motion for the establishment of the new Committee was passed during the September sitting of the Bougainville House of Representatives, with support provided by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Enhancing the role of parliaments in the protection and realisation of human rights is an emerging issue, with several parliaments around the world looking to both prioritise human rights and engage with the United Nations to assist in doing so.
President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Chief Dr John Momis, praised the creation of this new Committee and commented that elected representatives have an obligation to ensure that human rights remain front and centre.
“Human rights are critically important to everyone, and we must all work together to ensure that as parliamentarians human rights remain at the heart of our work,” President Momis said.
A three-day seminar following the approval of the expanded committee began on Tuesday, enhancing the capacity of the Members of the Bougainville House of Representatives to deliver on their human rights responsibilities.
UN Liaison Officer, Rui Flores, said human rights and the role of parliamentarians are intrinsically linked.
“This idea that human rights are rights that everyone has lies at the core of the work of the United Nations. Enhancing the capacity of parliamentarians to deliver on their human rights responsibilities is incredibly important, and by providing them with a foundational understanding of human rights, we hope that we see this incorporated into their parliamentary work,” Flores said.
Support to furthering human rights in Bougainville comes via the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the Gender and Youth Initiative Promotion Initiative. The initiative focuses on the empowerment of disenfranchised groups in Bougainville, mainly women and youth, and persons with disabilities.