A half-day workshop on the theme 'Equality-Reducing Inequalities and Advancing Human Rights', organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the Republic of Mauritius, was held, this morning, at the Maritim Resort & Spa, in Balaclava.
The President of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius, Mr Vincent Degert, the Chairperson of the NHRC, Mr D. Seetulsingh, and other personalities were present.
The purpose of this workshop was to take stock of what has been achieved in the EU funded project on the 'promotion of respect for human rights in Mauritius and Rodrigues' and to brainstorm on the subject of inequalities in particular to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community.
In his opening address, the President recalled that the NHRC was set up in 2001 in a bid to reiterate the commitment of the Republic of Mauritius to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of every citizen guaranteed under our Constitution and which are at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On this score, he enumerated the initiatives taken by the Government of Mauritius as regards Human Rights, namely: regular and fair elections; strong welfare state with free access to education and health; a strong system of social security benefits and; State assistance to provide housing to the needy.
Furthermore, Mr Roopun expressed gratitude to the EU Delegation which, as part of its External Action to promote democracy and respect of Human Rights in developing countries since 2017, financed this project through the grant of a sum of EUR 200,000 over a period of four years, to the NHRC.
The President also lauded the NHRC for the successful implementation of the project and the organisation of this workshop as it is in line with the objective of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and Training adopted in 2011 by the General Assembly, which proclaims that everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about Human Rights and fundamental freedom as well as have access to Human Rights, education and training with a view to developing a Universal Culture of Human Rights.
Speaking of the pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020, Mr Roopun indicated that the Government has mitigated the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable groups of the society through strong policy measures and income support among others. Nonetheless, he highlighted that there is a need for more solidarity and greater collaboration between partners, the public and private sectors as well as the civil society in order to bring equality and search for solutions to face this period of crisis.
For his part, the EU Ambassador stressed that this workshop has the twin objective of celebrating International Human Rights Day 2021 on the Theme: 'Equality-Reducing Inequalities and Advancing Human Rights' and is also a closure workshop for the four-year project that the EU funded for the NHRC.
Advancing Human Rights is the very essence and objective of the collaboration between the EU and the NHRC, Mr Degert underscored, and, it is in this context that this project started in 2017.
Furthermore, he stated that under the purview of this project, more than 17,000 persons have already been trained on respect for Human Rights, both in Mauritius and in Rodrigues, and targeted women, students and youth, police officers, Members of Parliament and the public in general.
Mr Degert also highlighted the key results and milestones achieved during the implementation of this project.
They are: the visit of the Vice-President of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee, Mrs Nicole Ameline, last year to sensitise on women's rights key decision-makers and actors; the first public hosting of a forum debate on LGBT community issues between authorities, civil society and parliamentarians in 2018; the production of two eco-friendly tote bags as a testimony to the younger generation on the three Rs ( Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and; the preparation of a set of bracelets with the key precepts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to promote all the elements of a living democracy, in particular the freedom of assembly and expression.
The EU Ambassador indicated that this four-year journey with the NHRC for the promotion of Human Rights is ending on 31 December 2021, and, on this score, he expressed his appreciation for the work carried out by the team. He reiterated the commitment of the EU to continue to promote respect for Human Rights for all groups and to include same as a priority under the new EU programming cycle for Mauritius for the period 2021-2027.
As for the Chairperson of the NHRC, he informed that the project was to end in November 2020 but had to be extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions on activities.
The project, he underlined, concentrated essentially on the rights of women and children, and was also an opportunity to familiarise Mauritians with their Constitution which has a chapter devoted especially to civil and political rights.
Mr Seetulsingh stressed that the financial contribution from the EU enabled the NHRC to raise the level of sensitisation campaigns on Human Rights education and to reach out to wider audiences through the conduct of workshops and knowledge sharing by foreign experts. Two booklets developed by the NHRC and printed with the financial support of the EU have also been distributed and will continue to be distributed in 2022 in schools and other venues, he added.