UNDP, WHO and OHCHR (2014), “Pacific Trade and Human Rights”, Suva, Fiji Islands

pacific

Abstract: The impacts that the rules, conditions and mechanisms of the international trading system can have on the enjoyment of human rights—both positive and negative, both actual and potential are increasingly understood and considered. In broad terms, economic growth through free trade can increase the resources available that may support the realization of human rights, including for example the right to health and the right to food. At the same time, there are concerns that free trade does not always lead to economic growth, and that economic growth does not automatically lead to greater promotion and protection of human rights. This nexus between trade and human rights raises very real and pressing issues for Pacific Island Countries because of their specific challenges and vulnerabilities and because they are currently negotiating or implementing a wide range of trade agreements.

This report examines the current state of trade policy, including the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements, in Pacific Island Countries. It examines some of the unique economic features and key economic activities in these countries, as well as the main trade policy considerations that confront the region. It then goes on to outline the key features of the international human rights framework, including the human rights obligations of States in the context of trade agreements, the responsibilities of business enterprises, and the need for greater access to remedies. To further illustrate the connection between trade and human rights in Pacific Island Countries, the report includes a number of case studies. The topics examined include: structural reform; tariff reform and government revenue; trade policy, nutrition and public health; and, intellectual property and traditional knowledge.

The overall message is that a human rights-based approach to trade helps to ensure that the processes and outcomes of negotiating and implementing trade and investment agreements protect, respect and fulfill the rights of affected individuals and communities to a greater extent. Human rights help to balance the focus on economic growth with the concerns and impacts on affected stakeholders. A human rights-based approach requires that the trade policies, interventions and processes are guided by human rights standards and principles, including participation and inclusion, equality and nondiscrimination, and accountability. Where potential negative impacts on workers or communities are foreseen, the human rights-based approach can help to address these risks and maintain the necessary policy space to develop trade measures that also protect individuals, workers and communities. Human rights also highlight the importance of consultation with affected stakeholders while negotiating and implementing trade agreements.

Key recommendations to governments and policy-makers in Pacific Island Countries include: enhancing government capacity to address trade-related human rights issues; consider the impacts before entering into binding trade agreements by for example conducting human rights impact assessments of proposed trade agreements; ensuring public participation, non-discrimination, consultation, accountability and transparency in trade negotiations; strengthening the legal and institutional framework for linking human rights and trade through adoption and implementation of relevant international human rights treaties; and, actively engaging with global support networks to supplement capacity not currently present at national levels.

Link: http://asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/library/hiv_aids/pacific-trade-and-human-rights/