Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reported on its human rights record

Camillo Gonsalves

Camillo Gonsalves

NARRATOR:       In Geneva, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reported to the Human Rights Council on its record on human rights as the Council conducted its Universal Periodic Review of United Nations Member States.

In concluding remarks to the Council, the Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves noted that the Universal Periodic Review process exceeded his delegation's expectations.

 TAPE:         Our Government has been fortified by the warm expressions of support, solidarity and recognition of the strides and efforts being made by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the field of human rights and the progress we have achieved in national development and the ennoblement of the Vincentian people. We have also carefully noted the constructive comments and recommendations from all States that took the floor during our dialogue. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has conducted a preliminary review of the recommendations put forward during our 10th May interactive dialogue. I am pleased to report that 49 of the 92 recommendations advanced by Member States can be readily accepted, or are already in the process of implementation by the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These recommendations include exhortations to continue our Herculean efforts to advance the lives of the Vincentian people through investments in education, health, housing, economic diversification, good governance and the rule of law. We have also taken on board your suggestions related to the further protection of women, children, the elderly and those living with disabilities.

 NARRATOR:       Regarding capital punishment, Ambassador Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines considered this issue as reflecting a difference of opinion on the appropriate domestic policy approaches to issues related to crime and the protection of citizens.  But he was quick to add, there’s no disagreement on settled provisions of international human rights law.

 TAPE:         We note that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is among a significant number of States that still retain the possibility of capital punishment in their legislations and constitutions. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the world's citizens still live with and accept these provisions in their respective national contexts. We note, further, that the common law has so restricted the applicability of capital punishment in our country that there have been no executions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in over 15 years.

 NARRATOR:       Earlier, in an opening statement, Ambassador Gonsalves explained that the development of human rights in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the national approaches to the broad subject area, were informed by the country's unique combination of historical, physical, political and socio-economic characteristics.

He noted that the human rights history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is shaped in part by its collective responses to three abysmal and externally imposed acts of barbarism and exploitation; namely slavery, colonialism, and the genocide of our indigenous peoples.

And he noted that the manner in which any nation approaches and prioritizes its individual human rights development and improvement is necessarily a product of its own national context and circumstances. Ambassador Gonsalves stressed that in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the enhancement of our human rights is not a sterile legislative process occurring in a vacuum.

 TAPE:         Rather, it is a holistic approach that is responsive to the needs and demands of our citizens. While it is critical that universal human rights are enjoyed universally, it is often necessary for poor countries to prioritise the legislative means by which such rights are formally recognised. The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines views its commitment to universal human rights with a seriousness that does not allow for a “checklist approach” or a cosmetic response to antiquated legislation with little practical applicability. Our legislative stance is more forward-looking and positive, and it is coupled with a respect for the ability of our courts and our common law system to shape legal precedent and Constitutional interpretation in such a way as to reflect evolving understandings of human rights.

 NARRATOR:       According to Ambassador Gonsalves, the State approaches legislation related to human rights from the perspective that such laws cannot be imposed on people from above or afar. He said they are crafted by the people’s representatives, in consultation and communion with their constituents.

TAPE:         This is the essence of the democratic process. The adoption and entrenchment of a rights-based culture is not merely a legislative, top-down, process. It requires an amalgam of overlapping approaches, the engagement of civil society, and an analysis of regional best practices within a conducive environment of public debate. Indeed, public awareness campaigns, frank and open debate, and changing public perceptions often carry these issues well beyond a sterile legislative prescription. Of course, there are times when the State must act urgently, particularly in the protection of minority rights that may be under threat. But each brick in the foundation of a rights based culture must be laid with a care and seriousness befitting the importance of the exercise.

NARRATOR:       Ambassador Gonsalves said human rights are part and parcel of the Government’s broader developmental thrust and focus. He said the government is aware of the relationship between development and human rights, and view the furtherance of human rights and rights-based culture as inextricably linked to the country’s continued socio-economic development.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

 duration:  5’48″

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