??Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean (centre), speaking with British High Commissioner, Paul Brummell, and Head of the Human Right Unit of Commonwealth, Karen McKenzie. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

This country will continue to advocate for the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This was emphasised by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, as she delivered the feature address today at the opening ceremony of a regional seminar on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – co-sponsored by the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat at the Savannah Hotel.

Reminding her audience that Barbados attached great importance to human rights issues, Senator McClean disclosed "that in February 2011 we were able to enact the Transnational Organised Crime (Prevention and Control) Act, which seeks, inter alia, to give effect to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.??

"Barbados supports the global fight against human trafficking which it sees as a human rights issue. It is a form of modern day slavery which has no place in the comity of civilised nations. For these reasons, Barbados is committed to employing the resources at its disposal in this important effort."

She, however, pointed out that human resource constraints remained the major impediment to Barbados being able to complete its human rights reporting "in a timely manner". The Foreign Affairs Minister noted that this was the main reason for the length of time it was taking to implement some of the recommendations arising from the UPR Review in 2008.

"We remain unable to commit in the short-term to signing on to new treaties, primarily because of the human and financial obligations that attend thereto. However, as we have stated in other fora, Barbados will continue to give thoughtful consideration to signing and ratifying those treaties and optional protocols that are within the limits of its capabilities and where the reporting obligations are not excessively onerous," Senator McClean stated.

Nevertheless, she said that Barbados had accepted 15 of the 21 recommendations of the Human Rights Council, with the others being under consideration.

Regarding one recommendation of the Working Group that Barbados should establish an independent Human Rights Commission, in accordance with the Paris Principles, the Senator mentioned that plans were in train "to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman and review the extent to which the mandate of the Ombudsman may be expanded".

However, she added that in spite of the strides made in relation to human rights issues, she conceded "there is still much work to be done," and expressed the hope that in the next few months concrete steps would be taken to implement many of the voluntary commitments. "While we were able to establish a Human Rights Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in April 2010, we have had to do so from existing resources and so far we have not been able to dedicate those resources exclusively to human rights issues," she lamented.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated that Barbados remained committed to the Universal Periodic Review process conducted by the Human Rights Council, since it represented an opportunity for all states – large and small; old and new – to assess and address the state of human rights in their countries.


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