‘Good progress’

Country commended for human rights development

A top human rights official is generally satisfied that Barbados is making progress when it comes to ensuring the basic human rights of its citizens.

However, Karen McKenzie, head of human rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said issues surrounding equality and discrimination still needed to be addressed, not only in Barbados but in all Commonwealth Caribbean countries.

Karen McKenzie, head of human rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat (left) in discussion with Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean.
Karen McKenzie, head of human rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat (left) in discussion with Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean.

There are only two Caribbean Commonwealth countries that are signatories to all nine basic human rights treaties. Barbados is signatory to six.

“In terms of Barbados, there is good progress being made. Of course challenges do remain across the Commonwealth Caribbean and we are here to work with Barbados in partnership to address some of those challenges in the Commonwealth as well as the Commonwealth Caribbean,” McKenzie told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a two-day human rights leadership seminar that began at the Hilton Barbados Resort this morning.

Those challenges, she said, included the ratification of the remaining human rights treaties and the establishment of a national human rights institution.

“And, of course, it includes issues such as constructive engagement and universal periodic review and ensuring that the obligations, which Barbados undertakes in terms of those reviews, are implemented effectively and durably,” McKenzie added.

She also advised that review of legislation should be ongoing “as landscapes change”, and given that “there are always emerging human rights issues”.

“Across the Caribbean the issue of equality and non-discrimination is one I think we need to converse about more and we need to be constructive in terms of looking at how we potentially advance better rights protection for all the people across the Commonwealth Caribbean,” McKenzie said.

“As countries embrace equality and non-discrimination more, there is a necessity to review key pieces of legislation and make them more human rights compliant.”

McKenzie noted that it was also important for leaders to ensure their house was in order when it came to governance and human rights if they were seeking to attract investment and foreign aid.

Permanent secretaries from the various ministries, representatives of the Royal Barbados Police Force, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations are attending the seminar which will examine a number of issues surrounding human rights.

McKenzie said it was critical for permanent secretaries to take part in such events since they were involved at a senior level in the decision making and policy development and implementation.

She said, however, there needed to be more collaboration across ministries.

“It’s not merely a matter of signing [treaties], accepting them and then nothing happens nationally. There is always more that can be done to protect and promote human rights dignity of all the citizens of a country. It is also important for coordination across ministries,” the human rights official said.

“That is one of the challenges that we have across the Commonwealth, in terms of better coordination among ministries to push the human rights agenda more effectively.”

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