The EHRC is an independent statutory body with responsibilities under the Commission for Equality &Human Rights Ordinance 2015. It reports to Elected Members through the Social & Community Development Committee and liaises with the Civil Service through the Chief Secretary.
In terms of SHG’s 10 year plan, the EHRC plays a pivotal role in assisting in achieving the Altogether Safer objective. For the period April 2019 to March 2022 the EHRC will focus on the four priorities outlined in our Strategic Plan. Through consultation and the evidence gathered during the previous strategic cycle (2016-2019) we identified areas for development of human rights on St Helena and for the Commission’s development to meet those challenges. These priorities also take into account our mandate, expertise and the current needs in our community along with SHG’s 10 Year Plan.
The Strategic Plan sets the direction for our work towards achieving our vision and mission.
Introduction written by the Chair of the commission Annina van Neel.
“The past year has seen very public debate both internationally and here on island on issues that are at the heart of what the EHRC stands for: the right to access cultural sites and goods; raising awareness on the systemic racial inequities that exist locally and globally and the value of a democratic society founded on a robust and relevant constitution. We have worked across all of these issues and helped bring a human rights focus to SHG policies and practices, to planning and economic development decisions and to the proposed government reform.
Covid-19 concerns dominated the year and the EHRC worked with the team protecting the island and advised on human rights issues on travel restrictions, quarantine and other regulations. The Commission has a robust contingency plan in place to enable it to continue working should the virus reach St Helena.
This year the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) voted unanimously first to alter their mandate to include the Overseas Territories and then, again unanimously to admit the St Helena EHRC as a member, so far the first and only such organisation to achieve this status. The Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions is a member-led network of human rights institutions, ombudsmen, and public defenders who protect, promote and advance human rights within their respective countries. By providing a united voice on human rights priorities, together we are able to influence the regional and global human rights agenda and learn from our colleagues to develop the access to human rights and best practice on St Helena.
Additionally, the Commission has extended its reach to the local community by creating an EHRC website that is designed and maintained in a manner that allows for greater accessibility to human rights related resources for all. Furthermore, we now release monthly newsletters and weekly noticeboards items, ensuring that the community is educated and made aware of relevant, urgent and local human rights matters that impact them.
This year the EHRC has devoted the majority of our focus to ensuring that the constitutional and government reform is conducted according to international human rights standards. The EHRC agrees that a more open, transparent and accountable method of governing our island is necessary in order to respond properly in reasonable timescales to situations as they arise. The Commission will continue to monitor the process of reform as it needs to be based on the broad participation of all parts of society in an objective manner.
Much of our work continues to be helping individuals resolve their issues of discrimination and other Constitutional issues. This year we took 142 enquiries, raising 156 discrete issues. Most complaints were related to issues pertaining to Government Landlord Housing, with the next most common areas of complaint being issues with benefits, complaints related to the prison and /or police and concerns related to employment in both the private and public sectors. We use what we learn through our individual dispute resolution service to advocate for changes to the structures, systems and policies that entrench inequality. During the course of the next year the Commission will be reviewing the
St Helena Equality and Human Rights Commission Annual Report 2020-21. A Citizen’s Complaints division to facilitate a more efficient use of resources by tackling recurring themes strategically for a greater long-term resolution.
Promoting and protecting human rights on Saint Helena is extremely rewarding work where real improvements to people’s lives are made on a daily basis. The Commission prides itself on fortifying our talented and dedicated staff and commissioners, committed to cultivating a human rights culture for ALL.“
In 2020–21 we undertook a wide range of work under these functions, as well as projects that aim to increase the impact of our work and build a stronger, more effective organisation.