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Delegates pose for a photograph after the singing of the Samoa Agreement in Samoa last week.
Delegates pose for a photograph after the singing of the Samoa Agreement in Samoa last week.
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By Observer

A quick look at the agreement suggests that it replaces the Cotonou Agreement, which expired in 2020 after running its 20-year course. The Cotonou agreement replaced the Lome Convention of 1975.

After reactions and responses to an iWitness News story on this new Samoa Agreement flared up, subsequent responses to those suggest that the agreement does not tie SVG to what is suggested in the news story. Particularly, things like abortion and same-sex relations.

As it states in the agreement: “This Agreement shall contribute to achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015 (the “2030 Agenda”), and the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, done at Paris on 12 December 2015 (the “Paris Agreement”), as overarching frameworks guiding the partnership under this Agreement.”

SVG has already signed on to the UN SDGs. In fact, one could argue that this commitment is what’s dictating some of the actions and decisions that we’ve seen recently by the government, appointing young females to senior positions.  Goal number 5 calls for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. When the government borrowed from the Caribbean Development Bank to build the port, as part of its justification for funding, it told the CDB that the port will help the government to meet its sustainable development goals (gender equality, etc). Perhaps this means that you may see another young female in a senior position at this new port, whenever it is completed. One would think that the government must prove to the CDB that its funding is supporting gender equality.

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Now, here we are seeing these buzz words again in this new agreement, but the reaction that we’ve seen to the iWitness News story points to the agreement not mentioning anything about abortion, same-sex relationships and transgender rights.

While that may be true, these agreements typically tend to be diplomatic in nature. It’s like an IMF consultation report and other documentation you may see published about a country. For example, the agreement may not explicitly say “abortion”. What it may refer to instead is “family planning”, like here: “The Parties shall ensure that the rights of women and girls are respected and promoted. They shall strengthen their social rights, in particular in the areas of health and education, including access to family planning services.” Notice it says “shall”, just like SVG’s constitution.

Exactly how does SVG plan to promote and respect the rights of women and girls by including access to family planning services?

It probably won’t make direct references to “same sex” or “transgender” either. Instead, it may be plastered with references to [sexual] “identity”, or “identity-based” matters, like here: “The Parties shall address all forms of identity-based violence, including sexual, gender-based, inter-communal, ethnic and religious violence. They shall support reconciliation processes through transitional justice mechanisms, including traditional or customary practices, where and when they are not incompatible with internationally recognised human rights. They shall provide support to all victims of violence.”

“The Parties shall ensure that violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, as well as the recruitment of child soldiers and sexual and gender and identity-based violence, are properly investigated and prosecuted. They shall strengthen domestic legislation and domestic judicial systems, including through effective inter-state cooperation and mutual legal assistance for States wishing to conduct domestic prosecutions of the most serious international crimes.”

Exactly how does SVG plan to strengthen its domestic laws to address identity-based violence?

It may also make references to other declarations, like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the UNESCO Technical guidance on sexual education. The Samoa agreement states: “They shall further stress the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and education, taking into consideration the UNESCO international technical guidance on sexuality education, as well as the need for the delivery of relevant health-care services.”

The actual UNESCO guidance states this:” …Additionally, CSE [Comprehensive Sexual Education] empowers young people to take responsibility for their own decisions and behaviours, and the ways in which they may affect others. It builds the skills and attitudes that enable young people to treat others with respect, acceptance, tolerance and empathy, regardless of their ethnicity, race, social, economic or immigration status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.”

When the SAMOA agreement states that the UNESCO guidance on sexuality education shall be considered, exactly what does that mean for SVG?

These are just some parts of the agreement, directly related to the local uproar. We encourage you to read and connect the dots. Maybe it’s time that our leaders come straight with us, even though we know that won’t happen. There’s a political price to pay, though it’s a place of acceptance where SVG will eventually end up. The buggery case against the government will be another one in the bag for Jomo. The topics are ticklish and adds a sourness to our moral recipe; though it does not cause lost sleep to many Vincentians living in developed countries around the world.

We look forward to further discussion on this agreement, particular to see how the government “shall” abide by the articles in the agreement.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “Shall — The SAMOA Agreement”

  1. The point remains that the legalization of abortion, same-sex relationships and transgender rights are not specifically mentioned in the agreement. And even if they were, there is nothing wrong in protecting people’s basic human rights. A lot of what is written in the agreement itself is up for interpretation and many of words and phrases used are broad in scope, not specific.

  2. Jehua Bsrbado you are right in your interpretation that many things in the agreement are coded and subject to interpretation. This will make it easier for the courts to say hold the government has signed onto these agreements and thus use as a vehicle to make legislative changes. Regardless to what they signed to , the citizens of St Vincent will not tolerate this kind of behavior. To the extent certain people as yourself will have to take cover.

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