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Public accountability most serious concern for Maltese human rights NGOs

Human Rights platform launches annual report calling for the protection of the rights of all amid concerns of institutional abuses of power


Amy Micallef Decesare
7 September 2017, 8:46am
A general deterioration of the relationship between human rights NGOs and the government have further increased worries among PHROM member organisations
A general deterioration of the relationship between human rights NGOs and the government have further increased worries among PHROM member organisations
Today, the Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM) released its Annual Report on the state of the nation’s human rights in 2016, warning that bad governance could expose Maltese society to greater insecurity when it compares to safeguarding the rights of all its members.

The third edition of PHROM’s Annual Human Right Report, ‘Protecting Human Rights, Curbing the Rule of Power’, presents an overview of the major human rights developments and challenges in 2016 from the diverse perspective of 31 far-ranging PHROM Member Organisations, all human rights NGOs.


For the second consecutive year, the PHROM report reveals that the escalation of events disclosing lack of transparency and accountability within public institutions represents the most serious concern among the majority of human rights NGOs.

The weakening of democratic institutions resulting from a system of abuse of political and administrative powers, the report claims, may dangerously lower the standards and accessibility of rights - especially for marginalised or vulnerable persons – and generate more poverty, creating public distrust in the institutions responsible for protecting rights.


The research also presents insight into a diverse range of major successes and challenges in 2016 including migration, women’s rights, poverty, religious discrimination, LGBTIQ+ rights, the environment, the relationship of NGOs with the government, and hate speech.


The campaign for the ‘morning after pill’ emerges as one of the top national achievements and an important step towards the strengthening of women’s rights in Malta. Another significant success was the more collaborative advocacy strategy among NGOs that led the government U-turn on its plans to terminate the immigration status Temporary Humanitarian Protection N (THPN), and on its detention of a group of Malian undocumented migrants. The adoption of Maltese Sign Language and the implementation of the Mental Health First Aid Course are also cited among the top advancements last year.


Although these are encouraging developments, the PHROM report also highlights that inadequate or lack of policies and legal framework for issues considered top priorities – integration, migrants’ rights, homelessness, child protection, environment and reproductive health, remain key pressing obstacles for the advancement of human rights in the country. 

A general deterioration of the relationship between human rights NGOs and the government, as well as events revealing practices of bad governance, have further increased worries among PHROM Member Organisations over the actual capability of policy-makers to close those gaps and develop human rights-oriented policies. Furthermore, doubts are expressed at the capacity of the government to guarantee access to an effective justice system, protection from law enforcement agencies, and an efficient public service.


The coalition of human rights NGOs states that the key findings of their research, therefore, show that immediate action by institutional bodies and civil society is needed to combat a culture of complacency.

“We urge members of government and members of parliament to commit to a governance approach that puts at the centre of their policies the best interests of all and the protection of their rights, rather than safeguarding the privileges of a few. We finally call for the promotion of critical education as a fundamental tool for active citizenship and social change”, said Dr Neil Falzon, Head of PHROM Secretariat.

 

PHROM is Malta’s first network of human rights NGOs, currently including 31 member organisations, working on a variety of areas such as gender, mental health, children prisoners, migrants, domestic violence, LGBTIQ+, the environment and disability. It was established to provide a national forum for human rights organisations in Malta to develop, promote and advocate for the values of human dignity and equality more effectively.