SPEECH: CONCLUDING STATEMENT AT THE INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON FIJI’S 2ND UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

Bula Vinaka and Good afternoon

This has been a wonderful opportunity to present to the Human Rights Council the enormous strides that Fiji has made in Human Rights in a short period of time, and in particular since the promulgation of our Constitution. It has also allowed Fiji to share with the Council the emerging human rights issues that Fiji believes the Council needs to give urgent attention. These include trans-border impacts on human rights because of climate change, asylum policies and consequences of free trade agreements on socio-economic rights.

In this sense, Mr. President, this forum has facilitated a discussion on human rights within Fiji which allowed a holistic assessment of human rights priorities, challenges and solutions. Immediately following our interactive dialogue on Wednesday, we held discussions with interested civil society groups at the Fijian mission on how to fully engage with each other to advance human rights in a tangible manner on the ground, in Fiji. The Fijian Government was pleased to be able to facilitate this discussion, and unlike in the past, we hope that civil society will now fully engage with us in a constructive and substantive manner.

We would like to thank the troika members – Japan, Namibia and the Russian Federation, as well as the UPR Secretariat, for working with us on our review and we thank the Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan, Ambassador Ms Misako Kaji, for presenting our report this afternoon. As she has said, Fiji is pleased to accept 98 out of the 137 recommendations made by the States during the review. Of the 98, we are already compliant with 12 recommendations. For the remaining 39 recommendations, it is necessary to either consult with the relevant independent institutions, or to refer them to relevant government agencies for input.

Mr. President, it should be noted that the Fijian Constitution entrenches the separation of powers and strengthens and affirms the independence of institutions such as the Judiciary, the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Police Force. Thus, the need to consult these institutions, where appropriate.

Mr. President, Fiji is committed to working in partnership with all stakeholders to promote the dignity and rights of all Fijians. We uphold the democratic values underpinning our Constitution, and in particular those in section 3(1) of our Constitution which states, “ Any person interpreting or applying this Constitution must promote the spirit, purpose and objects of this Constitution as a whole, and the values that underlie a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.”

Mr. President, human dignity, equality and freedom and indeed democracy can only be truly realized if we have the full implementation of not just civil and political but also social, economic and cultural rights. We note that many developed States in particular, advocate for only civil and political rights, and many times, this at the expense of socio-economic or subsistence rights. Fiji, like many other developing States, believes that if these rights are not holistically implemented, we will never be able to fully achieve civil and political rights.

Because after all, Mr. President, if a person does not have access to clean drinking water, if a person lives in abject poverty, if a person does not have a roof over his/her head, does not have access to education, if a family does not get a square meal a day, then how can we expect to claim that there is equality, that there is freedom and that there is human dignity? Indeed, how can we expect to have true democracy and stable institutions of the State?

Mr. President, before I conclude, I wish to thank the interpreters for their service.

Mr. President, I thank you once again for this opportunity.

Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.

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