Fiji in Top UN Body

We’re first Pa­cific Is­land na­tion to be­come a mem­ber of the hu­man rights coun­cil

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - ASHNA KU­MAR and DEPTFO

Fiji’s lead­er­ship in ad­vanc­ing and pro­tect­ing hu­man rights re­ceived ma­jor in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion yes­ter­day at the UN Head­quar­ters in New York, where Fiji won its bid for a seat on the United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (UNHRC).

Fiji is the first Pa­cific Is­land Na­tion elected to the UNHRC, the world’s fore­most body in pro­tect­ing and pro­mot­ing hu­man rights.

In a re­mark­able dis­play of global con­fi­dence, Fiji re­ceived 187 votes,

the sec­ond high­est votes among all can­di­date coun­tries and only one vote shy of the high­est num­ber of votes over­all.

The Hu­man Rights Coun­cil is an in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal body within the UN sys­tem that is charged with the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of all hu­man rights around the world. It makes rec­om­men­da­tions on how to ad­dress hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and has the abil­ity to dis­cuss all the­matic hu­man right is­sues and sit­u­a­tions.

Fiji’s mem­ber­ship will start on Jan­uary 1, 2019, and last for a term of three years.

Fiji will as­sume its seat on the back of a proud 40-year legacy of UN Peace­keep­ing, the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of seven of the core hu­man rights con­ven­tions and ma­jor po­si­tions of global lead­er­ship.

These in­clude the pres­i­dency of COP23, the co-host of the first-ever UN Con­fer­ence on Oceans, Chair of the G77 Plus China, pres­i­dent of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly and, most re­cently, the chair of the World Bank Small States Fo­rum. Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama said: “We are hon­oured to take up this seat on the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil and grate­ful to the global com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing many in­ter­na­tional civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, for their strong back­ing of our can­di­dacy.

“Our 187 votes are a pow­er­ful recog­ni­tion of Fiji’s un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the fun­da­men­tal rights of all global cit­i­zens,” he said.

“It is also tes­ta­ment to our tremen­dous progress on the home front, where we have en­shrined a vast ar­ray of hu­man, po­lit­i­cal and so­cioe­co­nomic rights in the 2013 Fi­jian Con­sti­tu­tion.

“Where we are bring­ing se­cu­rity, op­por­tu­nity and dig­nity to Fi­jians who his­tor­i­cally have lan­guished on the mar­gins of our so­ci­ety, and where we are steadily mov­ing to­wards a fu­ture that is free of racism, nepo­tism and priv­i­lege.” At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Aiyaz SayedKhaiyum wel­comed Fiji’s suc­cess­ful bid as an af­fir­ma­tion of Fiji’s un­prece­dented in­vest­ment in the growth of so­cial wages to re­alise the so­cioe­co­nomic rights of all Fi­jians.

“In Fiji, we’ve al­ready rat­i­fied seven of the nine core hu­man rights con­ven­tions, with plans to com­plete rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the re­main­ing two con­ven­tions in our par­lia­men­tary ses­sions fol­low­ing our na­tional elec­tions,” he said.

“We are also re­al­is­ing - in a very prac­ti­cal man­ner - the so­cioe­co­nomic rights of all Fi­jians through our tar­geted in­vest­ment in the growth so­cial wages. “Through our na­tional bud­gets, we’ve set aside his­toric fund­ing to­wards those who are vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety, to pro­tect their hu­man rights en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion.

“These are the right to ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, equal jus­tice, ad­e­quate food, clean wa­ter, de­cent hous­ing and many other fun­da­men­tal rights for hu­man progress and dig­nity.” The Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Fiji to the UN in Geneva, Am­bas­sador Nazhat Shameem Khan, said this achieve­ment was es­pe­cially im­por­tant for the coun­cil as an in­clu­sive and truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive body, ca­pa­ble of hear­ing the voices of all States, no mat­ter what the size, and of hear­ing the sto­ries of di­verse hu­man rights jour­neys. The Fiji Hu­man Rights and An­tiDis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion di­rec­tor Ash­win Raj said the achieve­ment was sig­nif­i­cant not only for Fiji, but also for the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil.

“Be­cause Fiji’s mem­ber­ship will strengthen the fab­ric of the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil by recog­nis­ing the di­verse hu­man rights con­cerns of small is­land de­vel­op­ing states (SIDS),” Mr Raj said.

“Not only is this a vic­tory for SIDS, but this is the first time that a Pa­cific Small Is­lands De­vel­op­ing State (PSIDS) has joined the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil as a mem­ber.

“To­day’s de­ci­sive vic­tory is a fur­ther cat­a­lyst for the na­tional hu­man rights com­mis­sion and civil so­ci­ety to hold govern­ment ac­count­able in ful­fill­ing its com­mit­ment to­wards the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights in Fiji,” Mr Raj said. Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion Party leader Bi­man Prasad said the party wel­comed Fiji’s election as a mem­ber of the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil.

“I made it clear in Par­lia­ment this year that we fully sup­port Fiji’s bid to be­come a mem­ber of the UNHRC, but at the same time urged Govern­ment to fully ad­here and re­spect all fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights and free­doms,” Mr Prasad said. “There should be no lim­i­ta­tions and re­stric­tions what­so­ever on any ba­sic hu­man right and free­dom. “Hav­ing said this we note that coun­tries with far more du­bi­ous record have held mem­ber­ship on the UNHRC.

“We also ex­pect the next govern­ment to fully in­ves­ti­gate all breaches of hu­man rights in the last 12 years.”

Haus of Khameleon (Les­bian, Gay, Bi­sex­ual, Trans­gen­der ac­tivist group) board co-chair Sulique Waqa said that there had been some mixed re­ac­tions over the years re­gard­ing Fiji’s bid to be a mem­ber of the coun­cil. How­ever, Fiji’s mem­ber­ship pro­vided a more ef­fec­tive ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism in terms of the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of the hu­man rights of its peo­ple. Ms Waqa fur­ther added that this mech­a­nism also pro­vided an av­enue for cit­i­zens to lobby and voice out any hu­man rights con­cerns at the UNHRC through its civil so­ci­ety en­gage­ment mech­a­nism. Unity Fiji party leader Save­naca Narube said: “It is a good thing for Fiji to get a seat at the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil as it is the first time for Fiji.”

HOPE pres­i­dent and party leader Tupou Drau­nidalo said: “The United Na­tions owes Fiji a lot of money for peace­keep­ing and the costs of our main­tain­ing a mil­i­tary for their use.

“HOPE would pre­fer the United Na­tions re­pay us those hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for our econ­omy, wages, schools, and hos­pi­tals rather than giv­ing us a seat on a coun­cil with other hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors.”

SODELPA gen­eral sec­re­tary Adi Li­tia Qion­i­bar­avi said yes­ter­day she would re­spond later.

Fiji Labour Party leader Ma­hen­dra Chaudhry could not be reached to com­ment.

Fiji’s Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions and other or­gan­i­sa­tions in Geneva and Am­bas­sador to Switzer­land Nazhat Shameem-Khan (front left) and Fiji Hu­man Rights and Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion di­rec­tor Ash­win Raj (front right) with other mem­bers of the Fi­jian del­e­ga­tion at the UN.

The Fi­jian del­e­ga­tion in New York.

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