UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director, Bakhodir Burkhanov: Address at the Project REACH Bus Commissioning

Dec 15, 2016

Honorable Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation;

Honorable Minister for Health and Medical Services;

Your Excellency the Ambassador of Japan;

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and development partner community;

Director, Legal Aid Commission;

Director, Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission;

Representatives of Fiji national institutions and civil society; 

Colleagues and friends:

A very good morning to you all.

It is my great pleasure to be here for the launch of the first Mobile Service Delivery Bus that is part of the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion for Rural and Urban Fijians Project, which we all most affectionately refer to as the REACH Project.

This Project is designed to do precisely that – to support the Government of Fiji to ‘reach out to all Fijians’ to deliver on social, economic and legal rights as enshrined in the Constitution. Indeed, the Government has prioritized the provision of these services to all, which reinforces Fiji’s commitment to and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’.

Immediately following this pledge by all UN Member States is the recognition ‘…that the dignity of the human person is fundamental’ and that the global goals and targets must be met ‘…for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society’, endeavoring ‘to reach the furthest behind first’.

The provision of Mobile Service Delivery under the REACH Project in Fiji embodies both of these aspirations by reaching the underserved first – and ultimately reaching all.

To date, through the use of existing means, the project teams, comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation; the Legal Aid Commission; UNDP; and more recently, representatives from the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, have undertaken awareness raising and service delivery across Fiji, including to maritime communities.

Over a period of twelve months, they have reached approximately 2,400 people across 22 rural districts to raise awareness of the social, economic and legal services available. 65% of these people were then immediately provided with a direct and individual service right in their homes. This is in itself a strong demonstration of the demand for and value of such a service delivery approach.

With the provision of this Bus, and a further two buses coming in early 2017, our collective ability to reach out to remote communities across Fiji will increase substantially. The custom design features of the bus, including access for the disabled, elderly and children, and the engagement of the local company to develop them, have been important elements of the process, bringing us to where we are today. Looking ahead, we see potential for increase in the scope of services that could be delivered using these Buses.

This nationally led project co-financed by the Government of Japan brings to bear UNDP’s global experience in supporting countries in the areas of effective governance, access to justice and public services’ delivery. Knowledge and lessons learned from this experience, aligned with relevant international practices, were applied in the design of the REACH Project. I wish to mention four key complimentary approaches that serve as foundations for the REACH Project:

  • First, a human rights-based approach to development, which pays particular attention to giving voice to disadvantaged people and ensuring that vulnerable groups are empowered to access, utilize and contribute to the institutions and services that are most relevant for them.
  • Second, a responsive people-centered approach, promoting the notion that people are the ultimate clients of public services, and that service delivery should be designed foremost with their needs, capacities and aspirations in mind. As such, the REACH design took into account the unique challenges and opportunities of underserved and vulnerable groups.
  • Third, in prioritizing the focus on women, the project works to promote equitable access to services, while also creating opportunities for women to develop and prosper.
  • Fourth, knowledge of institutional and policy contexts, recognizing that even the most technically sound ideas need to be grounded in clear understanding of the enabling environment at country level, in order to make a real difference in people’s lives.

The REACH Project is part of a growing portfolio of UNDP initiatives in the region and in Fiji that contribute to the realization of SDG 16, which is dedicated to the promotion of inclusive societies and accountable institutions, and the provision of access to justice for all.

In Fiji, this work would not have been possible without robust partnerships with national institutions representing the legislative, executive and judiciary branches; with constitutional bodies and civil society partners; with regional organizations, UN and development partners; and with men and women, girls and boys in communities across the country.

I would like to express UNDP’s strong appreciation to the Fiji Government and other REACH partners. This has been a truly rewarding partnership and we look forward to reaching many more milestones together. I wish to especially acknowledge the essential contribution of the Government of Japan to the success of this project thus far. Thank you for your generous support to this project and to our other initiatives in Fiji and the Pacific region.

I hope this project continues to deliver tangible development benefits to Fijians around the country. The Mobile Service Delivery initiative will, quite literally, go the extra mile to bring services to the doorsteps of people in far-flung communities.

Our big thanks to the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation for organizing today’s launch, and to Honorable Ministers – for their leadership in seeing this initiative through.

To all the guests who joined this ceremony at this busy time of the year, vinaka vaka levu, and to all clients of the REACH Bus across Fiji – welcome aboard.

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