UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, Bakhodir Burkhanov: Early Access to Justice - Awareness Raising and Discussion with NGOs and CSOs in Fiji

Feb 17, 2017

Hon.  Chief Justice, Commissioner of Police, Director of Public Prosecutions, Director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Head of EU Delegation for the Pacific

Representatives from NGOs and CSOs, representatives of partner institutions

Friends and colleagues:

A very good morning to you all!

Firstly, I would like to express UNDP’s thanks to the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission for bringing us all together this morning. This is an important dialogue that is meant to enable civil society to contribute views, ideas and solutions to strengthening the access to justice in Fiji.

UNDP has been actively involved in supporting stakeholders in Fiji to improve early access to justice in the criminal justice processes. Today’s event is a recognition that civil society is a key stakeholder in this process – one that has the knowledge of real-life human experiences; possesses expertise in rights issues; and has the energy and passion to contribute to and shape the debate.

Part of today’s agenda focuses on the pilot of the first-hour procedure. It is encouraging to hear from the previous speakers of the progress made on this initiative to date. Access to justice during the early stages of the criminal justice process is crucial in protecting people at a time when they are most vulnerable. It ensures they are treated with respect and dealt with fairly. It strengthens the criminal justice institutions to be more responsive to the needs of citizens they serve and, indeed, accountable to the people. 

At the Police Custody workshop yesterday, the distinguished Chief of Police talked about the role of Police as “duty-bound to serve“ the people without prejudice. While the police is only one of the actors in the justice sector, I can think of no better analogy to describe the relationship between officials and citizenry.

Civil society organizations are a vital link in enabling access to justice that can facilitate the realization of people’s aspirations, and advocate policy change when it is needed. CSOs and NGOs can help make connections between the roles of officials as duty bearers, and people as rights holders. I hope today’s event will be the first of many interactions to have your say in the important area of access to justice, but also on other development issues.

From the broader perspective, access to justice is both an enabler for development and an outcome of development in its own right. As such, it is prominent in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which the Fiji Government has fully endorsed. Early access to justice in the criminal justice processes directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, including access to justice for all, as well as Goal 5 which targets gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge the important support from the EU-funded Fiji Access to Justice Project, which has supported some of this work. I would also like to recognize the British High Commission for the facilitation of Police Officers from the Norfolk Constabulary to support training initiatives, and the Association for the Prevention of Torture – for technical support to the awareness raising undertaken yesterday on Police Custody.

Thank you for your attention.

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