Bakhodir Burkhanov: Fiji Parliamentarians Retreat on Key Development Issues

Aug 15, 2017

Hon. Speaker of the Parliament, Dr. Jiko Luveni

Cabinet Ministers: Hon. Laisenia Bale Tuitubou, Hon. Jone Usamate, and Hon. Semi Koroilavesau

Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Ro Teimumu Kepa

Hon. Members of Parliament

Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General and Staff of the Fiji Parliament

Resource persons from the agencies and institutions in Fiji:

Good Morning, Yadra Vinaka, Namaste and Assalamu Aleykum!

Firstly, let me say how pleased we are at UNDP to be working with the Fiji Parliament to support this Retreat on Key Development Issues. As some of you may recall, this is the third Retreat that UNDP in partnership with the Fiji Parliament has supported for the Members of Parliament. All of these have focused on key development issues that matter to Fiji and linked to Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs.

I will not dwell much on the SDGs as I understand you have had numerous briefings over the past three years and are quite well versed with this global agenda. In my few remarks, I wanted, however, to focus more on the issues that you will be covering over the course of the next two and half days.

During the retreat, you will have the opportunity to listen to, and engage in, discussions relating to: 23rd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP23; Trade, Investment and Tourism; and Development Minerals. These three topics not only have intrinsic links to the 17 SDGs, but are also reflected in Fiji’s development priorities. 

Firstly, on Climate Change and COP 23: One and a half years ago, the Paris Climate Change Agreement set the world on a new pathway toward a sustainable future.  Countries – large and small – pledged to keep global temperature rise to below 2, and ideally 1.5, degrees Celsius. Combined with other major agreements such as the SDGs and others, countries now have a new framework for transitioning to zero-carbon, resilient sustainable development.

COP 23 will be the next round of negotiations between the UN Framework Convention parties. It will be a critical step for the implementation of the Paris Accord. Delegations will begin to develop the “rulebook” for the agreement and discuss key issues for climate action. The Government of Fiji will be the first Small Island Developing state (SIDS) to assume Presidency of the COP. Fiji is, however, no stranger to the negotiations, having previously held high-level roles such as the Chair of the G77 + China, Chair of Subsidiary Body for Implementation, and having served as lead negotiators for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Fiji is uniquely positioned to lead the world to achieve a successful outcome at COP 23.

UNDP is a proud partner of the Fiji Government in its COP Presidency role. We are already providing technical expertise and drawing upon our UNFCCC expertise and experiences from our projects in the region and the country. Our goal is to support the Presidency as it solidifies progress on the implementation of Paris Agreement; raises awareness of the special circumstances of SIDS; and accelerates action and investment for sustainable development. It is our hope that Fiji leaves the lasting legacy as the COP President that brokered consensus on the ‘how’ of the Paris Agreement.

Secondly, on Trade and Tourism: In the Pacific, trade and tourism are the lifeblood of economies. They create development opportunities, generate commercial growth and investment, and can ultimately lift people out of poverty. The recent ‘Speaker’s Debate’ on the topic of tourism amply demonstrated these links and benefits to people and communities, and the importance of right policies to tap those opportunities. Globally, there are direct references to trade activities in a number of the SDGs, including: SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing), SDG 8 (decent jobs and economic growth), SDG 10 (reducing inequalities), SDGs 14 and 15 (life below water and on land), and SDG 17 (global partnership).

As Fiji continues to diversify away from traditional exports and stimulate foreign investment, the Fiji Government has noted  that total investment has been on an upward trajectory and continues to contribute 25 percent and above towards GDP. It is also encouraging that private investments are increasingly becoming an important contributor to the total mix of investments, with the incentives that have been put in place, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sector.  

No doubt this topic will be of keen interest to all Members of Parliament…

…As will be the third theme of the retreat, Development Minerals, that discusses how to translate the use of mineral resources into development benefits. As many of you would know, we began tackling the role of extractive industry in development in last year’s Retreat, which put a spotlight on effective policies, accountability frameworks and governance systems for the mining sector.

At UNDP, we have a strategy to support the sustainable and equitable management of the extractive industries. At the core of this strategy is our collaboration with country-level stakeholders to ensure that natural wealth is used to improve people’s lives and well-being. In this regard, we have a longstanding relationship with the European Union that has resulted in many successful collaborative initiatives across the world.

The ACP-EU Development Minerals Program aims to build the profile, and improve the management, of Neglected Development Minerals (industrial minerals; construction materials; dimension stones; and semi-precious stones). The program is an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, financed by the European Union and UNDP, and implemented by UNDP in a number of countries throughout the world, including Fiji.

The mining of Neglected Development Minerals is tied to SDG 9 and has important implications for sustainable development. However, to-date they have received limited attention for their potential to impact livelihoods; and few development programs have provided support for this mining sub-sector.

Often referred to as Low-Value Minerals and Materials (LVMM) due to their low price as a function of their weight, the Neglected Development Minerals are nevertheless crucial to domestic economies – for infrastructure, manufacturing, construction and agriculture, to name a few – and have the potential to be high-value in terms of national development.

A key component of the Fiji Development Minerals project has been the development of a National Roadmap towards operating standards and improved technologies in small-scale mines and quarries. Accompanying activities include information-sharing and discussion with relevant stakeholders such as the Parliament to build a climate of awareness and cooperation the implementation of the Roadmap.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Speaker’s vision and leadership in organizing this forum, and reiterate UNDP’s strong commitment as a partner of the Fiji Parliament as an institution and all of its MPs as champions of human development. UNDP’s ability to support the Fiji Parliament is thanks to the generous financial support provided to the project by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. We thank them for their unwavering commitment to UNDP’s support for the Fiji Parliament.

I also want to thank the resource personnel from the ministries, agencies and departments, regional organizations and the Parliament staff who will be presenting to you on various topics. 

This promises to be, without exaggeration, a very rich and substantial agenda.  It is wonderful to see ministries and stakeholders working so closely with the Parliament to ensure that MPs are well informed on these important issues. 

To the honorable MPs, I do hope that you find the content of the Retreat useful to you in your role as lawmakers, in providing oversight and representing citizen’s interests. I also hope that you will take some time to not only work hard, but enjoy the venue and scenery at this wonderful location.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyabaad and Shukriya. 

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