Presenters and Participants at the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice Workshop (Photo: UNDP)

Engagement and collaboration between the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC), Legal Aid Commission, representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs) and youth were recently further strengthened, during the ‘Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice Workshop’.

The workshop was held from 6 to 10 November in Korolevu, Fiji with 49 participants, with 51% of participants female, and participants also including 5 deaf persons and 1 person living with disability.  The participants came from across Fiji, with 55% of the participants coming from outside Suva, and representing 25 different organizations. 

To support the awareness and promotion of human rights and access to justice at the grassroots levels, the Community Advocates for Human Rights and Access to Justice Workshop increased the skills and knowledge of the participants and provided resources to enable them to be ‘advocates of change’. The workshop was supported by the European Union (EU) funded Fiji Access to Justice Project, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji.    

The Director of HRADC, Ashwin Raj commented, “The workshop is a concrete expression of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission’s commitment towards constructively engaging civil society organizations and creating spaces for citizens from diverse backgrounds to shape the human rights discourse across all of Fiji.”

The facilitator for the workshop, National Coordinator at Street Law South Africa, Lindi Coetzee said, “The five-day training programme focused on improving facilitation skills of participants, equipping them to provide accompaniment advocacy and awareness-raising services to the HRADC, and in the area of access to justice. The aim is to improve human rights and legal literacy levels which will better the access to justice in Fiji.”

This workshop builds on six consultations led by the HRADC, and supported by the Fiji Access to Justice Project with NGOs, CSOs and youth, conducted between February and August 2017 in locations across Fiji (Labasa, Savusavu, Lautoka and Suva). These past consultations have collectively engaged 290 participants (58% female), with 71% of those consulted being from outside of Suva.  These previous six consultations increased knowledge on access to justice, human rights and the role of the HRADC; with participants demonstrating a strong desire for greater collaboration and networking between NGOs, CSOs, youth and the HRADC to deliver services at the community level throughout Fiji.

Country Director and Head of Regional Policy and Programme for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Bakhodir Burkhanov commented, “This workshop ably demonstrated grassroots engagement involving a diverse range of participants from civil society and youth hailing from across Fiji. Collaboration between institutions such as the HRADC and civil society for accompaniment services further enhances the flow of awareness on human rights and access to justice from the centre to periphery. This enables reaching the furthest behind first, with a focus on delivery of services to all, and contributes to a robust foundation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The workshop concluded with agreed plans for the next stage of collaboration between HRADC, NGOs, CSOs, youth and other stakeholders for a range of innovative and interactive Human Rights Day 2017 Advocacy activities to be undertaken across Fiji during the period 2 to 9 December 2017.

The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports access to justice for impoverished and vulnerable groups through empowering people to access legal rights and services through the relevant key justice institutions, in conjunction with strengthening the key justice institutions to undertake improved service delivery. The workshop was organized and delivered by UNDP as a part of the EU-funded Fiji Access to Justice Project.

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