Youth and non-government organisation representatives at the dialogue on human rights and access to justice (Photo: UNDP)

Awareness-raising on human rights and access to justice was the underlying theme for dialogues with youth and non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Western and Northern Divisions of Fiji in July 2017. 

Led by the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC), these workshops were supported by the European Union funded Fiji Access to Justice Project, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

These consultations were timely and of special relevance in relation to International Youth Day, which is on 12 August 2017. As dynamic stakeholders in rising numbers, the youth are critical agents for affecting positive change in the Pacific. This makes the youth important advocates of change in the promotion human rights and anti-discrimination related issues in their communities and as advocates for human rights.

In Fiji’s Western Division, 75 youth (40 females, 26 males and 9 transgender) from the ages of 18 to 35 years participated in workshops held in Lautoka from the 3rd to the 4th July.  In the Northern Division of Fiji, the workshops took place in Labasa on 26th July and in Savusavu on 27th July, with 50 youth participants (33 females, 13 males and 4 transgenders). The workshops were facilitated by a joint team from the HRADC and UNDP.   

In addition to raising awareness and having discussions with youth and NGOs about human rights and access to justice, the dialogues also sought to explore potential opportunities for greater collaboration with the HRADC in the advancement of human rights across all of Fiji, including engaging the youth to celebrate International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2017 across Fiji.

Youth participants at the dialogues were diverse which allowed for interesting and interactive discussions, and the opportunity for peer learning and collaboration with the HRADC on shared concerns and interests. 

HRADC Director, Mr Ashwin Raj stated, “Public engagement in Fiji’s North and West was a success in terms of the numbers and diversity of participants. 

“Children, youth groups, disabled persons, women's organizations, the LGBTI community, faith-based organizations and international organizations have been represented in the discussions.”

He added, “These workshops have raised the profile and visibility of HRADC, and increased awareness for the public – especially youth – on how to access the services and support offered by HRADC.” 

On the relevance of these dialogues for the youth, Mr Kristineel Naicker of the Ba Hart Youth Club said, “Human rights are my rights as a human being, and my responsibility as a youth and as a disabled person. It was an excellent workshop, because it was great hearing others’ points of view, knowing common issues we face, and listening to UNDP and HRADC guest speakers. 

“After the workshop, I will continue to be a part of similar initiatives to know more about human rights, and then I will share the new knowledge with my friends and Youth Club in Ba.” 

On the proceedings and outcome of the dialogue, Ms Vandana Pillay, a youth participant from Lautoka said, “This workshop was wonderful, because I now know that I have to be a fighter for human rights. After this experience, I feel more empowered to bring about good changes as a part of the youth.” 

Further dialogues with the youth and NGOs are planned under the Fiji Access to Justice Project in August and September 2017. These initiatives will focus on developing the understanding and capacity of youth to know their rights and be effective change agents, and thereby contribute to young people better meeting their potential.

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 dialogues were organized and delivered by UNDP as a part of the EU funded, Fiji Access to Justice Project.

The Fiji Government has endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which highlight the importance of access to justice as an enabler for development and an outcome of development in its own right. At Goal 16, there is commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. At Goal 5, there is commitment to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports the achievement of these goals.

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