Suva, Fiji - An agreement to support the Government of Fiji’s National Initiative on Civic Education was signed today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the New Zealand High Commission in Fiji.

The three year National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE) aims to facilitate civic rights awareness and information on national governance, civic responsibility building and participation in national governance through participation in national and municipality elections in the wider community of Fiji. 

The UNDP Resident Representative, Richard Dictus, and the Acting New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Joanna Kempkers, signed the agreement at the UNDP office in Suva today.  Key stakeholders witnessed the signing, Mr Dictus said the initiative is timely because it will support the voter education needs for Fiji's elections in 2009 and the country's return to democracy.

"It will also contribute towards improving peoples' understanding of the democratic systems, institutions and processes used in the country.  It should also support the democratic participation of the different communities in the country," Mr Dictus said.

The initiative will form a component of the UNDP's wider Good Governance Programme that includes support towards strengthened Parliament Secretariat and development of civic education curriculum in schools.

Ms Kempkers said New Zealand's contribution to the UNDP Good Governance Programme will increase over the next three years to around FJD$4.6 million (NZ$4 million). Of that FJD$2.3m will go towards the  National Initiative on Civic Education.

"New Zealand is pleased to be the primary donor of the community civics and curriculum development aspects of the National Initiative on Civic Education," Ms Kempkers said. "New Zealand views the provision of this support as a unique opportunity to assist with developing a fair and robust environment for the future development of Fiji."

Mark Borg has been appointed as the manager of the National Initiative on Civic Education.  He has previously been involved in electoral work in Fiji and overseas and has worked with the UNDP in the Pacific, Mr Borg will be joined by a team of three national and three international United Nations Volunteers (UNVs).  The team will work closely with the Government, non-state actors and the private sector in Fiji.

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