Australian High Commission Regional Counsellor - Political and Economic Development, Ms Renee Deschamps (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

Nadi, Fiji - Access to justice is a clear priority in the Pacific region and South-South Cooperation initiatives are the bold means to strengthen cooperation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Pacific Regional Conference, convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), endorsed regional level South-South cooperation for programming to enhance rule of law and access to justice, with support from the Australian Government.

Key national justice sector officials from 11 Pacific island countries (PICs), including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, met to discuss challenges in the existing systems and practices, with an eye toward development of potential solutions over two days, 7-8 March in Nadi, Fiji.

The regional delegates agreed that strengthening the populations’ ability to understand their legal rights and the mechanisms in place to assist them is a key element in improving access to justice for vulnerable populations and the population in general across the region.

Ms Ernestine Rengiil, Attorney General for the Republic of Palau, one of 22 participants from the region said, “the mapping of the state of access to justice in the region shared in this Conference was useful for us to identify the areas we need to address further. Training for the police and human rights in prisons would be among the issues we need to look at. Regional cooperation for access to justice is necessary to overcome the limited resources in Palau.”

The regional initiatives seek to focus on the rule of law situation across the Pacific through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5, which commits governments to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and SDG 16, which seeks 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.

Ms Emestine Rengiil, Attorney General for the Republic of Palau (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)
Participants at the Pacific Regional Rule of Law Conference in Nadi (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)
UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative a.i. Vineet Bhatia (Photo: UNDP/Tomoko Kashiwazaki)

Ms. Renee Deschamps, Australian High Commission to Fiji, Counsellor Regional Political and Economic Development, said, “this initiative of regional cooperation for rule of law is part of and will further strengthen Pacific regionalism. The Australian Government is pleased to provide support to promote regional public goods where development partners and stakeholders can play a lead role in identifying solutions to address the SDGs.

The mapping of access to justice and rule of law programming in the Pacific was conducted by UNDP with funding support from the Australian Government.  It was presented at the Conference to outline ongoing development support and identify areas at national and regional level where targeted programming support could prove beneficial.

The mapping captures existing programming, legislation and institutions relevant to the rule of law and access to justice, the recent and current major development initiatives in this area, and the technical and institutional gaps that challenge access to justice in 14 PICs.

UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Mr Vineet Bhatia said, “UNDP sees this kind of cooperation as an accelerator and multiplier of sustainable development. And as the leading development agency in the UN system, UNDP plays a key role as a catalyst of South-South cooperation."

“Drawing on its successful experience of supporting rule of law institutions in Fiji (and globally) in promoting access to justice and legal reform to fight discrimination and address emerging issues, the UNDP Pacific Office is planning to extend its support more widely, he added.

The conference initiated stronger coordination within the justice sector in the Pacific region to facilitate potential bilateral and regional programming, and lay the foundation for support to future South-South Cooperation in the justice sector.

For more information, please contact:

Andrew Harrington, Access to Justice Programme Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | Tel:  +679 331 2500 | Email:

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