Community leaders gathered to participate in the human rights training (Photo: UNDP)


Nadi, Fiji – Community leaders from the Western Division of Fiji, including leaders of youth groups, women’s groups and faith-based organizations, Turaga- ni-Koro and Advisory Councillors (heads of community governance), coaches and managers of sporting teams, commemorated Human Rights Day on 10 December together with human rights experts from the government and civil society. The celebration also marked the culmination of a four-day training on human rights facilitated by the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and funded by the European Union (EU).

Community leaders actively engaged in the training sessions and learned about how to apply a human rights-based approach to the issues that matter in their daily lives at the community level. Participants discussed some key topics including women’s rights and children’s rights at community level in relation to cultural and traditional values; and meaningful participation of youth, women and persons with disabilities in community development. The legal frameworks and mechanisms for access to justice were also highlighted during the sessions.

The training programme conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) convenes experts and creates a space where they can share their knowledge and skills on human rights and access to justice mechanisms with members of communities. This contributes to promoting a platform of engagement at the grassroots level for public legal rights education and outreach with leaders of various community groups, who are well placed to ‘reach the most vulnerable first’.

The UNDP supported training was enriched by the experts who shared their knowledge and experience to strengthen awareness raising on human rights and improve access to justice. These partnerships have been developed through the Fiji Access to Justice Project and include members of the Judicial Department, the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji National Sports Commission, and civil society organizations (CSOs) that provide justice support services for marginalized populations, namely persons living with disabilities and survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The CSOs include Empower Pacific, Fiji Association of the Deaf, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation and Medical Services Pacific.

Beyond standard training programmes, this training is unique in that participants receive training on development and delivery of their own community outreach initiatives, drawing on expertise from the Human Rights Commission and other partners. This was included in the daily training programme and the participants visited four selected communities with the experts and engaged in human rights discussions with community members.

The training combined sports activities as a method of human rights awareness raising. By engaging in sports, participants learned effective communication and engagement with others and experience basic human rights principles.

A team from the Fiji National Sports Commission facilitated some of the training sessions (Photo: UNDP)
Participants discussed some key topics including women’s rights (Photo: UNDP)
Sports activities were one of the methods to learn human rights principles (Photo: UNDP)


Visila Lagilagi, one of the participants, who is a boxer and uses boxing coaching for self-defence and empowerment for girls and women at grassroots level, explained the effectiveness of sport coaching for youth engagement. “It may be a unique method for human rights training, and it is very effective method as sports are so integrated in youth participation and leadership development in Fiji. I encourage young people to learn from engaging in sports activities equal participation, respect for the rules and other players, and importantly empowerment of themselves.”

The training was joined by the representatives of the Fiji Access to Justice project partners at the opening of the training sessions.

Sharing some of the pressing human rights issues in communities the Commission deals with, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director Ashwin Raj urged participants to hold institutions accountable to Fijian citizens and stay vigilant to disinformation and misinformation that deliberately try to divide people and dissuade them from accessing institutions for remedy. “It is your rights, the Human Rights Commission is your institution. We must always put our common humanity first and never allow our diverse identities to divide us", he added.

The importance of engaging in human rights awareness was also highlighted by Dr. Michal Krejza, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Pacific. “The EU is firmly committed to the effective integration of essential human rights principles into all of our development work with partner countries including Fiji. Better respect of human rights translates into more freedom, more prosperity, more security and more international interaction in the long term, which is beneficial for EU-Pacific relations. I reaffirm the EU’s support for your efforts to strengthen concrete actions towards respecting and protecting your own and other people’s human rights.”

In response to the challenges paused by the impact of the pandemic, an opportunity arising to build forward better was emphasized by the Regional Representative of the UN Human Rights Office for the Pacific, Heike Alefsen in her message.

 “The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the human-rights based targets leaders and citizens of the world set to achieve by 2030, have this year received a grievous blow. In order to safeguard achievements and ensure that we do not let anyone fall further behind, countries must create equal opportunities for all, invest in reducing discrimination and inequalities, ensure participation and rebuild more sustainably. This can be done by applying human rights standards to tackle the challenge at this critical juncture.”

A message was shared by Dr. Michal Krejza, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Pacific (Photo: UNDP)
A message was shared by Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director Ashwin Raj (Photo: UNDP)
A message was shared by Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji (Photo: UNDP)

 

Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji thanked the participants, experts and partners saying, “Fiji is treasured by your generous support, active engagement and willingness to share your knowledge and experiences each other.”

“I believe your engagement in the activities for which we are gathered today, will move us a step forward towards our common goal upholding everyone’s human rights and solidarity across diversity,” he added.

Concluding the human rights training, each participant received a certificate of participation and shared their human rights message by writing it on the message banners. They made each plan of action to take what they learned during the training to more members of communities in each field to spread human rights-based approach. 

The training programme, Community Advocates for Human Rights, has been developed as part of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, which is funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Judicial Department, the Legal Aid Commission and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.

The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports access to justice, in particular for impoverished and vulnerable groups. It does so by empowering people to access their legal rights and services, strengthening key justice institutions to deliver improved services, and strengthening the capacity of civil society to deliver justice accompaniment services, with a special focus on supporting persons with disabilities and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

The project aims to contribute to the achievement of the 17 SDGs, with a focus on Goal 5: Gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls; and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.

For media queries, please contact:

Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Advocacy and Outreach, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, email: tomoko.kashiwazaki@undp.org; tel: +679 942 2193  

Kamni Narayan, EU Communications Unit, email: kamni.narayan@eeas.europa.eu; tel: +679 3313 633 ext. 115 or Mohammed-Nazeem Kasim, email: Mohammed-Nazeem.KASIM@eeas.europa.eu; tel: +679 3313 633 ext. 110 or mobile: +679 9920 597

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