Suva, Fiji - The Fijian Government is undertaking a new initiative to strengthen its border service provision and management in its efforts to improve COVID-19 response at the borders and prepare for a potential recovery plan. The three-year project is funded by the Government of Japan and will be implemented in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The agreement was signed today by the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji His Excellency Mr. Kawakami Fumihiro and the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative, Mr Levan Bouadze.

With 464 million JPY or appx. US$ 4.2 million grant from Japan, border management agencies in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu will strengthen its capacities and frameworks for inter-agency and cross-regional cooperation and collaboration in managing international travel and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The countries’ border agencies will also benefit from specialized technical support to improve efficacy and user-friendliness of the processes and procedures for incoming and outgoing passengers at the airports.

The COVID-19 response measures introduced by Governments in Pacific island countries such as border closures, lockdowns, travel restrictions along with other national policy and fiscal measures have created significant impact on people’s livelihoods and countries’ economies, namely in tourism and shipping sectors as a core economic activity and creator of employment for countries.

According to the COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessment report published by the United Nations in the Pacific in 2020, tourism contributed to nearly 40 percent of Fiji’s GDP, and directly employed around 40,000 Fijians, and nearly 100,000 indirectly, both in the formal and informal sectors prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The severe disruption to shipping sector, which is a lifeline linking local communities to regional and global markets and sustaining local social and economic development, predicts a long-term impact on government revenue, economic growth, businesses, employment and income.

Honourable Mr Inia Seruiratu, the Minister for Defence and National Security in Fiji said that this initiative could assist Government and relevant stakeholders in enhancing their capacities and capabilities in terms of border security management, incorporating the requirements of COVID-19 protocols for both the Airports and Sea Ports.

“The support and partnership provided by Japan and UNDP will greatly complement the work of our front liners and border security agencies who are currently working tirelessly behind the scenes in combatting this virus across the country,” Hon. Seruiratu said.

The project will provide border agencies in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu with small infrastructure support and technical assistance. It includes provision of information and communications technology (ICT) solutions to streamline the procedures and facilitate contactless and paperless services; and setting up quarantine and isolation facilities and personal protective equipment for border agencies personnel. It also provides technical assistance to strengthen regional coordination, through an established multi-sectoral taskforce, for improved risk management and sound recovery plan at the state level.

In his remarks at the signing ceremony, His Excellency Mr. Kawakami Fumihiro, the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji, said, “For the safe re-opening of borders and recovery of their tourism industries, Pacific nations will need strategic collaboration with other countries and partners to oversee cross-border travel as well as address the dangers of the pandemic.”

“With the safe re-opening of borders, the quality of people’s daily lives will be restored to pre-pandemic standards.”

“At the 9th Pacific Islands Leaders Meetings (PALM 9), the Leaders Declaration was issued and ‘Joint Action Plan for Strengthening Pacific Bonds and for Mutual Prosperity’ was endorsed. In this Joint Action Plan, the support toward safe border reopening was included in the actions for ‘the COVID-19 Response and Recovery’, the first pillar of Japan’s cooperation. I would like to emphasise that the project signed today will materialize the action plan, in the area of safe border re-opening,” said H.E. Mr. Kawakami.

The three-year project will see multi-sectoral cooperation strengthened among Customs and Immigration Authorities, Police Border Units, Border Health Units, Port and Maritime Authorities, COVID-19 Taskforce Coordination bodies, and other law enforcement agencies involved in managing borders.

Mr Levan Bouadze, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the urgency of more resilient and efficient regional cooperation in legal, technical and operational efforts of all countries in the region. We can see that many countries around the globe have introduced various risk management or containment measures after the outbreak of the virus back in early 2020, however it often created significant delays and bottlenecks in cross-border operations."  

"Through this project, UNDP will work with the Governments of Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu in addressing some bottlenecks based on lessons from the past, and introducing evidence-based frameworks and solutions to protect people travelling to and from the region and enable governments to be better equipped for that in coming years.” 

 

Mr Bouadze thanked the Government of Japan for the generous support and cooperation and the Governments of Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu for the continued partnership and collaboration for sustainable recovery from the pandemic and long-term development. 

Through achieving the outcomes of the initiative, Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu will enhance the progress towards respective Sustainable Development Goals with focus on SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals.

For media queries, please contact:

Fijian Government: Mrs Silina Cama, Deputy Secretary for Ministry of Defence, National Security and Policing; tel.: +679 9905886; email: silinanavokacama@govnet.gov.fj

Peni Saurara, Economic Affairs and Cooperation Division, Embassy of Japan; tel.:  +679 330 4633; email: peni.saurara@fj.mofa.go.jp

Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Project Advocacy and Communications, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; tel.: +679 715 8051; email: tomoko.kashiwazaki@undp.org

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