By Osnat Lubrani
Honourable Chief Justice; Honourable Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications; Chairperson of the Legal Aid Commission; Head of Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific;
Members of Diplomatic corps, Representatives of Fiji national institutions and civil society,
Distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends,
A very good morning to you all….
It is my great pleasure to be here for this most important occasion. I am inspired by the remarks made by the previous speakers in launching the Fiji Access to Justice Project which will be implemented by UNDP in key partnership with the Judicial Department and the Legal Aid Commission, and with the funding of the European Union.
Access to justice has been identified as among the most pressing priorities for poverty eradication and addressing inequality and exclusion. Access to justice, as a component of a functioning justice system, is also what makes a capable, accountable state that can provide better services, and improve development for all. In September 2012, UN Member States in the General Assembly reaffirmed that the rule of law is critical for development. The importance of access to justice is also linked to addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment: both priorities acknowledged as a matter of human rights, the foundation of democracy, good governance, and a requisite foundation for robust development outcomes.
This is also reinforced in the Sustainable Development Goals which highlight the importance of access to justice as both an enabler for development and an outcome of development. Under SDG 16 there is the commitment to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. SDG 16 in its emphasis on inclusion and accountability, recognizes the nexus of politics and institutions and that on these twin pillars rest the prospects for stability, economic growth, and the ability to deliver on the expectations of ordinary citizens. Under SDG 5 there is a commitment to achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. This goals as well is relevant to Access to Justice (SDG 16) and to all other goals.
UNDP has substantive experience in supporting countries in the areas of effective democratic governance and access to justice. Knowledge and lessons learned from this extensive experience, aligned with best international practice, were discussed with the key stakeholders here in Fiji and applied in the design of this Fiji Access to Justice Project. I wish to mention four key complimentary approaches that are foundations for the Fiji Access to Justice Project:
First, a human rights based approach to development, which pays particular attention to the voice of disadvantaged and marginalized people, which places focus on ensuring that vulnerable people are empowered to utilize the institutions that are most relevant for them in obtaining justice.
Second, a service delivery and problem-solving focused approach was utilized to identify the key entry points and specific activities that are targeted to enable the Judicial Department and Legal Aid Commission to improve capacity to deliver services efficiently and effectively and respond to particular priority issues. For the Legal Aid Commission this also includes further strengthening the links with non-governmental organisations who, under the Fiji Access to Justice Project, will deliver complimentary access to justice services for impoverished and vulnerable groups to facilitate a more nuanced and rapid approach to justice-focused change.
Third, in addressing and prioritizing the particular needs of women’s access to justice, the Fiji Access to Justice Project responds to recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which emphasize equity and accessibility to services to all.
Fourth, a political economy approach to change acknowledges that the Fiji Access to Justice Project must be both technically sound but also grounded in clear understanding of the enabling environment within the justice sector and in Fiji overall.
So, in applying these approaches the Fiji Access to Justice Project will focus on: increased accessibility; transparency; professionalism, as well as increased efficiency and effectiveness.
I wish to note that the Fiji Access to Justice Project will strive for close coordination with other projects being implemented by UNDP which contribute to strengthened inclusive and effective democratic governance systems in Fiji, including:
- The Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for rural and urban Fijians Project, generously funded by the Government of Japan, which is contributing, which partners with the Legal Aid Commission and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation to raise awareness and improve service delivery across Fiji, with the focus on reaching out to remote areas.
- The Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Fiji initiative, also funded by the EU, that enables citizens to engage in community-based activities, partnering with governmental authorities for improved service delivery.
- Also, there’s the Fiji Parliament Support Project which is contributing towards ensuring that systems and processes are in place to provide for a parliament that can effectively undertake its legislative, oversight and representative roles. The Project is funded by New Zealand, EU, Australia and Japan.
- UNDP is also directly providing funds to support other democratic governance initiatives in partnership with the Fiji Government such as youth engagement, support to the SDGs processes and security sector governance.
- And - there is also a regional programme, the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Project (2016 to 2020), which is also being implemented in Fiji by UNDP and UNODC, with funding from Australia, which aims to support Pacific Island countries to strengthen their national integrity systems to create an enabling environment for trade, business, investment and sustainable development.
Important for me to note is that in the implementation of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, there will be close coordination with the entire UN family, including OHCHR, UN Women, and others to ensure that the most is made of the specialised areas of technical expertise that can be drawn from across the UN, both here in Fiji and also through the UN’s global networks.
Further, very soon, the UN will enter into more discussions with the Government of Fiji and key stakeholders about future joint UN support to Fiji, as we look to all work together to prepare the new joint UN Pacific Strategy (UNPS) 2018 to 2022.
In conclusion I want to acknowledge the special partnership between the EU and UNDP that exist around the world to support countries to deliver development outcomes, and in particular in relation to Fiji, I commend the leadership of the EU to provide such significant support to this very important sector.
I consider that today’s launch of the Fiji Access to Justice Project represents yet another strong and very clear indication of the robust partnerships between the Government and people of Fiji and the International Community and the United Nations to all work together to further strengthen democratic governance in Fiji.