The Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs, Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
The Minister of Health and Medical Services, Hon. Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete
The Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation, Ms. Jennifer Poole
The Chairperson of the Suva Rugby Union
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Boys and girls
Good morning, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Noi’ia...….
It is indeed a great honour to be invited this morning, to provide the opening remarks at the opening of the Suva Rugby Club Games in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme through the Fiji Access to Justice project funded by the European Union. I acknowledge the spirit of partnership expressed by the Suva Rugby Union who are the organizers of this event for the very kind invitation extended to UNDP.
This morning, I consider myself privileged on behalf of UNDP, to officiate at the Opening of the Suva Ruby Union competition after our COVID-19 lockdown and to be standing here with the Honourable Prime Minister. UNDP is most grateful to the Fijian Government for its support and leadership which have been instrumental throughout the past years in fulfilling the Fiji Access to Justice Project’s objectives in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality - and SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Insitutions.
This work has also been made possible with the generous and ongoing support of the European Union, the first international development partner to make an investment in the Fijian justice sector in recent history.
Apart from the Access to Justice stakeholders, we also have representatives from other Government Departments such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development, the Fiji Police Force and the Ministry of Youth & Sports and not to mention civil society organizations, notably the Medical Services of the Pacific and Empower Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Rugby is a common thread that has helped propel unity in the face of adversity. Over the past years, it has proven symbolic in unifying the people of Fiji. Your participation in today’s event is a testament to the true spirit of partnership and collaboration with the aim to resolve multifaceted issues in society.
Most Fijians are unaware of the nature of services that are available to them by the Government and civil society service providers. Many face the additional difficulties in accessing services due to their remoteness and exorbitant costs associated with transportation.
UNDP has been working in collaboration with various partners of the Fijian Government to provide justice, socio-economic and legal opportunities to all Fijians, despite their remote locations and distance.
However, even with positive responses, there remains the need for opportunities to improve progress towards a more effective and gender- balanced approach. The Government of Fiji is taking the lead, especially for our Fiji Access to Justice Project partners – Legal Aid Commission, Judiciary Department, Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission in our collective intervention across Fiji.
Women’s rights to safety, justice and equal opportunities in decision making are embedded in SDG 5 of Gender Equality, and similarly forms an integral pillar of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, something we continuously work towards with our partners.
May I at this juncture, convey my heartfelt appreciation to the Chairperson of the Suva Rugby Union, Lt. Colonel Aseri Rokoura for providing a space for strategic intervention in ensuring the protection of human rights and gender inclusiveness in Suva Rugby Union activities. As you are aware, through the EU-funded Fiji Access to Justice Project and other justice and rights programming, UNDP supports the rule of law and increasing access to justice and protecting human rights for the most vulnerable in Fiji. According to the Fiji Women Crisis Center, a total of 154 cases of sexual gender base violence in early 2020 was recorded, with an average number of 871.4 cases in the past five years. With strong programmatic intervention from all development partners, NGOs, Government departments/agencies, and faith-based organization, there is 17-point-7 percent (17.7%) decrease in cases.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s sports event will be beneficial and constructive for youths, and children by increasing their awareness on their rights and responsibilities, particularly relating to sexual and gender based violence - and child abuse, which is one of the focus of support provided to the Suva Rugby Union this session. We would like to make particular note of participation by two of UNDP’s grantees - Medical Services Pacific and Empower Pacific who are implementing programmes to support, serve and protect survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and child abuse. We are also partners, in a separate Project on Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH).
Once again, I take this opportunity to thank the Suva Rugby Union for inviting UNDP to participate in the one-day sporting event. I also would like to acknowledge the Fiji Access to Justice stakeholders and other Government stakeholders who are present today to boost interaction and deliberate on methodologies to improve service delivery. We look forward to seeing more awareness and effective responses promoted for the crucial issues of sexual and gender-based violence and child abuse and will continue to support the entire Fijian justice system in responding effectively.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am told that before the end of the tournament, you will be provided an opportunity to be served by the Fiji Access to Justice stakeholders and other Government services available for the players and supporters - and we strongly encourage you to take advantage of the information and services which are directly on offer today.
I wish the rugby teams participating in the club games today the best, as well as good wishes for the remaining season.
Thank you and Vinaka vakalevu.