Dr. Michal KREJZA, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific

The Director of Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Mr. Ashwin Raj

Distinguished trainers from

Judicial Department;

Fiji Police Force;

Fiji National Sports Commission;

Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission; and

Medical Services Pacific,

Members and leaders of communities,

Colleagues and friends,

Good morning, Yadra Vinaka, Namaste, to you all.

I’m delighted to provide opening remarks for the Community Human Rights Advocates Training with you all.

This training programme has been developed as part of the Fiji Access to Justice Project, which is generously funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Judicial Department, the Legal Aid Commission and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the support provided by the European Union and all our partners which has enabled us to come together here today.

The Fiji Access to Justice Project

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 Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on Goal 5: Gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls; and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions. 

Through the project, we have developed partnerships with other government agencies to raise awareness on human rights and improve access to justice, including the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji National Sports Commission, and with civil society organizations who provide justice support services for marginalized populations, namely persons living with disabilities and survivors of sexual and domestic violence. These include Empower Pacific, Fiji Association of the Deaf, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation and Medical Services Pacific.

The training programme

This training programme convenes experts and creates a space where they can share their knowledge and skills with you on human rights and access to justice mechanisms. This contributes to strengthening a network of community advocates who will share their knowledge with those living in the most remote communities, establishing frontlines network for public legal rights education and outreach work. The Project is promoting a platform of engagement at the grassroots level with leaders of various community groups, who are well placed to ‘reach the most vulnerable first’.

The training will include these key human rights issues among others:

  • Women’s rights and children’s rights at community level in relation to cultural and traditional values;
  • Youth, women, disabled persons’ participation in community level development meetings;
  • Access to social justice services by vulnerable of members of society;
  • Access to justice services such as community policing, legal aid commission, and judiciary services;
  • Participants will also receive training on development and delivery of their own community outreach, drawing on expertise from the Human Rights Commission and other partners, as laid out in the training programme.

Beyond standard training programmes, this training is unique – combining sports activities in relation to human rights awareness raising. By engaging in sports, participants will learn effective communication and engagement with others and experience basic human rights principles, namely:

  • We are all equally entitled to our human rights – they are universal;
  • Human rights should not be taken away from anyone – they are inalienable;
  • All human rights should equally be upheld – they are indivisible and interdependent;
  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights – we are equal; and
  • Non-discrimination cuts across all spheres – we are all entitled to protection from discrimination on any grounds.

Human Rights Day – COVID-19 context – SDGs

We are also excited about the commemoration of International Human Rights Day with you all as Community Human Rights Advocates at the end of this four-day training programme on Thursday 10 December 2020.

This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates: “Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights” in an effort to stop COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build-back better lives by ensuring human rights are central to global recovery efforts.

The COVID-19 crisis is being experienced all over the world, seeing deepening poverty, rising inequalities, worsening structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protections. We all know Fiji is not immune from the COVID-19 or the negative socio-economic impact.

UNDP estimates global human development—a combination of education, health, and living standards—could fall this year for the first time since 1990, when measurements began. For example, today, 60 percent of children around the world are missing their education due to COVID-19 closures—a stark number not seen since the 1980s.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the targets leaders and citizens of the world set to achieve envisioning how the world should look like by 2030, have this year received a grievous blow - one that will be far reaching for years to come.

We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.

Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, as in the absence of human dignity we cannot hope to drive sustainable development. Human Rights are driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights. 

10 December is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for global solidarity as well as our interconnectedness and shared humanity.

Conclusion

I believe the training will provide opportunities to discuss some key human rights issues and equip yourselves with knowledge of human rights principles and mechanisms, so members of communities come together and respond to the challenges.

I hope the programme will encourage participants to share their experiences and build solidarity across diversity to respect and protect human rights of everyone.

Enjoy the programme.

Vinaka vakalevu.

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