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Fiji, First In Pacific To Be In UN Human Rights Council

Fiji, First In Pacific  To Be In UN Human Rights Council
The Fijian delegation in New York.
October 14
14:47 2018

Fiji’s leadership in advanc­ing and protecting human rights received major inter­national recognition yesterday at the UN Headquarters in New York, where Fiji won its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Fiji is the first Pacific Island Na­tion elected to the UNHRC, the world’s foremost body in protecting and promoting human rights.

In a remarkable display of global confidence, Fiji received 187 votes

the second highest votes among all candidate countries and only one vote shy of the highest number of votes overall.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system that is charged with the promotion and protection of all human rights around the world.

It makes recommendations on how to address human rights viola­tions and has the ability to discuss all thematic human right issues and situations.

Fiji’s membership will start on January 1, 2019, and last for a term of three years.

Fiji will assume its seat on the back of a proud 40-year legacy of UN Peacekeeping, the ratification of seven of the core human rights conventions and major positions of global leadership.

These include the presidency of COP23, the co-host of the first-ever UN Conference on Oceans, Chair of the G77 Plus China, president of the United Nations General Assembly and, most recently, the chair of the World Bank Small States Forum.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainima­rama said: “We are honoured to take up this seat on the UN Human Rights Council and grateful to the global community, including many international civil society organi­sations, for their strong backing of our candidacy.

“Our 187 votes are a powerful rec­ognition of Fiji’s unwavering com­mitment to the fundamental rights of all global citizens,” he said.

“It is also testament to our tremen­dous progress on the home front, where we have enshrined a vast ar­ray of human, political and socio­economic rights in the 2013 Fijian Constitution.

“Where we are bringing security, opportunity and dignity to Fijians who historically have languished on the margins of our society, and where we are steadily moving to­wards a future that is free of rac­ism, nepotism and privilege.”

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum welcomed Fiji’s success­ful bid as an affirmation of Fiji’s unprecedented investment in the growth of social wages to realise the socioeconomic rights of all Fi­jians.

“In Fiji, we’ve already ratified sev­en of the nine core human rights conventions, with plans to com­plete ratification of the remaining two conventions in our parliamen­tary sessions following our nation­al elections,” he said.

“We are also realising – in a very practical manner – the socioeco­nomic rights of all Fijians through our targeted investment in the growth social wages.

“Through our national budgets, we’ve set aside historic funding to­wards those who are vulnerable in our society, to protect their human rights enshrined in our Constitu­tion.

“These are the right to education, healthcare, equal justice, adequate food, clean water, decent housing and many other fundamental rights for human progress and dignity.”

The Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN in Geneva, Ambas­sador Nazhat Shameem Khan, said this achievement was especially important for the council as an in­clusive and truly representative body, capable of hearing the voices of all States, no matter what the size, and of hearing the stories of diverse human rights journeys.

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission direc­tor Ashwin Raj said the achieve­ment was significant not only for Fiji, but also for the Human Rights Council.

“Because Fiji’s membership will strengthen the fabric of the Hu­man Rights Council by recognising the diverse human rights concerns of small island developing states (SIDS),” Mr Raj said.

 

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other organisations in Geneva and Ambassador to Switzerland Nazhat Shameem-Khan (front left) and Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj (front right) with other members of the Fijian delegation at the UN.

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other organisations in
Geneva and Ambassador to Switzerland Nazhat Shameem-Khan (front left) and Fiji
Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director Ashwin Raj (front right) with other members of the Fijian delegation at the UN.

 

“Not only is this a victory for SIDS, but this is the first time that a Pacific Small Islands Developing State (PSIDS) has joined the Hu­man Rights Council as a member.

“Today’s decisive victory is a fur­ther catalyst for the national human rights commission and civil society to hold government accountable in fulfilling its commitment towards the protection and promotion of human rights in Fiji,” Mr Raj said.

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad said the party wel­comed Fiji’s election as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

“I made it clear in Parliament this year that we fully support Fiji’s bid to become a member of the UNHRC, but at the same time urged Govern­ment to fully adhere and respect all fundamental human rights and freedoms,” Mr Prasad said.

“There should be no limitations and restrictions whatsoever on any basic human right and freedom.

“Having said this we note that countries with far more dubious re­cord have held membership on the UNHRC.

“We also expect the next govern­ment to fully investigate all breach­es of human rights in the last 12 years.”

Haus of Khameleon (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender activ­ist group) board co-chair Sulique Waqa said that there had been some mixed reactions over the years re­garding Fiji’s bid to be a member of the council. However, Fiji’s mem­bership provided a more effective accountability mechanism in terms of the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.

Ms Waqa further added that this mechanism also provided an av­enue for citizens to lobby and voice out any human rights concerns at the UNHRC through its civil soci­ety engagement mechanism.

Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube said: “It is a good thing for Fiji to get a seat at the UN Human Rights Council as it is the first time for Fiji.”

HOPE president and party leader Tupou Draunidalo said: “The Unit­ed Nations owes Fiji a lot of money for peacekeeping and the costs of our maintaining a military for their use.

“HOPE would prefer the United Nations repay us those hundreds of millions of dollars for our econ­omy, wages, schools, and hospitals rather than giving us a seat on a council with other human rights violators.”

SODELPA general secretary Adi Litia Qionibaravi said yesterday she would respond later.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahen­dra Chaudhry could not be reached to comment.

 

COUNTRIES VOTED INTO THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL.

  • In order to get on to the council all candidates needed minimum of 97 votes

African Group
193 valid
1 abst
192 votes
1. Burkina Faso 183
2. Togo181
3. Cameroon176
4. Somalia 170
5. Eritrea 160

Asia Pacific Group
Valid: 193
Abst 1
192 voting
1. India 188
2. Fiji 187
3. Bangladesh 178
4. Bahrain 165
5. Philippines 165

Eastern European
Valid 193
Abst 5
Voting 188
1. Bulgaria 180
2. Czech Republic 178

Latin America
Valid 193
Abst 4
189 present and voting
1. Bahamas 180
2. Uruguay 177
3. Argentina 172

Western Europe
Valid 193
Abst 4
Voting 189
1. Italy 180
2. Austria 171
3. Denmark 167
4. USA 1

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

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