1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Fiji last held general elections in November 2018. According to the final report of the Multinational Observer Group issued in February 2019, the election process was well-administered, with voting and counting being transparent and credible. The Multinational Observer Group has made 21 recommendations in its final report to assist the Fijian Elections Office to build on the achievements of this election. In October 2018, Fiji was elected to the UN Human Rights Council for a three-year term (2019 – 2021) which should give further impetus to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring protection of human rights and freedoms in the country. In 2019, Fiji has become the first and only Pacific Island State, which acceded to all the nine core international human rights instruments. However, a number of human rights challenges persist in the country. Gender violence, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and allegations of police brutality constitute Fiji’s most relevant human rights issues in 2019.
2. EU action - key focus areas: The key focus areas of EU action were, inter alia, follow-up to the fourth EU-Fiji high-level political dialogue under Article 8 of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement of May 2019. The EU continued to promote access to justice and respect to human rights. The EU has also supported diversified market-driven agriculture, promoting alternative livelihoods and income generating activities and alleviating risks to natural disasters.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The fourth high-level political dialogue with Fiji was held in May 2019 in Brussels and discussed the Multilateral Observer Group recommendations following 2018 election; accession to the international human rights instruments; priorities of Fiji in its capacity of the UNHRC Vice-President; legislation and measures by the authorities in the area of media environment; freedom of expression, as well as domestic violence. During the year, the EU delegation for the Pacific carried out demarches and outreach activities inviting Fiji to support EU human rights initiatives and priorities at the UN level. Throughout the Pacific region, including Fiji, climate change and human rights are closely intertwined. The EU delegation for the Pacific actively promotes climate change awareness.
4. EU financial engagement: The 11th EDF-funded 'Access to Justice' Programme aims at enhancing institutional capacity and service delivery of the Judicial department as well as by the Legal Aid Commission (LAC) and provide initial support to Fiji's Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC). The programme focuses at improving access to justice for the population, with particular emphasis on poor and marginalised people.
The EU-funded project 'Upholding Citizens’ Constitutional Rights for Democratic Consolidation in Fiji' implemented by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in consortium with four Fijian CSOs, has contributed to facilitating engagement between the state institutions, notably the Fijian Elections Office (FEO), and Fiji based CSOs. Activities in the post-election period included dialogues and other interactive activities in communities. A major National Forum on Women in Politics (in October 2019), brought together women MPs, officials from the Ministry of Women, CSOs representatives, aspiring women interested in politics and academics, who discussed outcomes of Fiji 2018 elections, challenges related to women's participation and touched upon the issue of Temporary Special Measures for getting more women in Parliament.
The ‘Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls’, a regional project bringing together governments, CSOs, communities and other partners, continued to be implemented in 2019. The programme is funded primarily by the EU with targeted support from the Australian Government and UN Women. Priorities for Fiji, which has become one of the focus countries, include prevention work aiming to address harmful social norms, improving access to essential services for survivors of gender-based violence and monitoring and reporting on government commitments to gender equality and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Human rights advocacy in relation to Fiji's international commitments to media independence has been supported under the project ‘Valuing Voices – Digital Dialogue and Citizen's Stories (alternative forms of story-telling to advance rights and freedoms)’, implemented by the British Council. The activities included workshops, bringing together journalists, social-media, artists and human rights defenders. Improving capacities of CSOs to foster democratic governance and accountability, sustained participation of civil society in policy making was supported in 2019 through Yadrayadravi Accountability and Monitoring Programme implemented by ADRA and Participative Democracy and Accountability Action, implemented by The Citizens' Constitutional Forum.
‘Fiji in Transition: Towards a Sustainable Constitutional Democracy’ project, implemented by The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), focused on creating dialogue with the government on human rights and the rule of law (through civic education, research and advocacy) to respond to the needs identified at the UPR 2014. In 2019, the project contributed to CSO advocacy during the 40th HRC session in Geneva, and supported joint CSOs submission to Fiji’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2019.
5. Multilateral context: Following accession in August 2019 to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) and to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW), Fiji has become a party to all nine core international human rights treaties.
Fiji has signed but not yet ratified the Optional Protocols of the CRC, on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC-OP-AC) and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC). Fiji is still to announce outcome of the internal discussions on the withdrawal of the reservations to the UN Convention against Torture (CAT). Reports to the Committees of CAT, CERD and CRPD are pending.
Fiji is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council, its term expiring in 2021. Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva is Vice-President of the Human Rights Council. Fiji has extended a standing invitation to the special procedures of the Human Rights Council and has outstanding visit requests from the Special Rapporteurs on independence of judges, and on freedom of assembly, as well as from the Working Group on business and human rights.
Fiji had its last UPR in November 2019. States’ recommendations mainly focused on issues related to freedom of speech and assembly. Next UPR for Fiji is scheduled to take place in November 2024.