ADOPTION OF FIJI’S UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OUTCOME

Fiji’s Universal Periodic Review Outcome was adopted by consensus by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, during its current 43rd session of the Council scheduled to be held from 24 February to 20 March.

Fiji was amongst thirteen other States whose human rights record was reviewed by the Human Rights Council in November 2019, and whose UPR Outcomes were adopted by the Council in the current session.

In the ensuring discussion, a number of delegations took the floor to commend Fiji for supporting a total of 207 out of 242 recommendations made to Fiji during its review in November. Delegations specifically commended Fiji for its efforts in the protection and promotion of human rights domestically, including Fiji’s commitment to addressing climate change and integrating human rights in its climate policies. All delegations that took the floor supported the adoption of Fiji’s UPR Outcome.

A number of other stakeholders including civil society organisations also took the floor during Fiji’s adoption.

Fiji was commended by civil society representatives for its commitment to strengthening measures to protect victims against violence against women and girls; its commitment to take actions specified in the recommendations made by over 25 countries to address gender-based violence; and its commitment to improve access to health services for vulnerable populations, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health services. Civil society organisations also welcomed Fiji’s acceptance to improving education and health systems for special vulnerabilities of women, children and persons with disabilities.

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Civil society organisations highlighted that during the previous UPR, Fiji accepted three recommendations related to the protection of defenders, and since then conditions have approved. Nevertheless, civil society groups said that more needs to be done to ensure an enabling environment for defenders and journalists, including removing or amending specific legal provisions.

They also highlighted the need for Fiji to enhance its efforts to combat acts of discrimination and violence against the LGBTQI community and increase budgetary allocation towards strengthening participation of marginalised

communities, including persons with disabilities, in times of natural disasters.

The head of the Fijian delegation, H.E. Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, stated that Fiji placed great importance on the universal periodic review process and appreciated the immense value of a peer review which was constructive and informed by the experiences of other States. Fiji was pleased to see that the number of States participating in the review of Fiji had doubled since the second cycle review.

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Ambassador Khan also stated that ‘human rights is a catalyst for transformative change and we recognise that the universal periodic review mechanism and process is a vehicle through which such change takes place’. She emphasised the role of this peer review process in helping States achieve progress and furthering substantive equality and justice. Ambassador Khan stated that the recommendations received during the UPR were strong and constructive, and that these were important recommendations that would transform Fiji progressively and help in the advancement of its human rights journey.

In closing, Ambassador Khan highlighted Fiji’s appreciation of the constructive recommendations of civil society and said that civil society had an important role to play in the implementation of human rights nationally

She acknowledged that Fiji had to work continuously on the participation of all members of society in Fiji’s human rights journey.

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She said that in particular, Fiji would do more work in integrating LGBTIQ issues in the national human rights policy. In response to comments by civil society on specific legislation, Ambassador Khan highlighted that Fiji had a strong and vibrant judiciary, empowered under the Constitution to test the relationship between rights and limitations, especially in relation to hate speech. As a result, Fiji expected to see emerging domestic jurisprudence on the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

Ambassador Khan thanked all States which had participated in the review. She informed the Council that Fiji had begun and would continue the important work of implementing the recommendations and continued to count on the State’s support in this regard.

Prior to the adoption of Fiji’s UPR Outcome, the President of the Human Rights Council put forward to the Council for its approval a decision to suspend the current 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, as of 13 March 2020. This decision comes in light of the various measures adopted by the Swiss authorities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.