Posts tagged UN

Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama delivers national statement at the 2014 UNGA in New York

Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama Delivers Statement on the Release of 45 Peacekeepers

PM BAINIMARAMA – STATEMENT TO THE NATION ON THE RELEASE OF FIJIAN PEACEKEEPERS

My fellow Fijians,

I’m delighted to announce to the nation that the 45 Fijian peacekeepers being detained in Syria have been released unharmed. They are now safely back in a United Nations compound, they are all healthy, they are in high spirits and they will soon be in contact with their families and loved ones here in Fiji.

Our men will need to be debriefed and they obviously deserve a period of rest before they return to their duties, but I know that they are all keen to continue their mission.

I know all Fijians join me in feeling a great sense of relief and joy, as well as a deep appreciation for all those who had a hand in securing their safe release, including the skilled group of UN negotiators and our superb team in New York and Suva, who worked constantly behind the scenes to produce this outcome. As a nation, we thank you.

These 45 men are heroes. They kept their cool and showed restraint under the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Because of their discipline, not one militant was killed and none of our soldiers were harmed. They upheld the integrity of UN peacekeeping and as a result have strengthened Fiji’s reputation in the international community.

We’ve shown the world our discipline and resolve and have maintained the respect and trust of the United Nations for our participation in present and future peacekeeping missions.

Peacekeeping is about providing a calm, stable and neutral presence in hotspots around the globe in order to ease tensions and prevent violence. Our men never once breached this mission and as a nation we should be extremely proud of their conduct.

As I often say, Fiji stands tall and proud in the world, and today because of these brave men, we stand even taller and prouder.

During this ordeal, the courage of the families has been remarkable. They were naturally distressed and anxious during this difficult time but they never once questioned why their loved ones were sent to the Golan Heights in the first place. They know better than anyone else that our mission is to bring peace and security to people living in troubled areas around the world.

It is a noble mission, which we will continue to perform whenever we are called on by the United Nations to serve. For the families, as for all Fijians, it is a matter of great pride that our peacekeepers are able to make such a significant contribution to the wellbeing of others who are less fortunate than us – who are vulnerable living in places that have been torn apart by division and violence.

I would like to thank all those who kept these men in their thoughts and prayers. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our soldiers from Fijians across the country, from all backgrounds and of all faiths. We care for each other like family and during times like this the welfare of the men and their families was never far from our minds.

As you all know, we united as a nation to pray for our men’s safe return and today our prayers have been answered.

God bless our peacekeepers, God bless their loved ones and God bless Fiji.

SPEECH: FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER BAINIMARAMA OPENS FIJI’S UN MISSION IN GENEVA

Bula Vinaka, Bonjour and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be with you all in the heart of Europe for a very special occasion – the opening of Fiji’s first United Nations Mission in Geneva and our first embassy in Switzerland. Given our strong relationship with the UN over the years, the establishment of this office is not only important for Fiji’s interests but is arguably long overdue.

Geneva is a unique and very special city, the main European base of the United Nations and home to 32 international organisations. Many of these are specialised agencies of the UN, including the World Trade Organisation and the International Labour Organisation – both of them important institutions for Fiji and Fijians. Geneva also plays host to some 250 non-government organisations, including the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.

So in global terms, this is an extremely important centre. And Fiji has long needed to be in a better position to engage with these agencies and NGOs, to develop closer relations with them, benefit from their expertise, avail ourselves of the range of services they offer.

This is not a one-way street. While we have much to gain, we also have much to contribute. And with our presence here, we will clearly be in a better position to have our own views heard and contribute directly in these various forums – to add to the global debate as a thriving and increasingly influential Pacific Small island State. Indeed Fiji is now the only Pacific small Island Developing State with the direct presence in Geneva. We will not only fly our flag here in Geneva but also that of our Pacific island brothers and sisters.

Instead of being a visitor to Geneva, Fiji is now a resident. And we have an especially articulate voice to contribute in the form of our new Representative and Ambassador, Madam Nazhat Shameem, a former High Court judge and one of our most distinguished citizens.

In addition to forging stronger relationships with the UN agencies, Fiji plans to forge a new and strong relationship with Switzerland. Like Fiji, Switzerland is a country of great natural beauty, though naturally of a different sort. We, of course, have our 300 plus islands. You have the breathtaking vistas of the Swiss Alps. And I was extremely fortunate yesterday to be able to witness some of this staggering natural beauty up close.

I’d like to take this opportunity to invite the people of Switzerland to come to Fiji to witness our own natural beauty close up – our islands, beaches and a host of attractions – and to experience the famed hospitality of our people.

Our tourism slogan is: “Fiji, where happiness finds you”. But when you visit us, you will soon learn that it is less a slogan, more a way of life, as we increasingly share the Fijian experience and the rich diversity of our various cultures with the rest of the world.

Switzerland, of course, is also famed for its neutrality, the strength and courage to resist being dragged into other people’s conflicts, to pursue policies that are principled and are in the best interests of its own people. The position of neutrality is not one of weakness. On the contrary it takes greater strength to resist the pressure of those who are economically stronger, or who have bigger defence forces. It takes greater strength to ensure that policy is driven by what is just and fair. This is a stance that Fiji seeks to emulate, not least through our membership of the Non Aligned Movement.

Our own staunchly independent foreign operates on the fundamental principle of being “friends to all and enemies to none”. So in this, the Fijian people have common cause with the people of Switzerland. And today, we open this mission in the hope that the ties that already bind us become closer and we can work together for the advancement of the values and principles we share.

Fiji is also looking to expand its trading relationship with Switzerland in particular and Europe in general and we look forward to canvassing those opportunities in the months and years ahead. Our Fijian Made initiative is a comprehensive program to market the full range of quality goods and services Fijians produce – from talented village artisans to boutique producers and our expanding collection of global brands. We want Brand Fiji to be a byword for quality the world over, just as it is for Brand Switzerland.

Your Excellencies. Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to formally thank the Swiss Government for its generous assistance in helping Fiji to set up this mission. We have been struck not only by the renowned Swiss efficiency in the way that assistance has been delivered but with the warmth that has been showed to our delegation. As we say in Fiji: Vinaka vakalevu.

In the case of the United Nations, our relationship grows stronger by the year. My Government has adopted the notion of service to others as its overriding principle – service to our own people at home and service to the people of other lands abroad. And our main avenue of service is our proud contribution over more than three decades to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world.

We have 508 Republic of Fiji Military Forces personnel currently serving in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, Syria; 328 in the Multi-National Force and Observers in Sinai; 195 in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq; and 15 in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

There are 20 in the United Nations mission in Darfur, Sudan; and 23 in the United Nations Mission in Liberia, all of them protecting vulnerable ordinary people in volatile areas of conflict

Every Fijian is extremely proud of these men and women, whose skill, courage and discipline, wisdom and restraint, is highly valued by the United Nations and is setting a global example of the highest standard. We will always be there to serve the international community as best we can and especially the ordinary men, women and children – far from our own islands – who look to us for protection. This is Fiji’s promise to the world.

We are also serving in a variety of other UN roles. Our Permanent Representative in New York currently chairs the governing board of the United Nations Development Program. Fiji, until recently, through the Minister for Communications, has been the Vice Chair of the Telecommunications Development Advisory Group (TDAG pronounced: TEE DAG) at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Fiji has also been given a role of evaluating other countries in relation to their obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

And as Fiji’s Prime Minister, I had the honour and privilege last year to Chair the G77 Plus China – the biggest voting bloc at the UN.

Fiji takes its obligations and responsibilities to the United Nations, as a member state, very seriously. This is especially so in the development of substantive, fundamental human rights.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is a momentous year for Fiji as we approach the first genuinely democratic election in our nation’s history on September the 17th. For the first time, this election will be conducted on the universal democratic principle of equal votes of equal value instead of the skewered system employed in the past. For the first time, every citizen will go to cast their votes as a Fijian – a common and equal citizenry sharing the same name and enjoying equal political, economic and social rights while recognizing the special place of our indigenous people. Every Fijian will have equal access to substantive justice no matter who they are.

Last year, we reset our national compass with a historic new Constitution, including a Bill of Rights which is arguably one of the strongest in the world. In addition to civil and political rights, this Constitution guarantees Fijians access to a range of social and economic rights, most of them for the first time. Ordinary people now enjoy guarantees of free education, adequate housing and health care, social security, clean water and a clean environment. They also have a right to economic participation. The constitution also for the first time protects the rights of disabled Fijians.

All these rights are not only enforceable through such bodies as the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, the Legal Aid Commission and the judiciary, these rights cannot be taken away.

So we are in the throes of a human rights revolution in Fiji, one which upholds the basic rights of ordinary people in a way that has never been the case before. We are also increasing access to justice for ordinary people – such things as access to the courts and their right to a fair trial – by increasing the budget of the Legal Aid Commission and by opening a string of Legal Aid Offices across the country.

My Government is committed not only to developing these rights but looks forward to a healthy jurisprudence emerging from Fiji which can serve as a guide to other countries considering the inclusion of social and economic rights in their own Constitutions and subordinate laws.

The old arguments against the development of social and economic rights as enforceable rights – that the judiciary should not make judgments which have resource implications and are an interference with executive power, are in my view no longer valid in Fiji. Our courts have been making important judgments in the development of civil and political human rights, for some time. Almost all those judgments have had resource implications, whether it was in the building of a new remand centre in accordance with the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, or whether it was to order the State to provide legal aid for a defendant in a treason trial. Almost all human rights cases have resource implications, whether the rights are civil and political, or social and economic.

In including all such social and economic rights in our Constitution, Fiji has shown commitment to the substantive development of individual rights and freedoms in our country. I say substantive because I and my Government believe that rights are only meaningful if they are able to cut across bureaucracy, cultural barriers, and institutional weakness to make a real difference to the rights of individuals.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. We have been determined all along to create a more equal society in Fiji, a more just society, one in which every citizen enjoys the same opportunity. I firmly believe that true equality is the foundation stone of genuine democracy. And so we have demolished entrenched privilege and laid that foundation of equality on which our nation can be rebuilt. One nation, one Fiji, with opportunity and justice for all.

For the first time, on September 17th, every Fijian will go to the polls as an equal, their vote worth precisely the same as any other citizen. And they will have the same rights and with it, the same dignity.

We have also ensured that the election process itself is completely independent, with an independent Electoral Commission and an Elections Office with dedicated staff to organise and conduct the one-day poll. This is instead of the previous practice of using civil servants to conduct the election, a process that was open to abuse. And we have reached overseas to recruit a team of international experts to avoid some of the fraud and mismanagement that marred previous elections in Fiji.

To ensure that ordinary Fijian voters fully understand the process, Fiji has embarked on a massive campaign of voter education. More than 550-thousand voters have so far registered using the new electronic system. And we have sent teams to those parts of the world where there are known to be large numbers of Fijians living to include them in the election process.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the stage is being set for a truly historic event in the life of our nation on September 17th – the introduction of our first genuine democracy. It goes hand in hand with the plethora of basic human rights that no Fijian has ever enjoyed before. In the midst of this revolution, I’m proud to be launching our first United Nations Mission in Geneva – a symbol of our commitment to the UN ideal and the rights of every Fijian.

And I now have great pleasure in declaring it open.

Vinaka vakalevu, Merci Beaucoup, Thank you.

FIJI PRESIDES AT FIRST REGULAR SESSION 2014 OF UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS EXECUTIVE BOARD

The First Regular Session in 2014 of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS got underway in New York today under the chairmanship of the Executive Board’s 2014 President, Ambassador Peter Thomson.

UNDP Administrator, Miss Helen Clark, was present to address the Executive Board, along with the UNDP Assistant Administrators for Africa and for Asia-Pacific.

The First Regular Session will meet from 27-31 January and will cover UNDP’s gender equality strategy, country programmes, evaluation, South-South cooperation, and financial, budgetary and administrative matters. During its UNFPA segment, the session will cover evaluation, country programmes and related matters, as well as hearing a statement from UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. UNOPS Executive Director, Mr Jan Mattsson, will also be addressing this week’s session.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development agency working to provide knowledge, experience, and resources to help create country-owned solutions to global and national development challenges. Funded entirely by voluntary contributions, UNDP manages an annual budget of approximately US$5 billion. UNDP serves as the manager of the UN’s development system, ensuring greater UN coherence at country level.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, and is established to address population and development issues with an emphasis on reproductive health and gender equality. UNFPA has an annual budget of approximately US$1 billion and seeks to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is the operational arm of the UN. It has a mission to serve people in need by expanding the ability of the UN, governments and other partners to manage projects, infrastructure and procurement in a sustainable and efficient manner. UNOPS works in over 130 countries, implementing more than US$1 billion worth of aid and development projects every year. UNOPS is the only entity in the UN system that is entirely self-funded, operating as a fee-for-service organisation.

PM Bainimarama’s Address at the 68th General Debate of the UN General Assembly

FIJI STATEMENT AT 68TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

United Nations New York
Wed. 25th Sept., 2013

The President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I wish to congratulate you Mr. President, on your election to the Presidency of the  General Assembly’s 68th Session and express my confidence that under your able and wise guidance, this session will successfully accomplish its many tasks. I would also like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of your predecessor, His Excellency Mr Vuk Jeremic, and extend my appreciation for the effectiveness with which he directed the work of the last session.

Mr. President,
Fiji reached a pivotal moment in its history earlier this month when His Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji promulgated the nation’s new Constitution. This Constitution introduces the first genuine democracy Fiji will enjoy since we gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1970.

43 years and three constitutions later, we finally have a Constitution that is worthy of the Fijian people. It is a Constitution that meets the test of a genuine democracy that upholds the legal and moral basis of a common and equal citizenry without denying anyone’s individuality or culture.

The 2013 Fijian Constitution enshrines principles that are at the heart of all the world’s great liberal democracies – an independent judiciary, a secular state and a wide range of civil, political and socio-economic rights. It recognises the indigenous peoples of Fiji and their customary practices; protects the rights of the predominantly indigenous landowners and also of their tenants; demands accountability and transparency from Government officials; builds strong and independent institutions; and replaces our old weighted electoral system with one based on the principle of one person, one vote, one value.

This historic achievement is the culmination of a path that Fiji embarked on in 2007 to establish a modern and stable society that can be a proud and responsible part of the global community.

Mr. President, for years we struggled as a nation under a system that created different classes of citizens and in which the votes of some Fijians counted more than others. How could we be one nation when our fundamental law said that we were not one people?

The very idea of a just and equal society, of an accountable government, of loyalty to the nation-state, was being eroded from within. There were too many elites that thought the best way to entrench their own privileges was to sow the seeds of division and undermine our independent institutions. The removals of government in 1987 and 2000 were the most radical expressions of this dysfunction.

As a result, tens of thousands of Fijians suffered and many made the decision to leave their home forever, to leave Fiji. As I have said before, this is one of the most shameful episodes of our history and I’m determined that this must never, never happen again. We must never allow a fellow citizen to be second class, to be less than an equal of his neighbor.

Surely, such a basic principle as this deserves the full support of all nations that would never accept any less for their own people.
So we set out to make change for the good, permanent change that would set the nation on a straight course and allow Fiji to finally reach the potential it had when we so enthusiastically embraced our independence.

It has been a long journey and we have faced numerous challenges along the way. But it is with great pleasure and deep honour that I stand here today and say, “Our national compass has finally been reset.” Under this new Constitution, we’re heading towards Fiji’s first genuinely democratic elections by September 2014, and a much brighter future, as one nation.
Every month that passes we are building the foundations of our new parliamentary democracy. Unlike in the past, we are building a credible and fair system that will guide this process. Four political parties have registered thus far under new laws that create transparency and accountability and, close to 540,000 Fijians – out of an estimated 620,000 eligible voters – have registered for the 2014 election.

Many modern, stable democracies have gone through their own turbulent periods. Some have gone through decades of instability and bloodshed, while others have had a single defining moment. These events changed the course of history. They turned their countries from bastions of elitism and oppression into nations of freedom, equality and true democracy.

The United States has its Bunker Hill and Civil War; France has the storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution; Australia, the Eureka Stockade; and Britain a bloody history to establish constitutional monarchy.

Fijians too have had their share of turbulence. Regrettably, and to our great disappointment, some of these oldest friends had no faith in us. They abandoned us and sought to punish us with sanctions. We sought their assistance and understanding, but they turned their backs on us. They chose to support a form of democracy, governance and justice in Fiji that they would never have accepted for themselves.

We hope that they see now that we were true to our word. All nations struggle over time to overcome their unique challenges, to correct historic sins, and to be worthy of the principles on which they were founded. We are, in Fiji, no different.
Our isolation led us to seek out new relationships that have proven fruitful. Now, our standing in the world has never been stronger.

A key principle that has guided Fiji’s political development and foreign policy, soundly grounded in the Charter of the United Nations, is that we determine our own destinies as sovereign states. At the same time, we recognise the necessity of collaborating with all Member States of the United Nations with the aim of sustainable world peace, substantive justice, dignity and respect for all.

It is that spirit of collaboration that inspires us to go beyond parochial interests and to reach out to help others. To this end, it enjoins us to be loyal to common ideals, goals, values and principles. They remain the guiding beacons as we navigate our way in this millennium.

Mr President,
The theme you have set to guide the general debate at this 68th session, which is “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage,” is most fitting for this junction of the road at which the UN stands. In the midst of increasing poverty and underdevelopment, during an era of unprecedented wealth accumulation and technological advances, the rift that divides the rich and the poor zones of the world ever widens. We must not therefore lose focus on one imperative of our time, that equality among nations, big and small, is central to the relevance, credibility, and even survival of this global organisation.

In this regard, we are encouraged by the progress made thus far in the General Assembly to expeditiously launch the follow-up mechanisms agreed at the Rio+20 Conference last year. Throughout the course of this year, the G77 and China has emphasised that the roadmap towards a post-2015 development agenda needs to address the implementation gaps of the MDGs, with poverty eradication remaining an overarching goal. The new development agenda must be universal, applicable and relevant to all Member States. Let me also stress that the new development agenda should be centred on economic development which supports both social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

Our common desire for a transformative global development agenda beyond 2015 can best be achieved through collective efforts and an enhanced global partnership. These efforts must place the development and wellbeing of people at its core. If the international community and national governments seriously commit to an agenda for meaningful transformation on structural, institutional and normative levels, the post-2015 development agenda has the potential of achieving a paradigm shift in global conditions.

Mr. President,
Fiji’s commitment to being a good global citizen is manifested through our ongoing engagement with the United Nations and its associated agencies and secretariats.

Our decision to take on the mantle of chairing the Group of 77 & China for the year 2013 was informed by the fact that Fiji embraces its rights as an equal member of the United Nations, and that we must therefore also carry all the due responsibilities expected of us amongst this great family of nations.

Fiji’s commitment to UN peacekeeping remains unwavering. It is a source of great pride that for a nation of our size, we are able to make a meaningful and significant contribution. For the last three decades, we have always responded to the call of the UN to serve, including in the most difficult circumstances around the world. While fully recognising the risks involved, Fiji’s confidence in its peacekeepers prompted us to provide troops to the Golan Heights this year to assist the UN in a time of need. The many years of service of Fijian troops in the Middle East region, particularly in Lebanon, Iraq and Sinai, is an asset that our troops take with them to that mission. Fiji also sees police peacekeeping and contributions in the corrections and justice sector, as important in building local state institutions that can be run by local authorities once the peacekeeping missions end, and we are building on our many existing commitments in that regard in Liberia, Darfur and South Sudan.

It is up to us in the General Assembly to ensure that all support possible is given to troop-contributing countries and police-contributing countries serving on the ground, including through clear and appropriate policy guidance. For the good of the countries concerned, we must not abdicate that responsibility, and I urge us all to work together in the UN to provide such concrete policy guidance, particularly as we see peacekeeping missions evolve into multi-dimensional and complex missions that differ greatly from early UN peacekeeping missions.

Mr. President,
As a Pacific island nation, Fiji reaffirms its support for the efforts of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to achieve sustainable development. Not only are SIDS acutely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification and the increased frequency of extreme weather events, but for some of us, the threat is to our very existence. Our response to the plight of those most at risk must therefore be characterised by the requisite sense of urgency.

The convening of the Third International Conference for Sustainable Development of SIDS in 2014 is critical to addressing, in a very specific and concrete manner, the many challenges faced by SIDS. It is an opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to the implementation of the decisions and agreements pertaining to SIDS. As the international community discusses the post-2015 development landscape, including a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action, we must ensure that a new model accounts for, and addresses, the risks we face. This is particularly relevant for SIDS, where hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses occur as a result of so-called ‘natural’ disasters every year. Protecting development gains and investing in disaster resilience is vital to sustainable development.

Mr. President,
The United Nation’s efforts to eradicate colonialism must forge ahead within the context of the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee, where Fiji is a member. Through the Pacific regional body known as the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Fiji works together with other members of the C24 to accelerate the process of decolonisation.

In reforming and developing its information and communication technology infrastructure, Fiji has adopted a comprehensive approach by combining a national framework for ICT development with effective and pragmatic policies and initiatives to deliver results directly to the Fijian people. That approach is bearing fruit. Fiji has achieved 95% mobile coverage, including 3G, concluded one of the region’s first open auctions for 4G spectrum, and is implementing a number of innovative initiatives to increase affordable access and improve services, including in the most remote parts of our country.

The International Telecommunication Union in its annual review of more than 150 countries’ delivery of ICT infrastructure and services to their populations, gave special recognition to Fiji as a developing country. Fiji tied for the third largest improvement of any country and is ranked 4th globally in percentage terms, improving by 14 per cent.

Mr. President,

As the first country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Fiji has kept its oceanic obligations at the core of its foreign policy. While some disconnect exists between what is contained in international instruments and what is or is not implemented, we need a commitment for clear steps to turn words into actions in order to facilitate the sustainable management of ocean resources and make equitable the share of benefits from their utilisation.

Fiji hosted the inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum last month. Its formation makes the PIDF the only south-south organisation in the Pacific region that provides for a multi-stakeholder platform where governments, the private sector and civil society can discuss what we, Pacific Islanders need to do, to achieve sustainable development.

We look forward to a productive 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Let me reiterate our full support and cooperation towards you and all members, with a view to advancing the objectives of the United Nations and the aspirations of the global community.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

PM BAINIMARAMA ADDRESS AT UNITED NATIONS

New York
September 23rd, 2013

Your Excellency, the President of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Ambassador John Ashe.

Your Excellency the President of the International Organisation for South-South Cooperation, Ambassador Francis Lorenzo.

The Secretary General of the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, Doctor Hamadoun Toure.

Your Excellencies, cabinet ministers of UN member states, Permanent Representatives and other ambassadors.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s a great pleasure for me to address you at this important gathering in my capacity as Chair of the Group of 77 and Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji.

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Ashe for his warm introduction and congratulate him on assuming the Presidency of the General Assembly.

He has become a familiar and very welcome presence in Fiji, having attended the G77 High Level Panel there in May and the Pacific Small Island Developing States Preparatory Conference in July.

I extend to him our sincere thanks for the interest that he has shown in the Pacific generally and, Fiji in particular. I also extend to him our best wishes as he presides over the General Assembly in its forthcoming session.

I would like to thank Ambassador Lorenzo and Doctor Toure – along with their respective staff – for their efforts to organise this meeting, that brings together representatives from more than 60 countries.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We all recognise the immense importance of securing international and South South cooperation to finance the introduction of Broadband technology throughout the developing world.

I’m pleased and proud to be here to recount the Fijian experience since our performance as a nation in this area has been specifically commended by the International Telecommunication Union.

In its last annual review of the delivery of ICT infrastructure and services to the populations of more than 150 countries, Fiji tied for the third largest improvement of any country, moving up five places to 88th.

The ITU attributed Fiji’s high ranking to strong growth in mobile broadband penetration; extension of 3G coverage to 95 per cent of the country; the development of the Pacific’s first national broadband plan; a commitment to making Internet access affordable; and the expansion of of e-Government services – putting the functions of the State online.

About 3 years ago we liberalised the telecommunications market and introduced actual competition for the first time. This has driven up access to mobile services and made mobile connectivity more affordable.

So in the middle of the Pacific, we have harnessed broadband technology to open up the world to our people.

We are ending their isolation, broadening their horizons and empowering them in a way that previous generations could never have imagined.

It has been an extraordinary revolution and a story I never get tired of telling. Because whatever the marvels of the technology involved, it is the positive effect on the lives of our people that makes Fiji an illuminating case study.

Two weeks ago, I was in northern Fiji opening five more of the Telecentres my Government has introduced to provide ordinary Fijians with free access to the Internet and other telecommunications services.

We now have fifteen of these Telecentres housed in predominantly rural schools around the country, providing free Internet access to almost 40-thousand people thus far – students during school hours and the wider community in the evenings and on weekends. And by the end of this year, we plan to have another five up and running.

I get a huge thrill from opening these facilities because of the delighted looks on the faces of ordinary Fijians as a door is suddenly opened to them.

It is the door to a world of opportunity: For the child who suddenly realises the boundless opportunity to acquire knowledge. For the mother who, for the first time, has the opportunity to talk via Skype and webcam to a son serving as a UN peacekeeper. For the father who has the opportunity to scan and email a job application instead of relying on “snail mail” or a lengthy and costly journey to an urban center.

There are millions of such people across the world who require our assistance to bring them affordable access to Broadband – to increase their opportunities, improve their lives and make them a global citizen.

They need not be living only in remote and inaccessible areas but can be in our midst, in the urban slums and informal settlements of most developing countries.

We must connect them, empower them, bring them the digital revolution as a fundamental cornerstone of our collective and holistic effort to help achieve our Millennium Development Goals.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Aside from the overriding imperative of empowerment, the Fijian experience establishes the fundamental importance of a number of key factors in the provision of Broadband.

*Affordability;
*Competition;
*A partnership between Government and the private sector;
*A fair, efficient and transparent regulatory framework; and,
*Zero tolerance for corruption

For a small island developing state like our own, strung out over vast distances of ocean, high speed cable access was neither affordable nor practical so mobile broadband has been the only and immediate viable option.

The competition we’ve created in Fiji has driven down the cost of connectivity and has increased the quality of the services available to ordinary Fijians. And we’ve worked hard to remove systemic corruption and inefficiency, in telecommunications just as we have in the country as a whole.

Spectrum hogging, unplanned spectrum allocation and anti-competitive behavior before my Government took office has been replaced by a focused, well-planned and transparent system, positioning us for digitalization.

We recently concluded Fiji’s first ever spectrum auction that has opened the door for the introduction of 4G LTE technology.

We’ve been commended by many international stakeholders for the manner in which we conducted this open “ascending bid” auction and we have been invited to speak about our methodology at a number of international forums.

This auction means, that for the first time, we are getting a return for ordinary Fijians on their collective ownership of the airwaves while at the same time, providing them with the means to harness high speed Broadband. We have also zero rated duty on smart phones to give them even greater access.

We are not resting on our laurels. Our goal is 100 per cent coverage through a Universal Service Access initiative that will offer subsidies to telecommunications companies to put infrastructure in very remote areas.

The hope is to reach every Fijian. Because we all know the risk of not doing so. If we do not spread the advantages of the digital age to all, then technology will actually create even greater disparities.

We’re also establishing, with input from ITU, an Internet Exchange Point in Fiji to bypass the current need to have Internet traffic processed offshore.

All this done to world’s best practice.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to briefly share Fiji’s recent Broadband journey. I would be happy to share this experience and any relevant knowledge in greater detail through our Ministry of Communications for the benefit of our fellow members.

And as always, I reaffirm Fiji’s commitment to South-South cooperation as a means of improving the lives of all our peoples.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

PM FIJI- ADDRESS HLPF UN CONFERENCE

24 September 2013, New York: Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama delivered a major statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China today during the inaugural meeting of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) UN Conference.

The Prime Minister was the first to speak on a Leaders Dialogue Panel also comprising of the President of the European Commission, the President of Turkey, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the Vice President of the Swiss Federal Council.

The idea of establishing the HLPF originated from the Rio+20 Conference last year when UN Member States decided to give more political visibility to sustainable development. The HLPF replaces the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD), which for the last 20 years provided the international community’s home for sustainable development

“While we reflected on the lessons learned from twenty years of the work of the CSD, we also look forward to the rise of the High-level Political Forum, which we firmly believe should be a more vibrant and robust platform, with high-level political visibility, for sustainable development,” said Prime Minister Bainimarama to a fully packed Trusteeship Chamber graced by the presence of the UN Secretary-General and Heads of States and Governments from the 193 UN Member States.

Also in attendance were heads of international organisations such as the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Prime Minister Bainimarama further stated that the HLPF should provide political leadership to further enhance international cooperation on sustainable development.

He underscored the need to address sustainable development challenges from the prism of poverty eradication as its overarching objective. Outlining the functions of the HLPF, Prime Minister Bainimarama said it should “comprehensively implement the Rio+20 mandates and follow-up on the fulfillment of commitments, especially those related to the means of implementation: finance, technology and capacity building”.

While speaking on the importance of having effective multi-stakeholder dialogues within the HLPF, Prime Minister Bainimarama said the Forum should include think-tanks and research institutions from the South, such as the South Centre and the Third World Network, or newly established regional organizations from the developing world such as the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

Prime Minister Bainimarama said the HLPF should serve as a conduit for all those voices who wish to be heard, whose perspectives and contributions matter as much as those of policy makers.

-ENDS-

UN HONOURS FIJI FOR BROADBAND PROGRAMME

9/23/2013

NEW YORK–September 22, 2013 –The United Nations honored Fiji today for its progress in developing information and computer technology in Fiji.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama accepted the award on behalf of the Fijian people at the annual South-South Awards dinner, which recognises advances in sustainable development and progress toward reaching Millennium Development goals.

The award was presented by Winston Baldwin, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. In giving the award, the UN International Organization for South-South Cooperation cited Fiji for developing a broadband regime that is reaching all levels of Fijian society and all areas of the country.

The Prime Minister said he was proud because the UN had “recognised the great work so many Fijians are doing to advance our country in the field of Information Communications Technology.”

“We have looked at Broadband as both a challenge and an opportunity,’ he said. “It has demanded practical solutions that…engage as much of the population as possible and keep our focus on what is good for the vast majority of Fijians.”

The Prime Minister said that Broadband is indispensable for any nation that wishes to compete in the global economy and create opportunities for its people.

The Prime Minister singled out the importance of private sector cooperation and Government leadership in making broadband a reality.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to share what Fiji has learned with other countries that are trying to develop broadband infrastructure.

“My advice to other nations that wish to take advantage of these tremendous opportunities offered by Broadband is simple: firstly, believe in your people. Second, remember that talent exists to develop this infrastructure throughout the developing world. Third, root out corruption wherever it may be and maintain an absolute vigilance against it. Transparency and fairness are essential.”

Fiji PM Updates MSG Leaders on Elections Progress

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has updated Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders on Fiji’s progress towards parliamentary democracy during a retreat as part of the 19th MSG Leaders Summit yesterday.

He said the Fijian people have been given the opportunity for a transparent and open dialogue process for the formulation of a new constitution in readiness for the 2014 national elections.

“The new constitution will amplify the voices and earnest wishes of the Fijian people and also provide a distillation of Fiji’s reform agenda that will lay the foundations for a progressive and sustainable Fiji,” PM Bainimarama said.

He said Fiji is currently at a crucial juncture in its 42 year history as an independent nation.

“We, as a nation, are enduring the most critical phase of our journey towards sustainable democracy,” PM Bainimarama added.

PM Bainimarama highlighted that a number of international and regional organisations including the UN, the Commonwealth, ACP and the Pacific Islands Forum, have recently carried out their own assessment of Fiji’s progress towards the 2014 Elections.

“These visits have taken note of the satisfactory progress Fiji is making and have also spotlighted areas where assistance can be rendered to ensure that the roadmap towards elections is effectively realized,” PM Bainimarama said.

Regarding the registration of political parties, the head of Government said the Political Parties Decree 2013 specified a modern and transparent process for registration and conduct of political parties.

“The Decree has also for the first time in Fiji introduced accountability and transparency with respect to the funding and accounts of political parties,” PM Bainimarama said.