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Fiji now a member of UN Human Rights Council

October 13, 2018 1:00 am

Fiji’s leadership in advancing and protecting human rights received a major international recognition today 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-ever 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 commence on 1 January 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, as President 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.

As a Council Member, Fiji will remain a fierce advocate for climate action, and will speak loudly and clearly for the protection of the human rights of migrants, internally displaced peoples and women and girls, while also pushing for greater protection of sexual and reproductive rights, the prevention of torture, in all forms, and the strength of independent institutions.

“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. 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," said Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Fijian 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. 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; 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.