The end of racism and xenophobia relies on the commitment of Fiji’s political leadership – UN expert

United Nations human rights expert Mutuma Ruteere today called on the Fijian Government to intensify their efforts to end racism and xenophobia. Mr. Ruteere urged the authorities to adopt a National Action Plan and comprehensive legislation recognising racial or ethnic motives as aggravating circumstances for hate crimes in the criminal legislation.

“The elimination of racial and ethnic divisions in Fiji depends on the unequivocal commitment of the country’s political leadership and willingness to denounce and reject those keen on organising politics along ethnic or racial lines,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism at the end of his first fact-finding visit to the country*.

The expert recognised the Government’s stated commitment to build a country that guarantees equality for all citizens, irrespective of their race, ethnic background and religion, and noted its policy of inclusiveness, which resulted in a comprehensive reform of the educational system, ending schooling based on ethnicity.

“I am particularly impressed by the policy of teaching conversational Hindi and Itaukei languages to students at a young age, which can only improve community relations and help promote a sense of inclusiveness for all citizens of Fiji,” he highlighted.

Furthermore, the expert noticed the several poverty alleviation programs put in place to tackle social and economic challenges faced by people particularly living in rural and remote areas. “Thanks to the cohesive and coordinated approach of all governmental departments, these programs allow a better and quality delivery of social services to beneficiaries.”

“Hate speech and racial vilification, in the media, in the Parliament or on the internet, remain very strong,” Mr. Ruteere said, calling for urgent efforts to eliminate institutionalised racism. “Any measures to address racial and ethnic incitement on the internet must be designed and implemented in the respect of international human rights standards, especially regarding freedom of expression and opinion”.

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the efforts of all Fijians, particularly the work of the civil society, the media, academics and religious groups and faith-based organisations to ensure a reconciliation and constructive dialogue in the society.

However, he expressed concerns that “the space and opportunities to constructively discuss issues of ethnicity and race within society at large is quite limited.”

“Political leaders of all parties need to work together to address this crucial issue of reconciliation and move towards an inclusive society,” the expert stressed.

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, he said, has a fundamental role to play in providing guidance to the Government, also in receiving complaints and providing assistance and guidance to victims of alleged acts of racism and discrimination.

Finally, the expert recommended that Fiji urgently moves to strengthen this Commission and accord it necessary resources to ensure that it can secure the necessary confidence and legitimacy of relevant actors as an independent and professional human rights body.

During his visit, from 6 to 11 December 2016, the Special Rapporteur visited Suva, Natandola, and the Vatukarasa Village near Sigatoka, where he met with representative of the Government, including the President of Fiji, legislative and judicial representatives, the Australian National Human Rights Commission, representatives of civil society organisations and of the UN system, as well as individual working in the field of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

A comprehensive country mission report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

Source:  United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

For full end-of-mission statement:


ILO’s Asia-Pacific labour conference calls for more efforts to achieve equitable economic growth with decent work

The 16th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded with a call for governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in the region to do more to promote inclusive growth, social justice and decent work.

At the closing ceremony of the APRM, delegates agreed a “Bali Declaration” which outlines priorities for policies and actions at national level and by the ILO.

“Governments, employers and workers in the region agree that action to promote decent work fosters inclusive growth and social justice, stimulates economic dynamism and innovation, and drives sustainable development,” the Declaration states.

The policy targets outlined include strengthening the application of fundamental labour standards and the ratification and implementation of ILO Conventions in the region, and mandates the ILO to run a promotional campaign to support this.

Additional measures to close gender gaps are also outlined, including measures to break down barriers to women’s labour force participation and advancement, promotion of equal pay for work of equal value, and extended measures for maternity protection and balancing work and care responsibilities.

On labour migration, Governments, workers and employers agreed to work on enhancing policies in accordance with international labour standards, especially those concerning fair recruitment principles. These include not charging recruitment fees or related costs to workers and allowing them to keep their own identity and travel documents. Protection measures should be provided, including arrangements to improve portability of skills and provide social security. Delegates also agreed to safeguard migrant workers’ freedom of movement, their right to terminate employment or change employers, and to return freely to their countries of origin.

Welcoming the Bali Declaration, the ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder told delegates that “implementing the Declaration can change and improve the lives of many millions of workers and their families. It can begin the task of generating the 249 million decent jobs that need to be generated in this region if we are to implement Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Declaration also outlines policy actions related to the creation of more decent jobs, responding to the impact of technology on employers and workers, increasing action against child and forced labour, reversing widening inequalities and sharing productivity improvements, and building resilience to conflicts and disasters.

Other actions include recognizing and maximizing the decent work potential of Global Supply Chains and the opportunities arising from investment, trade and multinational enterprises, improving social protection, social dialogue and tripartism, and strengthening labour market institutions, including labour inspection.

Delegates asked the ILO to report back on progress towards achieving the Bali Declaration every two years.

The ILO is the United Nations specialized agency dealing with work-related issues. The 16th APRM was attended by some 350 delegates – including 24 ministers and vice-ministers – representing governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations from 37 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Arab States region. It was the largest of the last four APRM meetings, which are held every four years.

Source:  ILO Media Resources–en/index.htm