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CSOs accelerate action for effective access to justice

Partnerships with CSOs accelerate action for effective access to justice

31 January, 2020

For Immediate Release

(Suva, Fiji) – The key role played by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in supporting people’s ability to effectively access justice in Fiji cannot be overemphasized. The EU and UNDP are providing support to CSOs to strengthen their ability to fulfill this role.

The Fiji Access to Justice Project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supports access to justice, in particular for impoverished and vulnerable groups. It does so by empowering people to access legal rights and services, strengthening key justice institutions to deliver improved services and strengthening CSO's capacity to deliver access to justice accompaniment services, with a special focus on supporting persons with disabilities and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

As part of CSO engagement under the project, specific partnerships have been developed with four CSOs, selected through a competitive process, which received justice support services grants in 2019. The success of these grants in 2019 has led to a second round of support in 2020, to accelerate efforts and leave no one behind.

The three grantees, Empower Pacific, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation and Medical Services Pacific shared the positive impact they made with the grants that were awarded to them in 2019. They also presented their workplans for this year, which the renewed grants will enable them to implement. A grant was also awarded to one additional CSO, Fiji Association of the Deaf in late 2019, which will strengthen their justice support activities in 2020.

Empower Pacific Chief Executive Officer Mr Patrick Morgam highlighted one of its key initiatives supported by the grant. “Empower Pacific has opened a new base in Kadavu with a resident professional counsellor, who has been attending serious cases of violence, abuse and neglect since then. We are happy to be able to meet the local needs. The renewed grant will enable us to continue our contribution to peaceful communities.”

Representing the Fiji Association of the Deaf's 'Access to Justice' Project Lead Mrs Makarita Vuli said, “Sign language is crucial for the deaf community to access justice processes. With the grant we have been supporting more deaf people to exercise their rights when they need the support most, encountering cases in police, hospital and court.”

The Fiji Disabled People's Federation President Mr Joshko Wakaniyasi emphasized the importance of raising awareness at community level. “Reaching out to remote communities and raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities was most effective as they often face mobility challenges. Our access to justice project team, which was established last year utilizing this grant, will amplify our advocacy by joining the community outreach missions with the justice partners.”

Medical Services Pacific focused on strengthening its community outreach programme, as Country Director Ms Ashna Shaleen said, “Awareness raising at community level is crucial for prevention of gender-based violence. We will continue to engage with community members both women and men while increasing the capacity of our clinic and counseling services at our centers in Suva and Labasa, and a new clinic opening soon in Lautoka.”

Through the support provided to the CSOs, a robust platform has been established for engagement between government justice institutions, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Commission, and CSOs. This strengthened their referral system to complement their respective areas of expert services. Their collective engagement has also contributed to training of community members and local government officers to act as community human rights advocates, which resulted in increasing knowledge on access to justice and human rights, identifying and discussing key human rights challenges at the community level.

To further invigorate the community human rights advocates, the CSO grantees and other partners from justice sector and local government convened for designing their strategic plan for this year.

The Fiji Access to Justice Project supports Fiji people and government to achieve the Global Goals, with a focus on Goal 5 - to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, and Goal 16 - to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

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