Fiji Day Reception 2018
Permanent Mission of Fiji to Geneva
Address of Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan
Fiji Day Reception
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman.
Bula Vinaka and welcome to our Fiji Day celebrations. For those of you who are a part of international Geneva, you will see around you the members of the very small Fijian diaspora we have here in Switzerland. For those who are Fijian by birth, or by connection or by love, you will see around you a reminder of how Fiji has taken its place amongst the nations of the world, and how already we may be proud of our reputation as a nation which believes in multilateralism, in a strong and constructive voice in the human rights and international trade world, and has shown leadership both in New York and Geneva.
Today is a day of refection for Fijians. When Fiji became independent in 1970, I was a child still in primary school. But I remember what our parents wished for Fiji. A Fiji which was strong and resilient, which believed in unity and equality in diversity, which did not shut its doors to the world around it despite the remoteness of its location. A Fiji which was inclusive and which celebrated difference. A strong, progressive and liberal Fiji showing solid economic growth and an equality of opportunity to all its citizens.
We have all travelled a long way since 1970. Our past has not always been peaceful or predictable. We have not always tolerated each other, nor celebrated difference. But we have learnt, through our past, that we cannot build a future on inequality, greed, or opportunism. We have learnt the hard way, that we can only build a future on inclusive policies. Not by building walls to keep people out, but by building bridges to invite people in. Not by shutting out dissent and disagreement, but by providing opportunities to embrace differences. And we have learnt also with the outrageous sense of humour that all Fijians share, that friendship and understanding cure many disagreements.
And now, after many years of peacekeeping, chairing multilateral meetings such as G77 plus China and the COP 23 of UNFCCC, we look to the Human Rights Council. I have heard the words clean slate many times. It is indeed a clean slate for all groups this year. But I have also seen in the publications of civil society, that this is the year of the clean slate alert! Meaning that if we are not careful, the General Assembly will vote in countries which are undeserving. May I say this in relation to the Human Rights Council and Fiji’s aspirations as far as membership are concerned. Fiji does not pretend to be a perfect country. We know that for every three steps forward in the path of ratification, implementation and reporting on human rights, we may take one back. We know that like many countries, some of our laws and policies may be the subject of constitutional challenge. But we also know that as a nation, we aspire to be progressive, to build a future for our people on human dignity and on substantive equality. We have a strong and progressive Constitution which creates rights of enforceability through the courts and the national human rights institution. We have a provision in our Constitution which specifically empowers our judges to interpret our Bill of Rights in accordance with international law and jurisprudence. We work hard to comply with treaty body reporting obligations, and we have built in Geneva a wonderful team of diplomats and support staff, who are committed to give this tiny country in the middle of the Pacific a proud name and reputation.
We believe in constructive dialogue and peace building. We believe in diversity and in unity in that diversity. We may come from different ethnic communities in Fiji, but we are proud Fijians. We believe in our country and our future together as a nation. And we believe that Fiji, as a small island developing country from the Pacific, should be represented on the Council, so that the world can hear our stories and our experiences of the path to a progressive and inclusive future based on the dignity of our people. If voted as a member of the Council, this will be the first time that a small island developing state from the Pacific, becomes a member of the Human Rights Council. That in itself is a reason to support Fiji – to hear voices from a Pacific small island state and to render the Human Rights Council more inclusive and representative.
I ask you to support Fiji in its candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council.
I thank you all for sharing Fiji Day with us today.
PRUNOG, Geneva October 2 2018