The Peoples’ Coalition Cabinet held its 15th meeting this year.
The decisions made at the Cabinet meeting include the following:
1. Incentive Package for Fiji Water Flying Fijians – Rugby World Cup 2023
Cabinet approved Government’s incentive package of $5,000 per member of the Fiji Water Flying Fijians and support staff participating at the Rugby World Cup 2023.
The Fiji Water Flying Fijians, currently ranked at 7th in the World Ranking, is led by head coach Simon Raiwalui with 33 players and 10 officials.
The team has been placed in Pool C with Georgia, Australia, Wales and Portugal, and has generated immense interest amongst rugby fans all over the world, including in Fiji.
Sport is a fast-growing global business with huge economic opportunities and government has a duty of care to support and incentivize our athletes and sporting officials who have made remarkable efforts to represent and promote Fiji. Sports is close to the heart of the nation and has a unifying effect as proven over time with Rio Olympics, Tokyo Olympics, Sevens RWCs, and the sterling performance by the Fijian Drua and Fijiana teams in the Super Rugby Pacific 2023. Government therefore has a duty to recognize the sacrifices made for the nation through this incentive package.
There is no doubt that our 15s and 7s team and their achievements are a unifying factor for our nation. Rugby is a national asset that arguably does more than any other industry or figure to make known our nation and her people to the world and they deserve every accolade and encouragement from the Government.
Government’s incentive package not only acknowledges the achievement and performance of the Fiji Water Flying Fijians, but also symbolizes our commitment to honouring and uplifting our sporting heroes, continued support for uplifting athletes, fostering support to a sporting culture that promotes health, unity and national pride, in line with Government priority of integrating sports for nation building.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup is the tenth men’s Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial world championship for rugby union national teams which will be held in France from 8 September to 28 October 2023.
It will feature the world’s top 20 teams and will be hosted in nine venues across France, with 48 matches played in 51 days.
2. 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Cabinet approved Fiji’s Delegation to the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – High Level Week from 18-26 September, 2023.
Our delegation to the UNGA 78 will be led by the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, supported by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Fiji to the United Nations, and the Office of the Prime Minister.
The 78th session of the UNGA (UNGA 78) opened earlier this week, on 5 September 2023. The high-level week takes place from 18 September till 26 September. During the high-level week, world leaders will convene for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, the Climate Ambitions Summit and the General Debate, among other key events.
The General Debate begins on Tuesday 19 September 2023 continuing through Saturday 23 September, and concluding on Tuesday 26 September 2023. The Prime Minister is scheduled to deliver Fiji’s national statement at the General Debate on Friday 22 September 2023.
Other meetings convened on the sidelines of the General Assembly include the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, the Climate Ambitions Summit, as well as bilateral meetings with other high level delegations.
The General Assembly is the main policy-making organ of the United Nations (UN). Comprising all UN Member States, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations, where each of the 193 Member States has an equal vote. It meets in regular sessions from September to December annually, and thereafter, as required. It discusses specific issues through dedicated agenda items or sub-items which lead to the adoption of resolutions.
3. Fiji to sign High Seas Treaty (BBNJ) under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable use of marine Biological Diversity of areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
Cabinet agreed that Fiji sign the international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Treaty).
The BBNJ Treaty applies specifically to those areas of ocean that lie outside of any nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) i.e. areas beyond national jurisdiction or the high seas. EEZs extend 200 nautical miles (about 370km) from shore.
The Prime Minister will sign the High Seas Treaty at a special event during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly on 20th September 2023. Formal ratification will take place at a later date following endorsement of the Parliament of Fiji. The Treaty will enter into force when 60 parties ratify it.
The High Seas Treaty is key to protect the ocean, promote equity and fairness, tackle environmental degradation, fight climate change, and prevent biodiversity loss in the high seas.
The adoption of this Treaty is a historic achievement marking the successful end of more than a decade of multilateral negotiations.
Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) representatives (including Fiji) also participated in BBNJ treaty negotiations with members sharing similar priorities and positions. The objectives of the BBNJ Treaty align with Fiji’s National Ocean Policy and other laws and policies.
The general objective of the BBNJ Treaty is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, for the present and in the long term, through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of UNCLOS and further international cooperation and coordination.
It also provides a link between climate change and the law of the sea, a link that was not included in UNCLOS as the impacts of climate change on the marine environment was not widely studied at the time of its negotiation.
The final text of the treaty captures Fiji and PSIDs priorities including our special circumstances as SIDS, the role of traditional knowledge and indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs), fair and equitable sharing of benefits deriving from access to and utilisation of marine genetic resources from areas beyond national jurisdiction, as well as the need for capacity building and transfer of technology.
The Leaders’ Communique issued at the PIF Leader’s Summit in Nadi earlier this year highlighted the need for finalisation of the High Seas Treaty given it will be instrumental in managing and protecting the region’s marine biodiversity.
Following Fiji’s signature of the Treaty and eventual ratification after parliamentary approval, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will conduct the necessary consultations with relevant line ministries to ensure relevant laws and policies are amended, as necessary, through the proper processes to give effect to the BBNJ Treaty.
4. Education (Establishment and Registration of Schools) (Amendment) Regulations 2023
Cabinet approved the Education (Establishment and Registration of Schools) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (2023 Regulations).
The 2023 Regulations reverses the decision made in 2022 on the age requirement for enrolment in Year 1, which had extended the age requirement to include children turning 6 years old by 31 December in the year of admission.
This means that only children who turn 6 in June 2024, will be allowed enrolment in year 1 next year, instead of those turning 6 by 31 December in 2024.
Prior to 2022, only children who had turned 6 years old by 30 June in the year of admission, was allowed enrolment in Year 1. This has been the practice in Fiji schools for decades.
The reversal of the 2022 decision was made in view of the impact of increased enrolment to infrastructure, human resources and several education assistance schemes provided by Government.
The Ministry of Education will consult with its stakeholders and parents who may be impacted by the new Regulations and provide an amicable way forward.
5. Fiji To Co-Host Regional Human Rights Treaty Body Follow-Up Review Training
Cabinet agreed that Fiji co-host the regional training in relation to the Regional Human Rights Treaty Body Follow-Up Review, November 2023.
The training will be co-hosted by the Office of the Attorney – General, the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Protection, supported by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with the Geneva Human Rights Platform and the Commonwealth (Project Partners).
The United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies play a pivotal role in the global human rights framework, monitoring the implementation of human rights treaties by States.
Traditionally, Treaty Body reviews of Member States have been conducted in Geneva, the heart of international human rights diplomacy.
However, as of late there has been a keen interest to bring the review process closer to national stakeholders.
This training will be the first of its kind to pilot this new model of the follow-up review process.
The Training will involve three key Treaty Bodies:
the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;
the Committee on the Rights of the Child; and
the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Committees).
These Treaty Bodies were chosen due to their broad mandates covering critical areas of human rights, including gender equality, children’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities.
6. Redeployment of Funds within the 2022-2023 Budget
Cabinet approved the redeployment of funds from within the 2022- 2023 Budget to cater for the over-expenditure incurred under the Fiji Police Force 2022-2023 Budget.
In any financial year, if ministries are unable to meet unbudgeted or unforeseen commitments from within their respective budgets, there is a provision in the Financial Management Act 2004 (Act) that enables the redeployment of available balances from other ministries to fund unbudgeted or unforeseen commitments.
The Fiji Police Force 2022-2023 Budget incurred an over-expenditure of $1,849,488.20. This will be sourced from the Renovation and Maintenance of Government Quarters and Public Buildings under Head 50, Standard Expenditure 8 of the 2022-2023 Budget to regularise the over-expenditure.
7. Exchange of Note for Oil Spill Equipment Grant Aid with the Government of Japan
Cabinet approved the Exchange of Notes with the Government of Japan for grant aid of FJD $1.6M. The grant aid is to support the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) in procuring oil spill equipment.
Oil spill equipment play a critical role in mitigating the environmental and economic impact of oil spills in marine and coastal regions. When oil is accidentally released into water bodies, an effective response is essential to contain, recover, and minimise the spread of the oil.
MSAF is the maritime regulatory body in Fiji and is responsible for developing and implementing regulations and guidelines related to oil spill prevention, preparedness, response, and cooperation.
MSAF’s use of oil spill equipment exemplifies its commitment to safeguarding Fiji’s marine environment and coastal communities from the potential devastating effects of oil spills.
MSAF has been conducting oil spill removal with the assistance of donated equipment from New Zealand, with the most recent oil spill removal operation in February 2023.
With equipment procurement through the grant aid, MSAF will be able to swiftly and effectively respond using containment booms, skimmers, sorbents, and other specialised equipment that are essential to prevent further environmental damage and economic losses in the event of oil spills.
The grant aid is provided under Japan’s Economic Social Development Programme (ESDP) which is a comprehensive and strategic initiative aimed at fostering sustainable economic growth, social progress, and overall development both domestically and internationally.
The Government of Japan has been assisting the Government of Fiji since 2016 through the ESDP Project. Recipients of the grant aids from 2016 include the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development, Office of the Prime Minister, Fiji Police Force, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways.