Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Voices of the People: Key Recommendations

As a result of the issues highlighted previously in this blog on Decision-making, Leadership, Rule of Law, Democracy and Citizenship&Identity, the authors of "Voices of the People: Perceptions and Preconditions for Democratic Development in Fiji" (Volker Boege, Aisake Casimira, Manfred Ernst and Felicity Szesnat) made the following recommendations.....


It is in this context, and in this spirit, that we make the following recommendations, which are based on what was said to us by the focus group participants and the interviewees. In drafting them, we have tried to be as accurate as possible in interpreting what people said to us, and as true to their intent and meaning as possible. The following list of recommendations is neither exhaustive, nor should the order of it be seen as indicating any particular priority; rather, it draws together and attempts to group the most important and recurring recommendations from the preceding chapters.

1.     The one-person-one-vote electoral system should be adopted as it is seen as the most suitable electoral system for Fiji because it values citizens’ individual votes equally.

2.     Financial and personnel resources should be committed by the government to both new and ongoing initiatives on inter-faith, inter-cultural and peace dialogues, which are recognised as essential activities for the democratic reform process.

3.     Education programmes should be strengthened, or developed and implemented in Fiji as soon as is realistically feasible. Specific examples include:

a.     Review and strengthen or develop leadership training programmes for democracy for all those assuming leadership positions in all sectors of society, as well as aspiring leaders. This should include chiefs, civil service personnel, church and other religious leaders, traditional leaders, and leaders of political parties. These programmes should include training on leadership, management, good governance etc. In addition, specific, targeted programmes should be conducted to encourage and empower both current and aspiring female and youth leaders.

b.     Review and strengthen or develop programmes on civic education in schools and communities, grounded in the cultural and religious context of the communities and Fijian society at large. In particular, primary and secondary schools should include an examinable course in civic education (including the rule of law, human rights issues and the current laws applicable in Fiji, as well as the institutions involved in implementing and enforcing these laws and how they function).

c.      Furthermore, adult civic education programmes for communities all over Fiji should be organized in close collaboration with government and civil society organisations. These programmes should be funded by government, without challenging the independence of these organisations. Adult civic education in communities should be sensitive to local conditions and must be culturally appropriate (e.g. including sections on ‘obligations of solidarity’ and habits of co-operation), and should be conducted in the first language of community members (Fijian, Hindi etc.).

d.     In this regard, effort and resources should be invested in strengthening or developing and publicizing a common terminology in Fiji around democracy, governance, citizenship, rule of law and human rights issues, which would assist in the inclusion of all citizens in debating and discussing the issues of the day.

4.     Establish citizens’ forums in rural and urban areas to monitor the accountability of leaders, and to engage citizens in dialogue on important political, social, economic, environmental and moral questions of the day. Citizens’ forums can be used for collecting and discussing information on the performance, financial status, conduct and regulations of state institutions, political parties and societal organisations and their leaders.

5.     Strengthen and increase the use of public forums in different centres of the country for discussing what is good for Fiji. Use national events to generate discussion in these forums, such as the national budget. Use public forums as a way to inform and educate communities and people about critical issues, thereby enabling them to discuss decisions which affect them in particular, such as environmental and economic decisions (e.g. establishing industry in their areas).

6.     Conduct research into the various systems of representation, including the instructive system. This research should focus in particular on their benefits, and their implications for building trust in the political system, increasing the accountability of political leaders to their constituencies, building better race relations, and enhancing the voice of the people in policy decisions.

7.     Develop codes of conduct and ethics for all leadership sectors; in particular, these should cover the government, parliamentarians, civil servants, church leaders, traditional leaders, and politicians etc.  Any code(s) of conduct developed for politicians and parliamentarians should be legally enforceable.

8.     Consider re-constituting and reforming the Great Council of Chiefs so that it becomes an advisory body to the government, responsible solely for safe-guarding iTaukei language, customs and culture.

9.     Decision-making on economic policies and economic development should serve the common good, be transparent and contribute to social justice. Therefore the government of the day should ensure public debate and discussions on important economic issues such as trade agreements, the exploration of natural and mineral resources, taxation policies, and the privatization of public services. Future policies and legislation dealing with these issues should reflect that public debate; in addition, existing policies and legislation should be examined, and where inconsistent with this debate, should be re-considered and amended.

10. Conduct research into the content of current customary rules applicable in Fiji, as well as the role customary rules play in people’s lives. In addition, conduct research into the current state of the relationship between these customary rules and state law, identifying possible problems and conflicts between these two systems. Decide what approach should be taken nationally to the customary rules system; that is, whether customary rules should be integrated into state law, or remain separate. If they are to remain separate, ensure that customary rules and state law are complementary; this should also apply to any procedures and institutions required in both systems in order to recognize and uphold customary rules. This should be done in close collaboration with the iTaukei, academics, state institutions, civil society organisations and traditional and religious authorities.

11. Ratify three of the main international human rights conventions in particular: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Incorporate them into domestic legislation, and bring all current laws into line with these conventions. This should be done in such a way as to tailor them to Fiji’s particular circumstances. Finally, establish and resource effective enforcement mechanisms in order to promote and protect these rights.

12. Ensure the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in any future constitution; guarantee this through enacting or amending any subordinate laws, regulations, processes and institutions either supporting or regulating the judiciary, as well as the executive and the administrative branches of government

13. Engage in a national debate about the future role of the military in Fiji, in particular its role in protecting Fiji and the constitution. In this process, consider the following points made by participants and interviewees: (a) that the military be made subservient to any government elected democratically under a constitution approved by the majority of the Fijian people; (b) that the military continue its role in peace-keeping overseas; (c) that the military play a key role in Fiji’s development (e.g. through building infrastructure, disaster response and rehabilitation, and assisting with teaching young men and women a trade); and (d) that the size of the military be progressively reduced so that it is commensurate with the size of the Fijian population.

No comments:

Post a Comment