C3 partners: International IDEA, Citizen Constitutional Forum, EU Delegation, Media Watch Group, Dialogue Fiji, Pacific Center for Peace Building, Fiji Election Office. Photo credit: International IDEA.
Fiji is almost finishing its first electoral cycle since it returned to democracy in 2014. Next parliamentary elections are due to take place before December this year. The return of democracy has provided greater opportunities and space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to get involved in the democratic processes. It was therefore an opportune time to launch and begin the European Union-funded “C3- Fiji Project” on 17 April 2018.
The official name of the project is “Upholding Citizens’ Constitutional Rights for Democratic Consolidation in Fiji”, and C3 was chosen as nickname because of the key ‘C’ words, Citizens – Constitution – Consolidation; and being cubed, the three Cs reinforce one another. These three Cs reflect the DNA of the project providing opportunities for citizens to contribute to consolidation of Fijian democracy through better understanding of the constitution and participating in important democratic processes, such as elections.
The space for citizen involvement on democratic processes had indeed been limited before the 2014 elections after decades of conflicts resulting to three coup d’états since Fiji gained independence from Britain in 1970. The Fijian democracy has since been going through steps towards democratic consolidation. The CSOs appear to have more and more space to be active in democratic governance issues. The government also appears to be more willing to interact with CSOs. This widening of space is an important enabler for the C3 – Fiji Project.
Ambassador Julian Wilson, the Head of European Union Delegation to the Pacific, who is responsible for Fiji in officially launching the Project said, “The Project is significant because it represents and demonstrates Fiji’s continued effort to build substantive and sustainable partnerships between CSOs and state institutions; both dedicated to the continued evolution of Fiji’s constitutional and open democracy.” The European Union in partnership with International IDEA is honored to be associated with this effort.
The Ambassador went on to say that around the world, analyses are suggesting that governments and CSOs are somehow being in conflict. The Ambassador believes that this is a mischaracterization of the relationship. The CSOs are just advocates for a cause advocating for what they believe in, just like a chamber of commerce advocating for the cause of business. As such, it is the view of the European Union that CSOs needs the government, its laws and institutions as much as a government and its institutions need them. “Indeed they are two sides in an equation. Both are essential elements striving to achieve a formula of a successful and open democracy working to serve the citizens of that country.”
In her speech, Leena Rikkilä Tamang, International IDEA’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, reinforced the message that International IDEA as lead implementer of the Project is keen to facilitate the strengthening of relations between CSOs and state institutions. “We are mindful of Fiji’s political history and challenges in the past. At the same time, we are optimistic that democratization is moving forward in Fiji”. The Project will provide opportunities for dialogue between CSOs and, among others, the Fijian Elections Office as well as the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the iTaukei Affairs Board. The Project will also contribute to closing the gap between democratically elected leaders and citizens in the rural areas. She acknowledged and thanked the Supervisor of Elections, as head of the Fijian Elections Office, for his cooperation in the implementation of the BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) training for CSOs, which is the very first activity of the Project being implemented, by providing one of its staff as a co-facilitator. Indeed, it marks an encouraging start to the Project.
For more information on the Project, please find the Project Summary here.