The Fijian Government and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have agreed to renew partnerships to advance its ongoing commitment to human rights in Fiji and the region. 

This commitment was conveyed yesterday at a courtesy call made by the new Regional Representative for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Ms. Heike Alefsen on the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister, Immigration and Sugar Industry and Acting Permanent Secretary Foreign Affairs, Mr Yogesh Jitendra Karan. PS Karan congratulated Ms. Alefsen on her new role and reaffirmed Fiji’s support to enhance opportunities for strengthened engagements with the OHCHR. 

PS Karan commended the OHCHR Regional Office for its work in coordinating Human Rights empowerment, awareness programmes and its outreach to communities in Fiji and the region.

He said that with Ms. Alefsen’s leadership, Fiji will pursue strategic areas of engagements with OHCHR in advancing human rights and also in developing solutions to rebuilding better and addressing the current challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. 

He said that Fiji looks forward to assuming the Chair responsibilities for the Platform in Disaster Displacement (PDD) next year and working in solidarity with member states  remains key to developing enduring partnership to address critical agenda on climate change and disaster displacement.  

PS Karan said that Fiji through its Mission in Geneva  is working closely with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the member states in the submissions of the UPRs (Universal Periodic Reviews) and to ensure compliance of Universal Human rights standards, instruments and treaty bodies.

He reiterated that Fiji will continue to play an active role in advocating and upholding human rights standards and practice.  

Fiji is the first Pacific island country to join the UNHRC and held the Vice Presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Ms Alefsen said, ”We are hoping to continue with the good collaboration that we already have and which is something I have today discussed with PS Karan: e.g. in the areas of climate change, migration, and capacity building of law enforcement. Generally it is about making sure that the rights of Fijians and also of the other inhabitants of the Pacific are truly respected and fulfilled. 

“I have recently taken up the role as the OHCHR Regional Representative, and for UN Human Rights, it is important to have our regional office hosted here in Fiji because it gives us unprecedented access to the Pacific.  Our office covers 16 Pacific States from here including Australia and New Zealand.

 “We have a key partner in Fiji. The country has ratified all 9 core human rights treaties and that is something which, we will hopefully see in the region as a whole so we look forward to working towards that with the other Pacific Islands States. 

“We also have Fiji as the former vice president and current member of the UN Human Rights Council pursuing a number of important agendas in the Council including climate change which, is a key issue given the impact climate change has on human rights ranging from economic to social rights to rights related to governance,” Ms Alefsen said. 

Ms. Alefsen has served in human rights, legal and political functions for almost 30 years with the United Nations, the Council for Europe and civil society.

Prior to taking up her current post, she was the Senior Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team in Bangladesh and to the UN Development Group Asia-Pacific’s regional directors and 24 country teams. As Deputy Head of the Regional Office for the South- East Asia in Bangkok, she initiated OHCHR Programme in Myanmar. 

In Geneva, during the Human Rights Council’s institution-building phase, she coordinated a unit of the Special Procedures Branch and served as Europe team leader, for a few months in “Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD). 

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