Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that one of the main global issues that will become a human rights issue is access to vaccines. While giving his keynote address at the 1st UN Pacific Forum on Business and Human Rights organized at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Sayed-Khaiyum said people traveling from abroad will face huge problems if they do not carry vaccines.
“The richer countries in the world have prepaid many of the pharmaceutical companies and said once the vaccine comes out give it to us first.
What about our smaller countries in the Pacific? We on international forums talk to the World Bank, IMF, UN and our bilateral partners. Vaccines should be treated as a social good not commodity as it is related to the ability of human survival and accessibility to jobs, accessibility to economic participation in the global economy,” he said.
He added that countries like Australia have said that they will try to provide accessibility to Pacific Island countries, and include us on the top of the ladder.
“We should not be restricted by the size nor punished for our success. It is over 220 days since #Fiji had its last case of COVID outside the border quarantine. We are very lucky which makes our case a lot easier to argue with the rest of the world to open up our tourism sector through Bula Bubble.
He added the pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. “Fiji has lost its tourism sector and we do not have any tourists coming into Fiji. 40 percent of GDP completely relied on the tourism sector, directly and indirectly there is an enormous impact on people’s livelihoods. Some statistics demonstrate that there are 130,000 #Fijians engaged in the informal sector.
There are some in the formal sector but not in large businesses. Fifty to sixty percent of businesses in Fiji are in the category of micro, small and medium enterprises,” the A-G said. He added that sometimes hard choices need to be made.
“Last week the Ministry of Environment gave a stop order to a factory that employs 300 people for polluting a river in Lami. Now on one hand due to #COVID-19, 125,000 people have lost their jobs or may have reduced hours and here the Ministry is telling the factory to comply with the particular environmental directive, you will be forced to shut down,” he said.
The A-G also said that if we look globally, a lot of businesses are struggling, developed states are pumping in trillions of dollars, quantitative easing or printing money is happening and new norms are being set.
Now Governments have a more flexible and fiscal approach in respect of managing economy and borrowing. Today the world is more interdependent, we have global supply chains, all of these new dynamics are now in 2020 which did not exist 100 years ago,” the A-G said.
He added the world has changed dramatically within this context of human rights and businesses and we cannot paint all businesses with one brush. “Sometimes the discussions on human rights in particular when you have businesses and human rights advocates there is a very dichotomous approach and a lot of it stamps from the lack of understanding of the issues that each group may face or importance of the issues that they place as far as their paradigm is concerned.
That paradigm shift is critically important,” he said.He further said that corruption also exists in the private sector which needs to be addressed. “A lot of focus is on corruption between the state and a private business and hence the reason why FICAC was created to stop systemic corruption however there is a lot of corruption in the private sector itself which does not involve the state,”
The A-G said that the jurisprudence regarding corruption in Fiji and other Pacific Island countries is not very highly developed.
“Some of the members of the judiciary in Fiji are applying jurisprudence from the 1950s and 60s have not applied the same principles as being applied in other jurisdictions, we have seen that the development of the law is very slow Therefore your ability to successfully prosecute and get deterrents built into the modern-day economy, we are actually lagging behind.
In countries like Australia, UK and Hong Kong the jurisprudence has developed and there are convictions. I hope the judiciary can come up to speed regarding corruption.”
He further added the Climate Change Bill is available online and people can make submissions.
Regional Representative for the Pacific, (OHCHR) Heike Alefsen was the Moderator for the Forum and the other speakers included UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights Chair Anita Ramasastry, Executive Director for Pacific Islands Association for Non-Government Organisations(PIANGO), Resident Coordinator of Fiji and nine other Pacific Island countries and Chief Executive Officer for Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation.