Villagers affected by the Vatukoula Gold Mine, Viti Levu Photo: Shanta Martin/OxfamAUS

Fiji

Fiji’s coral reefs and sparkling blue waters have made it a tourist Mecca but there’s poverty in paradise.

Fiji continues to suffer from political instability, fuelled by tensions between and within ethnic communities and the growing gap between rich and poor. Our goal is to build a more peaceful and inclusive society and a brighter future for the estimated one in four Fijians living below the poverty line.

Promoting peace

Fiji’s young people are uniting to overcome their nation’s differences with the help of our local partner, the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA). ECREA’s Youth Peace and Development Program based in Fiji’s capital, Suva, trains young people to respect religious and ethnic diversity and confront discrimination and racism in their communities. Says program participant Teresa Narayan: “We have to start with our young generation who will carry the message of peace and unity with them as they grow.”

Empowering communities

Like most Pacific Island countries, Fiji has inherited a “culture of silence” which means people are expected to accept without question what they are told by leaders in their school, church, community and nation.

We’re supporting ECREA’s Social Empowerment and Education Program which is helping 30 rural communities to break this silence and actively take part in the decisions and development processes shaping their country. The program gives participants the confidence and skills to speak up and seek their own solutions to problems such as lack of basic services and community conflicts.

Partnering with the Pacific

Fiji, along with other Pacific Island states, is confronted with a series of trade negotiations over the next few years – within the WTO and with the European Union, and Australia and New Zealand (Pacer Plus (PDF, 61KB)). All of these will have major implications for Fiji’s development and the potential to shape its economy and society for generations to come.

We believe Australia – as one of the Pacific Islands’ most important trading partners – has an obligation to ensure its trade and investments genuinely benefit Pacific people. Our blueprint for Australia’s new engagement with Pacific nations (PDF, 554KB), including Fiji, calls for Australia to support development that taps into the aspirations and knowledge of local communities.

Voicing community concern over mining

Australia has been at the forefront of a global mining boom … but at what cost?  Our work with Fijian communities affected by the Vatukoula gold mine – previously owned by an Australian mining company – shows many locals have suffered significant hardship as a result of the mine. We’re helping them to speak out about their concerns and highlighting mining’s impact on women throughout the Pacific.

Fast facts

Life expectancy at birth:
68 years
Population living below the poverty line:
25%
Adult literacy rate (15+):
93.7%
Infant mortality rate:
22 deaths/1,000 live births

Source: United Nations Statistics Division (2004-2006 indicators), UNDP Poverty Report, Fiji, 1997, CIA World Factbook

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