Mar 22, 2019 Last Updated 7:00 AM, Mar 20, 2019

Reward work, not wealth


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    2019
  • Published in February

At the close of 2018, all eyes were on international conferences in Poland and Hawaii, dealing with global commitments to climate change and fisheries management respectively. However Oxfam in the Pacific’s Regional Director, Raijeli Nicole, was at an important meeting dealing with another and related issue for the Pacific, the Blue Economy in Nairobi, Kenya. Highlights from her speech to the conference follow.

I hail from the blue continent, specifically from the large ocean state of Fiji. Fiji and its 13 independent island nation neighbours are great ocean powers. We are custodians of more than 155 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. I say custodians, rather than owners, as we hold the Pacific Ocean in trust for future generations, as our ancestors have done for generations before us. We are accountable to, and responsible for the Ocean. For Pacific people, the ocean is the source of our identities, our creation and migration stories, our ancient gods, our ancestral connections, our food, and the key to our future prosperity.

So while concepts such as ocean governance and the blue economy may have recently gained currency and focus in the international political space, our connections and responsibilities to the ocean are ancient. Our blue continent is not a collection of Exclusive Economic Zones or political boundaries or enclosed spaces, it is a complex, interlinked organism that connects and sustains us.

I would like to ask you to imagine that you are in the year 2031. Specifically, it is October 2031 and you are witnessing the Nobel Peace Prize announcement. The chair of the Nobel Committee walks up to the microphone and says: “Ladies and Gentleman, the Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2031 to “Reward Work, not Wealth Partnership” for their efforts to create a more equitable economy by prioritising ordinary workers and small-scale food producers and not the highly-paid owners of wealth.

This partnership formed at the first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2018 dared to put into motion transformative solutions to address the key global challenge of poverty in all its forms and dimensions. I start with this vision as a way to inspire us to act on our commitment for a just, inclusive and sustainable world. However, this vision raises some questions about the realities in 2018 that need to
be addressed if we are to reduce poverty, and what daring and transformative solutions are necessary to get us there.

Any discussion of the Blue Economy is intrinsically linked to the need for action on climate change. Following the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, we now know that we have just 12 years to make massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels. Staying at or below 1.5°C requires slashing global greenhouse
gas emissions 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. Meeting this IPCC goal demands extraordinary transitions in transportation; in energy, land, and building infrastructure; and in industrial systems. It means reducing our current coal consumption by one-third. It also demands a vast scale-up of Reward work, not wealth emerging technologies, such as those that remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. All in the very narrow window of the next 12 years while our momentum pushes us in the wrong direction.

A year ago, Oxfam released its report “Reward Work, Not Wealth” at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The report reveals 82 per cent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest 1 per cent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth. Not only that, but 2017 saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days, and
billionaires saw their wealth increase by US$762 billion in 12 months. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over.

Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few. Women are in the worst work. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, nine out of ten billionaires are men. We need to ensure the Blue Economy does not marginalise women.

Samoa’s Prime Minister has described our blue continent as an increasingly contested space. We know that much of the discourse around oceans governance and the blue economy is really about jostling for control of a space that is important for regional and global order, capitalist accumulation and ecological conservation.

Let’s use the Blue Economy to create a more human economy that puts the interests of ordinary workers and small-scale food producers first, not the highly paid and the owners of wealth. This kind of economy has greater equality as a primary aim. It is about humanity and it could end extreme inequality while guaranteeing the future of our planet.

There are three ways we can make this difference. We need to ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life, eliminate the gender pay gap and protect the rights of women workers.

We need to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increase spending on public services such as healthcare and education.

And as with climate financing, we believe in the importance of social accountability when it comes to income generation in this sector. The international community, national governments, and regional and international organisations also have an obligation to ensure that the most vulnerable - including women, children, people with disabilities and our elders, are able to benefit from the investments in decarbonising the transport sector and have access to safe, affordable, accessible and transport systems.

If we do this as an international community and press the reset button, we can imagine that future, when a Nobel peace prize is conferred because we worked together for a just, inclusive and sustainable world for all.

Is regulation the answer?


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    Mar 22,
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    2019
  • Published in 2018 March

Social media under state scrutiny in Fiji

DISCUSSION around regulating cyberspace at Fiji Attorney General’s conference generates a few interesting questions and reactions for public discussion. Police Commissioner, Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, was perhaps the clearest in his sentiment stating, “To answer the question of whether we should regulate cyberspace, the answer is a definite yes.”

This sentiment in amongst others is underpinned by a variety of what can be termed as cases of digital deviance that has recently attained a significant level of notoriety and attention. This has overshadowed healthy digital discourse and dissent, which does exist in Fiji’s digital landscape. To an extent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s statement of “when used correctly, can be an invaluable tool for… encouraging healthy discourse” only reaffirms the obvious for the constructive and engaged digital Fijian citizens.

Most of the notoriety has been generated on interactive platforms or social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook. It is worth acknowledging that there are a variety of other social networking sites that are active in Fiji, such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr. However, Facebook is the most heavily engaged and prominent social networking site in Fiji’s digital landscape. Facebook in Fiji now has an estimated 490,000 accounts, ranging in age from 13 to well over 65. 

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Interconnected: The technical and ethics in a warming planet


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    2019
  • Published in 2018 February

Since assuming the mantle of Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, I have been committed to championing inclusivity in many aspects of the Secretariat’s work. Inclusivity ensures a variety of perspectives in dealing with issues dear to us as Pacific peoples and as a region. Inclusivity also builds ownership and empathy - which are both key to strong advocacy on all fronts. For the Pacific region, our advocacy on climate change and its impacts has been built, in most part on the impacts that we are facing today.

Our Leaders have been and remain strong advocates in international fora on this issue. I acknowledge in particular, the work of the late Tony De Brum, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Climate Change Ambassador for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and former President of Kiribati Anote Tong - who have become synonymous with the Pacific’s advocacy on climate change and its drastic impacts to our livelihoods and wellbeing.

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Winds of change


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    Mar 22,
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    2019
  • Published in 2017 November

From colonialism to democracy, coups and a fight for the Earth

I WAS born when Fiji was under colonial rule on January 30th 1961; nine years before Fiji gained her independence from Great Britain. During the years leading up to her independence Fiji experienced an atmosphere of racial mistrust between iTaukei’s and Indo-Fijians.

I recall my childhood days walking in the night either to church or the store and we would jump off the road and hide in the grass at the sound of an on-coming vehicle. At that time Indo-Fijians owned most vehicles.

Our folks told us that IndoFijians would readily use knives to attack people. Despite the racial mistrust and prejudices between the iTaukei and IndoFijians they shared a common historical reality, namely British colonialism. Fiji Independence Day celebrates our nation’s history, hope and commitment. Internationally influential Roman Catholic Biblical scholar Raymond Brown states that God writes on the crooked lines of human history. Theologians now consensually agree that there is only one history of salvation and it takes place in human history. 

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Will Fiji evolve towards Pakistan’s model of democracy?


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    2019
  • Published in 2017 October

THE statement in the media by the Chief of Staff of the Fiji Military Forces, Colonel Jone Kalouniwai, in September criticising the speech of National Federation Party MP Parmod Nand, has again raised the question of the role of the army in the political and constitutional system of Fiji. This Essay poses the question whether Fiji, is evolving towards the situation of a “controlled democracy” like in Pakistan under an imposed 2013 Constitution. Does recent history answer this?

This question was first raised by Colonel Kalouniwai’s article July 24, 2017 in the Fiji Sun that provided justification for Section 131 (2) of the Constitution: “It shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and wellbeing of Fiji and all Fijians”. This provision did not exist in the 1970 and 1997 Constitutions that were passed by our Parliament. There was a similar provision in the decreed Constitution of 1990 but it was repealed under Section 195 of the 1997 Constitution.

It then resurfaced under the decreed 2013 Constitution. The Pakistan situation is where the military and intelligence services are the actual long-term rulers of the country and usually decide how long an elected government can be tolerated in power?

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