17 Jun 2013

UN agency welcomes talks on helping Fiji elections

5:19 pm on 17 June 2013

The head of the United Nations Development Programme in the region, Knut Ostby, says the agency welcomes the chance to give input on Fiji's elections.

The UN agency was among representatives from several countries and international agencies who were invited to talks with the Fiji government last week on co-ordinating the international help on offer for next year's polls, the first since the 2006 coup.

KNUT OSTBY: The Fiji government has been working towards elections for some time now, and the Fiji government called for this meeting to invite development partners for possible assistance, to watch the future elections.

SALLY ROUND: Now, everyone is watching the process towards elections in Fiji very closely and the Fiji government says this is a significant step forward for the elections. How significant is it in your view?

KO: Yeah, the United Nations has been observing with interest the steps forward and we have seen some positive steps going towards elections, such as registration of political parties, for example. We are still in the process of considering what the UN may be able to do to assist Fiji and we're trying to meet the deadline put by the attorney general for coming up with these kinds of responses by the end of the month.

SR: The government says it wants to follow best international practices. What sort of practices does the UN feel are the best for elections?

KO: We have, of course, seen many elections take place in many countries over the years. And we do not have a blueprint for exactly how an election should take place to be credible and democratic. But there are a number of principles that should be followed. The important part, of course, is the participation, that there is transparency, et cetera.

SR: Was this committee a surprise for partners like yourself?

KO: This is not the first time that a meeting was called by the attorney general to discuss election preparations with development partners. This was also done ahead of the voter registration and also it was done ahead of the Constitution Commission that was formed last year. I think among the development partners in Fiji there has been a lot of interest in listening to the government on the steps forward on this. This meeting was welcomed by the partnership.

SR: And you say you're doing your best to meet the deadline for the end of the month. Have you got enough time to come up with the areas that the UN can offer assistance in Fiji?

KO: There is not enough time to do any detailed planning, of course, but we will do our best to look at what opportunities might exist in the short-term. Then we can look later at what longer-term opportunities exist.

SR: Is there anything that you think would be specifically recommended for Fiji?

KO: Specifically, from our side, we have recommended that it would be good to have an independent supervisor of elections. And, of course, very important will be to see also how the final constitution comes out. That will contain the arrangements for elections and the arrangements for the independence of the electoral body.