Postdate: 31-08-2007

By Rev Akuila Yabaki, CEO, CCF

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), warmly invites the students and teachers present here today, to view the screening of the documentary Struggling for a Better Living: Squatters in Fiji. CCF also thanks Village Six for making available the time to screen this documentary.

The making of this documentary became possible through funding by the European Union, who are a major donor to CCF. The documentary was officially launched by a European Union (EU) representative on 4 April 2007 at the Marine Studies Lecture Theatre, University of the South Pacific.

The documentary was produced by CCF under the direction of Larry Thomas, SPC Regional Media Centre. Generous advice and assistance for the documentary was received from the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA).

The documentary was filmed in squatter settlements in and around Suva, Ba and Labasa from June to August 2006. According to the latest estimates, 12.5% of Fiji’s population today is living in over 182 informal or ‘squatter’ settlements around the country. This amounts to over 100,000 people. Besides having no proper legal title to their homes, the vast majority of these people lack basic amenities such as piped water, sewerage and electricity.

Struggling for a Better Living: Squatters in Fiji, is a documentary about this population. It seeks to demystify why there are so many squatters in Fiji today and analyses government’s efforts to reduce their numbers. It explores the problems squatters face in their daily lives and the issues of human rights that their situations present.

Most of all, this documentary seeks to deepen public understanding of the phenomenon of squatter settlements in Fiji in the hope that more can be done in the future – by a wider range of actors and with greater creativity – to improve squatters’ standards of living. The voices of squatters themselves have been placed alongside the voices of experts from government and civil society, so that they can tell their own stories.

CCF has been working to educate and advocate on the Constitution, democracy, human rights and multi-culturalism, since its formation in 1991. CCF’s vision is a nation where all Fiji’s people live together in equality, justice and peace, respecting the rule of law, under a Constitution that guarantees democracy and human rights. CCF works with women, youth and marginalised groups as well as politicians and community leaders. However, CCF is not aligned with any political party.

The issue of poverty and under-development have a significant bearing on human rights.

In the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is recognised by the statement that:

  • the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
  • and the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that: .

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Thus, all human beings are entitled to a live in dignity and be treated with respect and dignity. All human beings are entitled to be given an opportunity to benefit from development.

Rights are not created in a vacuum and people’s rights can only be guaranteed if everyone respects those rights, and ensures that they contribute to those rights being upheld.

As members of this society, we have an obligation to assist those who are less unfortunate, so that they can be provided with a better start to improving their lives.

This documentary provides a grim reminder to us, of that society and the government has failed to cater for the needs of a significant portion of our population.

We encourage you to think about what you will view today, and request you to take a lead in responding to the needs of the unfortunate in our society, in your future life and careers.

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