Hon. Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Ashneel Sudhakar
Representative of the European Union Delegation in the Pacific, Emmanuelle Guiheneuf
Representatives of the Fiji Government, private sector and communities
Ladies and gentlemen:
Bula vinaka and good morning!
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to our final workshop under the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme. It has three years since we started implementing this initiative in Fiji, along with five other focus countries, under one global programme managed by our office in Brussels. To my knowledge, this is first programme of this kind implemented in Fiji, and it has been an extraordinary learning experience for all of us.
This workshop is convened with the purpose of reflecting on the programme, on our institutional and personal experiences, lessons learned and ideas that have hopefully been triggered through this initiative. The lessons learned and the ideas are not just for our mental note and the record: they will have a very practical immediate value by helping ACP-EU and UNDP finalize the second phase of the programme, which we expect to start in the second half of the year and go on for another three years.
With this workshop and also during the formulation process in the months to come, we are given a chance to shape the new programme design and ensure a strong country ownership over it.
Before I reflect further, I would like to refresh our collective memory of this endeavour. The Development Minerals Programme is an initiative of the ACP, funded by the European Union and UNDP, and implemented by UNDP. I would like to thank the EU for the generous funding and continuous support for this programme as well as UNDP’s broader efforts towards an inclusive and sustainable development.
I also would like to extend my warm thanks to the Ministry of Lands and Minerals Resources for spearheading this initiative since its beginning and making an early and convincing case for Fiji as a focus country for the global programme.
At the global level, the first phase of this programme was a resounding success. It boosted local enterprise development and improved public oversight for responsible mining. It has built the capacity of more than 20,000 people in 47 countries of the ACP, through more than 198 training and knowledge-sharing events. Over 153 mining cooperatives have been formed with support from the programme, counting 14,549 small-scale informal miners.
In Fiji, the programme has conducted a Baseline Assessment of the Sector which we are promoting with the Ministry today. There are about 56 recommendations to scale up and support this key industry.
The programme also implemented a curriculum on ‘Certificate IV in Mines and Quarry’ in partnership with FNU, bought new equipment, helped with the staff costs, and supported the launch and implementation of the course.
Our team conducted various site visits including a national tour for the parliamentary group on natural resources to focus and raise awareness of the critical importance of development minerals and the challenges faced by the industry.
The programme helped dynamic men and women develop their businesses through small grants, and conducted a variety of training workshops on topics of importance to the industry.
The Baseline Study mentioned earlier is a recent highlight of the Fiji programme. Conducted by the SPC, it has emphasized the importance that the Development Minerals sector plays in Fiji’s domestic development, especially in the areas of infrastructure, housing construction, road building, agriculture and post-disaster reconstruction, as well as supporting a large number of Fijian small and medium-sized enterprises. It is evident that Development Minerals play a pivotal role in the sustainable development agenda in Fiji.
In terms of scope for further development, significant opportunities exist in establishing new Development Minerals industries in Fiji, including cement produced from local resources, industrial lime, ceramics utilising residual clays, clay bricks, glass production from silica sand resources, industrial salt production, and phosphates. These prospective sectors can support the economy through sustainable revenue, employment opportunities and decreasing Fiji’s dependence on imported materials and external market volatility.
After this exciting first phase, we are together today to reflect on the key results we achieved collectively, and to establish a roadmap for the upcoming next phase. We are not here to catalogue our achievements only, but also to honestly discuss where we struggled. With your insight and energy, by working together, we can further improve this initiative and foster greater impact in the next phase.
Looking ahead, the next stage of the programme will aim to create a long-lasting positive change across five key areas in targeted countries, namely: improved business environment; access to finance and increased income opportunities for SMEs; addressing environmental and social impacts; gender inclusion; and facilitating inter-ACP knowledge exchange.
These five areas will provide a basis for the next phase and guide its formulation over the next few months. But to deliver on the ambition of the next phase and to increase its impact, we need your inputs and suggestions. So now is the time to document those ideas and inform the design of Phase II.
I would like to acknowledge and thank you all from the public and private sector, civil society, academia and communities for your respective contributions to a very successful first phase of this programme in Fiji. I hope that your practical experiences and creative ideas will chart the way forward for the next three years, and ultimately help us improve the lives and empower Fijians around the country.