To help strengthen Fiji’s comprehensive security capabilities, its government, in partnership with the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, conducted a Security Sector Development Workshop in Suva Feb. 24-27. The workshop was conducted at the invitation of the Government of Fiji, and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Suva.
Fiji is in a period of political transformation and is deliberately engaged in building a new national security system based on its emerging democracy and evolving regional security environment. Part of this effort is a thorough review and reformation of its current security strategy and functions.
In his opening remarks to the workshop participants, Esala Nayasi, Fiji’s acting permanent secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the effort is underway “to ensure that we have mechanisms in place for civilian oversight and democratic control over our defense, law enforcement and security organizations…for our new democracy.” The end result, Nayasi trusts, will be a national security system that is “robust, relevant and cost-efficient,” but provides for the current and future safety, peace and prosperity of Fiji’s people.
The February workshop brought together 40 mid-senior grade officials from 20 Fiji Ministries and government entities. These included members of the national Security Council; defense and interior agencies; and other security-related agencies related to economic, environmental, and health functions. Parliamentarians and politicians representing both the government and opposition, and other informed security analysts also took part.
Participants aided by APCSS facilitators assessed four vital security components:
– Key current and anticipated security concerns confronting Fiji and the composition and functions within the current national security sector;
– Evolving and expected roles and responsibilities of Fiji’s security institutions;
– Next steps required towards the development of a national security strategy;
– Further enhancement of the efficiency and effectiveness of Fiji’s security sector.
The workshop included a series of topical plenary presentations by primarily Fijian and APCSS subject matter experts. These were followed by break-out group discussions facilitated by APCSS faculty members. Group discussions enabled participants to articulate improved understanding of Fiji’s security sector; and to address issues involved in drafting and implementing a national security strategy, and enhancing the capacity and efficiency of Fiji’s security-sector practices.
One senior Fiji participant in the workshop survey said the event was well-focused. “The workshop was timely and oriented precisely to the points that will greatly assist the National Security Strategy.”
At workshop’s end, two working groups consolidated their findings and provided them to a panel of five senior Fiji officials. The briefing identified six key Fiji National interests and inventoried challenges and threats to them, as well as opportunities and strengths that provided a basis for recommendations to fully secure those interests. As well the brief recommended the purpose, scope, structure and next steps forward in developing the National Security Strategy.
APCSS’ senior representative, Deputy Director Brig. Gen. (Ret) James Hirai, praised Fiji’s focus on inclusion and integration. “Among our observations of Fiji’s security sector development process was the successful meeting of international best practices in including “whole-of-government” perspectives in this workshop and plans for “whole-of-society” inclusion in future sessions.” Hirai also highlighted women’s participation as a deliberate feature of participant recruitment. “We believe their participation enhanced discussions and resulted in more comprehensive products.”
In a letter to Hirai, Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, who was unable to attend the workshop due to his travel schedule, stated, “It gives me much pleasure to write to you on the occasion of you presence in Fiji for a very important project for my government… I am thankful to APCSS for the learning opportunity they provided and for being a benefactor of that opportunity.”
APCSS is one of Department of Defense’s five regional security studies centers. Military and civilian representatives, most from the United States and Asia-Pacific nations, participate in a comprehensive program of executive education, professional exchanges and outreach events in Hawaii and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Since the Center’s 1995 opening, more than 9,000 alumni representing over 122 countries and territories have attended APCSS courses and workshops.