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Suva, FIJI – December 13, 2022: 9am (UN/EU): The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently signed into action a Euro 1,100,000 programme entitled, “The Pacific Digital Democracy Initiative”.

The project will strengthen democratic practices and protect human rights principles in the digital space in the Pacific.

Investment in connectivity and digitalization for the Pacific region has been increasing rapidly over the past five years. This has brought a number of valuable opportunities for democracy and development. On the one hand, social media and civic technologies have helped citizens voice their aspirations to governments, while on the other hand, the digitalization of service delivery processes has enabled government to more efficiently and effectively fulfill those aspirations.

However, if not managed well, digitalization can bring with it a number of risks. As seen in other parts of the world, connectivity can lead to the proliferation of fake news and disinformation; online hate speech and sociopolitical polarization, violation of human rights; and the widening of the gender equality gap, particularly in countries where women do not have the same level of access nor digital literacy as men.

In response to this, EU and UNDP shall be supporting Pacific countries on two fronts. The first is to digitize the democratic space, providing technical assistance for governments to formulate their respective digitalization roadmaps, which includes human rights-based policies, legislation, and investment plans for e-governance. These roadmaps will not only help deliver services, but also help create an inclusive and participatory space for citizens, especially women, online. The second is to democratize the digital space by empowering citizens to participate in the design and utilization of e-governance services, so that they are representative of, and responsive to, their needs.

Representing the EU at the signing ceremony was Mr. Jean-Louis Ville, Head of Unit for East Asia and the Pacific, Directorate-General for International Partnerships.

“The EU supports the development of digital technology to enhance work on democracy and human rights. The project, in partnership with UNDP, aims to contribute to strengthening citizens’ democratic engagement through harnessing digital technology,” said Mr. Ville.

Mr. Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said that strengthening citizens’ rights and participation in e-governance processes is at the center of this project.

“I am thankful for the strong partnership offered by the EU for our shared commitment to leverage technical technologies and platforms in a positive way to enable increased citizen engagement in democratic processes and the protection of human rights in the Pacific,” said Mr. Bouadze.

The 18-month project shall begin in the first quarter of 2023.

The signing ceremony held on 28th November 2022 was also attended by Mr. Michal Krejza, Head of Unit/Head of Cooperation for the Pacific, Mr. Pedro Velazquez, Head of Section for Civil Society, Gender, Human Rights, Health, and Mr. Francesco Ponzoni, Programme Manager of the Delegation of the EU for the Pacific. Representing UNDP were Mr. Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative, and Ms. Revai Aalbaek, Team Leader for Effective Governance.

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