Peace Garden in Suva, Fiji

History of the conflict in Fiji

Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1970, Fiji has suffered four military coups, with the last taking place in 2006.

Although this political instability has complex causes, ethno-political divisions between the Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian communities are generally accepted as a major underlying factor. Historically these divisions have been nurtured and used for political gain. 

This division originated in Fiji’s pre-independence history, with colonial rulers separating political power along ethnic lines. Four decades of independence have seen Fijian politics becoming increasingly polarised, with a tendency to use force to resolve political disputes. 

The Bainimarama Government in Fiji

One of the primary reasons provided by the military leader, Frank Bainimarama, for the 2006 coup was to change these ethnically focused political structures. In 2009 the Bainimarama Government introduced broad censorship and assembly restrictions under public emergency regulations. They also initiated an extensive reform process, including substantial law, public service and land reforms. 

The years of emergency restrictions have undoubtedly brought changes to Fiji’s media landscape, while stifling civic activity and public challenge. Fiji has also become increasingly isolated from its old international friends and groupings, while developing new relationships and new allies, for example with China and Russia. 

Post-2022 elections Fiji

The December 2022 elections in Fiji were very closely contested with a minor party ultimately tipping the balance and resulting in a peaceful, democratic transition to a new government. Now Fiji faces a challenge of healing past traumas and addressing grievances without triggering yet another coup. 

Climate change and conflict risks

Pacific Island Countries are unfairly facing the brunt of climate change caused by industrialised nations. Climate change adds new pressures to social systems through rising sea levels, threats to food security, increased severity and frequency of natural disasters, increased climate displacement and relocation amongst others. Use of land and resources comes under increased strain and given the deep connections of Pacific Islanders to their land, this can lead to risks of conflict as well as trauma caused by migration. 

Fiji had been a leader in preparing to effectively manage the impacts of climate change. With a Climate Change Act, National Climate Change Policy, National Adaptation Plan, Displacement and Planned Relocation Guidelines, Fiji has been setting a proactive example in the Pacific as well as contributing to pressure on industrialised nations to properly deal with the climate crisis. 

Our work in Fiji

Building on our long history in the context, we work with our Fijian partners to address the underlying drivers of Fiji’s political and social divisions.

Our partners engage with these issues through a range of interventions including community-level workshops on governance, impacts of climate change, and the building of community leaders’ peacebuilding and advocacy skills.

We are also supporting communities and civil society to identify climate change induced conflict risks and to develop skills, tools and relationships to manage conflicts constructively. Our partners have worked closely with rural Indigenous communities on Vanua Levu as well as informal settlements in and near Suva. Our advocacy work has been informing the national and regional climate change initiatives, supporting communities to have more agency in their future and strengthening relationships across scales.