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FIJI: Climate lead challenged Western consultants’ influence before losing job

Fiji's Nazhat Shameem Khan ... ousted as chief climate negotiator after clashes with Australian and European advisers. Image:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Item: 10104

By Megan Darby
LONDON (Climate Home News/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji’s presidency of the United Nations climate talks was an unprecedented opportunity for the Pacific island state to make its mark internationally.

But the sudden removal of chief climate negotiator Nazhat Shameem Khan last month, despite praise for her leadership, revealed a rift between the Geneva-based diplomat and capital Suva.

At the centre of the fight is a group of Australian and European consultants brought in to assist the Fiji government to deliver its biggest diplomatic challenge. Shameem Khan had increasingly objected to the prominent role these outsiders had within Fiji’s presidency.

In exclusive interviews with Climate Home News, insiders said this eventually led to her ousting, with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama taking the consultants’ side. They raised concerns that Fiji ceding control to unaccountable professionals jeopardised a critical year of climate talks.

“In the world of [UN climate negotiations], to see a small island state in the presidency being closely managed and controlled by consultants from developed countries is not good for trust and goodwill,” a source from the Fiji delegation told Climate Home News.

“But [the consultants] refused to take a back seat and we had difficulties in relation to this.”

Another member of the national staff, contacting CHN independently, said: “Most of their advice and interference was harmful rather than helpful… They undermined us and didn’t understand the local dimensions.”

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fijian PM Statement 070318 by Megan Darby on Scribd

No response at first
CHN asked Bainimarama’s office about the circumstances surrounding Shameem Khan’s removal, specifically about her objections regarding consultants. But no response was made to this point.

Writing to Climate Home News prior to publication, Bainimarama said any suggestion the country had been unduly influenced was “false and mischievous”. After this article was published, he issued a further statement, embedded above.

In a speech to the Fijian Parliament on Monday, Bainimarama alluded to the deterioration in the relationship. After thanking Shameem Khan for her work, he said the country needed “a rejuvenated team unquestionably willing to work with all members of the COP23 [climate talks] presidency”.

Her replacement Luke Daunivalu, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, was “a team player”, said Bainimarama, with the “personal qualities and experience to shape the consensus for more ambition the world needs to reach”.

Read the full article at Climate Home News and Asia Pacific Report

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