Japan and the UN Development Program (UNDP) today sealed a new partnership to support the ongoing efforts of Covid-19 response and recovery in the Pacific region through strengthening the systems and capacities of border control agencies in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu.
Japanese Ambassador to Fiji Kawakami Fumihiro and UNDP Resident Representative Levan Bouadze signed the agreement during an online ceremony today.
With Japan's 464-million yen (US$4.2 million) grant, border management agencies in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu will strengthen their capacities and frameworks for inter-agency and cross-regional cooperation and collaboration in managing international travel and risks associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The countries’ border agencies will benefit from specialized technical support to improve the efficiency and user-friendliness of the processes and procedures for incoming and outgoing passengers at the airports.
“Given the unprecedented Covid-19 global crisis, Vanuatu looks forward to the implementation of the project and the returns on investments," said Dr. Gregoire Nimbtik, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office in Vanuatu.
"Covid-19 has created a unique set of new problems for disaster responses to the small island developing countries. A one-side does not fit all. Each economy is unique and so are the disaster impacts.”
Palau's Finance Minister Kaleb Udui Jr. noted that tourism is Palau’s key industry that drives the country's economic development.
"It has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the crisis is not easy to see because of variants occurring," Udui said. "Through this project, Palau aims to consolidate our border management with strengthened safety measures to take steps toward a steady recovery plan while remaining Covid-19 safe."
The initiative will support ongoing efforts of effective business continuity for border service provision and recovery plan to overcome the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic particularly on trade and economy in those countries.
It will be done through the provision of infrastructure support and technical assistance to border agencies in Fiji, Palau and Vanuatu.
Infrastructure support includes the provision of information and communications technology solutions to streamline the procedures and facilitate contactless and paperless services; and setting up quarantine and isolation facilities and personal protective equipment for border agencies personnel.
Technical assistance will be provided to strengthen regional coordination, through an established multi-sectoral task force, for improved risk management and sound recovery plan at the state level.
Fiji's Defense Minister Inia Seruiratu said the initiative could assist government and relevant stakeholders in enhancing their capacities and capabilities in terms of border security management, incorporating the requirements of Covid-19 protocols for both the airports and seaports.
“Criminal networks and modes of operation continue to evolve in our modern world which makes it a challenging task for our law enforcement agencies to address these issues especially at our ports of entry," Seruiratu said.