Tevita Naikasowalu

Role: Fiji Coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creations (JPIC) at the Columban Mission
Active in Country: Fiji
DTP Alumnus:
2019 Business, Human Rights & the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Pacific - Fiji

Tevita Naikasowalu is a Fijian Human, Ecological and Indigenous Rights Defender (HEIR Defender).

He is now the Fiji Coordinator of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creations (JPIC) at the Columban Mission. Tevita is also a member of the working group of the Indigenous people at the Pacific Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN).

With an aim to protect and strengthen human rights defenders in the region, PHDRN was established in July 2019.

Tevita said that DTP training on business and human rights in Fiji in 2019, where he participated, played a significant role in establishing the PHDRN.

“In that training, DTP presented research-based findings of how people and rights defenders in other countries are facing many challenges similar to us here in Fiji. That has broadened our horizons. We realized that we are part of a global struggle for human rights, and networking is important for the rights defenders,” Tevita said, “that realization played an important role in forming the PHDRN in 2019 though we were in talks about forming a regional network since 2010.”

In Tevita’s view, DTP training had brought “a new punch” to his work as a human rights defender advocating for the “respect” and protection of human dignity. For him, two significant takeaways from the DTP training include (a) learning the importance of using dialogue and diplomacy in human rights advocacy, and (b) learning to use UN mechanisms for defending rights.

“I first thought using UN mechanisms in human rights advocacy is going to be too boring, bureaucratic and western driven. Realistically, the topic of human rights is diverse, dynamic and challenging and it takes process, time and commitment for us to learn about it. For it deals with our Humanity and all its complexities,” Tevita said.

“While we might not all agree to some aspects of human rights, but it is important for us to learn to be open and allow STOP Analysis -- Space, Time, Opportunity for Participation by others. This is an approach and analysis I have developed in this field. My perception on this subject matter was limited and I am still learning, adapting and growing and DTP is a platform and tool that can really advance and help us to understand,” Tevita continued.

Tevita said he is more pragmatic now as he understands positive change does not happen overnight. Though people want a solution quickly, human rights defenders need to take a bird’s eye view to deconstruct a complex situation where human rights violations may have taken place.

In the cases of rights violations, many actors and forces are at play, including corporations, the state, local people, politics, and finance. Tevita believes DTP training demonstrated this complex web of events and helped him understand how they could empower their movements using UN mechanisms to place effective deterrence mechanisms to the rights violators.

“DTP also trained us about how to be diplomatic in a tough situation,” Tevita said.

DTP inspired him to form his own approach to human rights. He has founded the Human, Ecological, Indigenous Rights (HEIR) defenders network. “We are trying to give this mechanism room for recognition and to use this approach (HEIR Defender) to find Peace and Just solution in our country". Justice and peace form Tevita’s worldview and influences his action to defend human rights, environmental rights, and other elements connected with business and human rights.

The complexity of human rights defending and advocacy gives Tevita fulfillment in life. He said human rights advocacy could be full of sorrows, full of lamentation, yet it is abundantly filled with blessings and celebration because it is about life.

“Human beings have a lot to offer to this world. We could dream and make the world a better place and give a better future to our children. To do that, we all have to realize that standing for human rights is standing for the whole of humanity and especially for Creation too and allowing us to realize our full potentials even though we have a lot of shortfalls and mistakes.” Tevita said.

Profile written March 2022