Fiji - Overview

Fiji’s disaster management framework is founded upon the 1998 Natural Disaster Management Act 1998 (NDMA). This Act is complemented by the National Disaster Management Plan 1995 (NDMP). The NDMA establishes the National Disaster Management Council (NDC) which has overall responsibility for DRM. This comprises the Minister of Development and National Disaster Management as Chair, the Secretaries of each Ministry, Directors of other key agencies (including state-owned enterprises) plus the Director of the Fiji Red Cross Society and the Fiji Council of Social Services representing civil society. The NDC operates through three committees; a Preparedness Committee responsible for community awareness activities; a Mitigation and Prevention Committee, which initiates and coordinates the implementation of disaster mitigation activities, and the Emergency Committee which has control during emergency operations. The NDMA also confers powers on Cabinet to make a declaration of natural disaster upon the advice of the NDC. The NDMA also establishes a National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC).


The NDMA provides for whichever Permanent Secretary is responsible for disaster management to perform the role of the National Disaster Controller. This individual has the responsibility for coordination of the planning and execution of disaster response activities. This includes responsibility for the NDMP to ensure that it achieves its stated goal of coordinating all disaster related activities in Fiji and providing a system for prompt and appropriate disaster assistance as well as a rapid and durable recovery. During a Disaster event the NDC retains the overall strategic co-ordination role, but the Controller assumes control of response and recovery activities. In this the Controller is assisted by the Divisional Commissioners and District Officers who assume the position of controllers within their jurisdictions and under the authority of the National Controller.


A review of the Natural Disaster Management Act 1998 and Plan, led by the Now the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport, Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, is currently being carried out in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific (BSRP) Project, with hopes to have it finalised later this year.
The Republic of Fiji is a parliamentary democracy established under the 2013 Constitution of Fiji (the 4th since independence in 1970). The President, who is elected by simple majority in Parliament, is the Head of State. Executive authority is formally vested in the President but the position is largely ceremonial, although significant reserve powers remain in the hands of the President in the event of a constitutional crisis. Given Fiji’s recent history, the position is of more significance than similar positions in other jurisdictions.


The Fijian Parliament currently consists of 51 members elected every four years according to a single national constituency operating a proportional list system. It is chaired by an independent Speaker who is appointed by, but not a member of, Parliament. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister, who is elected by and from Parliament and appointed by the President. The Prime Minister appoints a cabinet of Ministers from within Parliament at his or her discretion.


Fiji is divided into four Divisions administered by a centrally appointed Commissioner. Beneath this Divisional level, there operates two forms of local government. Rural areas are governed by a combination of traditional Provincial governments and rural governments. Each province has a provincial council which may make bylaws and impose rates and local taxes. However, these authorities, headed by the Roko Tui, (provincial chief), have a specific remit to protect the land and organise the interests of indigenous Fijians only. Tradition provincial government is also delivered through the tikina (sub-province) councils and then turaga ni-koro (village chieftains). Provincial councils are constituted and overseen by the iTaukei affairs section of Fijian central government. In rural areas a further level of general local authority operates under universal suffrage.


In urban areas a single level of general purpose municipal authorities are elected through universal suffrage. Local government in Fiji has a relatively broad remit which is of significance to DRM as its remit covers any issue to “promote the health, welfare and convenience of the inhabitants of the municipality and to preserve the amenities or credit thereof”. However, this autonomy comes with significant oversight from the Ministry of local government which must approve any local by-laws.