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Treaties & Agreement

This area is divided into two major sections, that which deals with bilateral agreements and that which refers to multilateral treaties.

These Treaty Lists is till being compiled for internal use within the Fiji Government and particularly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While every care has been taken to make the lists as accurate as possible, inclusions or omissions of treaties should not be considered to be the authoritative view of the Government of Fiji.

There are four treaty lists:

  1. a comprehensive bilateral treaty list;
  2. a comprehensive multilateral treaty list;
  3. a shortened "working" bilateral treaty list;
  4. a shortened "working" multilateral treaty list.

The comprehensive lists aim to give as full a record as possible of Fiji's treaty relations since Cession of the islands by the Chiefs of Fiji to Queen Victoria on 10th October 1874. This means the inclusion of treaties, which have been terminated or become obsolete.

The shortened "working" lists omit in the first place all treaties, which have been terminated or become obsolete. Thereafter treaties have been eliminated which appear irrelevant to present day Fiji, on grounds of subject matter, geography or for some other reason. If the selection is wrong, there is always the full list to fall back on. Where there has been a choice, the comprehensive lists have erred on the side of fullness and the "working" lists on the side of brevity. It is intended that the shortened lists should contain the sort of treaties to which reference is likely to be made more frequently.

Prior to independence in 1970, the United Kingdom was responsible for Fiji's foreign relations. Many United Kingdom treaties were either specifically extended to Fiji, undertaken on behalf of "all colonies and dominions" or signed for the British Empire. Indeed it was generally accepted that for most treaties signature by the United Kingdom bound all its dominions and colonies where applicable.

On achieving independence Fiji had to resolve the question of its succession to treaties formerly entered into by the United Kingdom but applicable to Fiji under existing pre-independence international agreements.

There was a choice of methods-
Fiji could make a devolution announcement, stating that it wished to inherit all existing treaties. This offered administrative advantages but it virtually meant signing a blank cheque, since there would be no examination of treaties to see whether or not they were appropriate to an independent Fiji.
The alternatives were temporising declarations stating that Fiji accepted all treaties, pending a review. There were two different formulas of this kind previously used by countries proceeding to independence: the "Tanganyika" formula and that "Zambia" formula.

The merits of both these alternative systems were similar –

  • They would avoid committing Fiji to continuing treaties which it was not obliged by international law to continue;
  • They would enable international organisations to list Fiji provisionally as a party; and
  • They would enable the system to be kept intact for a period to enable an examination to be undertaken.

The "Tanganyika" formula set a limit of two years for the completion of treaties, and at the end of that time government would regard as having terminated those treaties which could not be regarded otherwise surviving by application of the rules of customary international law. The "Zambia" formal did not set a time limit.

The Fiji Government decided to adopt the "Zambia" formula on the basis that it allowed a judicious balance of control and flexibility.

The first action was to dispatch to the Secretary-General of the United Nations a declaration relating to treaty obligations, giving notification of general succession, subject to subsequent examination. A copy of this letter, dated 10 October 1970 (the date of independence) is at Appendix A. The Secretary-General of the United Nations distributed copies to all member states under cover of a letter dated 16 December 1970. It is initially on the basis of this declaration that Fiji is recorded as succeeding to treaties, but the issue is elaborated and qualified below.

Thereafter Fiji was provided by the United Kingdom with as accurate a list as possible of treaties to which Fiji had been made a party, and in most cases copies of the treaties. This was the basis of the work done at that time. However, even then, it was apparent that there were gaps and deficiencies in the list and material generally. Some of these became apparent at the time; others are emerging now; doubtless some will never emerge! At that time there were some 500 treaties.

These treaties were then examined individually and decisions made on whether they should be continued, terminated or left over with no action taken on them. Notable in the latter category were numerous old bilateral air services agreements with distant countries where the only possible relevance for Fiji was the right to overfly, which has subsequently been covered by ICAO agreements. There were also some multilateral treaties of doubtful relevance on which no action was taken. In regard to the other treaties, letter were addressed to the relevant depositaries or countries drawing attention to the general letter of succession and confirming that Fiji considered a treaty was still in force and wished to continue it, or to terminate it.

In this operation the Fiji Government was greatly assisted by the late Professor DP O'Connell, an authority on international law and Mr. AH Ellis from the "Treaties Division of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The present lists constitute a record of treaties as they stand. For example, numbers of treaty entries contain the words "continuance proposed" which indicate an approach by Fiji to which no reply has been received from the country concerned. In all such cases, the countries concerned will have received a specific letter concerning the treaty in question in addition to the general letter mentioned earlier. Whether the treaty is in fact valid between Fiji and the other country is a matter for debate, and interpretation of the law and practice of succession. Succession is, of course, a matter on which there is a wide divergence of views, the following simply records the position.

For the purpose of the lists the definition of treaty in Article 2, 1(a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties applies: - "treaty" means as international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.


    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
P. O. Box 2220
Government Buildings
Suva, Fiji
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Tel: (679) 330 9645
Levels 1&2, South Wing, iTaukei Trust Fund Complex, 87 Queen Elizabeth Drive, Nasese