Under Fiji law, the Charitable Trusts Act, 1945 (Charitable Trusts Act) provides the legal process to establish or incorporate a Charitable Trust. The incorporation of a Charitable Trust creates a legal "person" that may among other things: employ people, hold a bank account, secure office premises, enter contracts and sue and be sued.
To comply with section 2 of the Charitable Trusts Act, the proposed Charitable Trust must comply with one of the limited number of "charitable purpose[s]" set out in the Charitable Trusts Act. If the Charitable Trust does not meet one of these purposes then its registration may be refused by the Registrar of Titles.
On 30 August 2020 the relevant Minister in exercising his powers under section 2 of the Act, issued Legal Notice No. 78 of 2020 Declaration of Charitable Purpose (“Notice”) that has the effect of increasing the categories of charitable purposes thus enabling more Charitable Trusts to be registered under Fiji law.
The Charitable Trusts Act enables any trustees of any charity for religious, educational, literary, scientific or charitable purpose to apply to the Registrar of Titles for a certificate of registration.
Immediately prior to the Notice the Act listed “charitable purpose” as including the following purposes:
- the supply of the physical wants of sick, aged, destitute, poor, or helpless persons, or of the expenses of funerals of poor persons
- the education (physical, mental, technical, or social) of the children of the poor
- the reformation of criminals, prostitutes, or drunkards
- the employment and care of discharged criminals
- the provision of general or denominational religious instruction for the people
- the support of libraries, reading-rooms, lectures, and classes for the instruction of the people
- the promotion of athletic sports, wholesome recreations and amusements of the people
- encouragement of skill, industry, and frugality
- rewards for acts of courage and self-sacrifice
- the prevention of cruelty to animals and the education and instruction of the people for the furtherance of that end
- the furtherance of thrift and the improvement of standards of living by education and advice in matters of self-help
- marriage guidance and counselling, the promotion of education and research in marriage guidance and the publication and the dissemination of the results of such promotion
- the relief of distress caused by any disaster affecting the whole or any part of the community
- the erection, laying-out, maintenance, or repair of buildings and places for the furtherance of any of the purposes mentioned
- the provision of electricity to rural communities and households in Fiji that do not have such access
- the conservation of the environment
- any such purpose as may be declared by the Minister to be a charitable purpose.
By virtue of the Notice the categories of "charitable purpose" have been increased now include in addition to the above list:
- Community development through targeted programmes in urban, rural and maritime regions;
- Development initiatives in the agriculture sector;
- Development initiatives for youth in communities in urban, rural and maritime regions;
- The welfare of animals; and
- The provision of food, medicine and relief supplies.
This is the second recent amendment to the Charitable Trusts Act as on Wednesday, 7 March 2018 by Legal Notice No. 14, the relevant Minister in exercise of his powers under the Charitable Trusts Act expanded the categories of "charitable purpose" to include: the provision of electricity to rural communities and households in Fiji that do not have such access; and the conservation of the environment.
The additional Charitable Purposes are a welcomed development for Fiji as the establishment of Charitable Trusts that can draw on the expertise and guidance of professional trustees may be a governance model that can be adapted to the Fiji legal and governance context, particularly in the area of community based initiatives.
Our firm has been pleased to be involved in a range of innovative development initiatives recently that utilise a Charitable Trust and adapt it to suit traditional governance systems without changing the underlying rights or how they are communally held by iTaukei communities.
In addition, members of our firm and other professionals in Suva are Trustees on the boards of Charitable Trusts and this is an efficient way to secure guidance in relation to good governance of the Trust in a way that relies on local or Fiji based expertise.
Of course, a Charitable Trust alone is not a complete answer - and the key concern is always to ensure that any Charitable Trust is created through a careful and inclusive consultative process.
For more information on Charitable Trusts and how to establish one under Fiji law please see our earlier legal bulletin: here
Please note: This legal bulletin is provided for information purposes only and is not, and nor should it be relied upon as, legal advice.