Governance

“Our Objective is strengthened governance, legal financial, and administrative systems.” – Framework for Pacific Regionalism

 

Forum Leaders have continuously articulated the importance of good governance for the region.

The Biketawa Declaration (2000) outlines guiding principles for good governance and courses of action for a regional response to crises in the region.

The Biketawa Declaration also commits Forum members to fundamental values of human rights and good governance including, among others, a “belief in the liberty of the individual under the law, equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief” and “upholding democratic processes and institutions which reflect national and local circumstances, including the peaceful transfer of power”.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI (2003-2017) and the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru or PRAN (2004-2009) were key Pacific Island Forum initiatives sponsored under the auspices of the Biketawa Declaration. The Forum’s targeted sanctions against Fiji (2009-2014) were also implemented under the Biketawa Declaration.

Under the current Framework for Pacific Regionalism Forum Leaders’ “…embrace good governance, the full observance of democratic values, the rule of law, the defence and promotion of all human rights, gender equality and commitment to just societies.”

As a prerequisite for sustainable development and economic growth, the governance priorities in the Pacific include bolstering key governance and accountability institutions to enhance the transparency of political and economic processes, strengthening oversight mechanisms to ensure the effective management of the region’s natural, human and financial resources, and protecting fundamental human rights.

The Forum Secretariat works closely with its membership and a wide range of stakeholders toward these goals. The core activities include observance of elections, the Forum Compact, legal advice and legislative drafting support, and promoting the Forum Principles of Good Leadership and Accountability.

An important good governance activity undertaken by the Forum Secretariat is supporting and coordinating election observer missions to Forum member countries. Forum election observer missions take place at the request of the Member government, and are a practical demonstration of the Forum’s support for good governance and human rights at political and community levels.

Forum election observer missions facilitate independent analyses and reporting on elections, boost the confidence of voters and other participants in transparency of processes, and offer expert recommendations on how electoral processes might be improved.

Election observer missions also demonstrate members’ shared commitment to peaceful and democratic governance and strengthening the integrity of electoral processes, in accordance with the Biketawa Declaration.

From a technical perspective election observer missions also provide opportunity for the sharing of experiences and best practices amongst electoral officials. During the course of missions, the electoral experts on observer teams are encouraged to share their experiences with the host country, particularly on challenges identified by the hosts. Visiting experts have also noted practices from which their own countries could benefit.

The first Forum election observer mission was deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2001 and subsequently thereafter to: Cook Islands (2010); Fiji (2006); Nauru (2004, 2008, 2010 and 2016); Niue (2011, 2017); Papua New Guinea (2007, 2017); Republic of the Marshall Islands (2007); Samoa (2011 and 2016); Solomon Islands (2006, 2010 and 2014); Vanuatu (2004 and 2016); and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (2005, 2010 and 2015).

The Forum Secretariat also participated in the Australian Election Visitor Programme for the 2016 Australian elections.

 

The Forum Secretariat provides coordination and advisory support to Forum Island Countries on the legislative implementation of Leaders’ policy priorities. For example, the Secretariat is working with the UNESCAP and Pacific Disability Forum to assist Members to undertake compliance reviews and develop legislation to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as encouraged by the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2016 – 2025, which Leaders endorsed in 2016.

Support also includes the development of model legislative provisions (create hyperlink) to assist Members’ implementation of regional and international commitments.

The Secretariat also works with development partners to support capacity development, retention and other forms of sustainable legislative drafting capacity building in the region. This is in recognition of ongoing capacity constraints faced by Forum Island Countries in meeting the growing demand for legislative reform required for policy development. The Secretariat coordinates the Pacific Legislative Drafters’ Technical Forum, a network for legal officials responsible for drafting laws in Pacific countries. The Drafters’ Forum is guided by the Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Legislative Drafting Capacity Building in Forum Island Countries (create hyperlink), which consists five goals, including enhanced regional networking, improved regional resources to support legislative implementation of treaty obligations, and improved access to laws in all Forum Island Countries.

  1. Respect for Law and System of Government

(a) Respect for and upholding of democratic processes and institutions, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and the legislature to:

  • Allow for the peaceful and lawful transfer of power.
  • Respect and promote the separation of powers by ensuring the financial autonomy of the judiciary and Parliament, and ensure that the judiciary and Parliament are free from unlawful interference by the executive;

(b) Upholding a just, fair and honest government through:

  • Respect for and enforcement of the decisions of the courts and independent tribunals;
  • Enforcement of lawful instructions and lawfully created policies;
  • Compliance with the letter and spirit of the laws, which are made for the benefit of the public;
  • Disclosure of fraud, corruption and mal-administration, of which the leader has become aware;
  • Refraining from exertion of pressure, and abuse of persons carrying out their lawful duties;
  • Refraining from using any legal immunity or privilege as a clock or shield for behaviour of a lower ethical standard than that reasonable expected of the leader by citizens;
  • Establishing and empowering bodies, such as Ombudsman Commission, to independently investigate public complaints against government actions;
  • Ensuring that the Auditor-General reports directly and in a timely manner to Parliament/Congress;

(c) Protection of fundamental human rights.

  1. Respect for Cultural Values, Customs and Traditions

Respect for cultural values, customs, traditions and indigenous rights and observations of traditional protocols in the exercise of power

  1. Respect for Freedom of Religion

Respect for religious beliefs

  1. Respect for People on whose behalf Leaders Exercise Power

(a) Proper use of official powers;

(b) Honesty in dealing with the people and Parliament, with any misleading information corrected at the earliest practical opportunity;

(c) Publicising information on legal wrongdoing, ethical lapses and false or misleading statement;

(d) Giving priority to official duties over private interests;

(e) Performance of public duties uninfluenced by fear of personal cost or any hope of personal benefit;

(f) Public and private conduct does not lead to a conflict of interest, or in which the fair and impartial exercise of duties might not be compromised;

(g) Ensuring that public facilities are used only for public purposes, and not for personal purposes unless authorised by legislation or by a public decision of Cabinet

  1. Respect for Members of the Public

Treatment of members of the public honestly and fairly with proper regard for their rights and obligations

  1. Economy and Efficiency

Ensuring that public resources are not wasted, abused, or used improperly or extravagantly

  1. Diligence

(a) Exercise of proper diligence, care, and attention;

(b) Always seeking to achieve high standards of Public administration

  1. National Peace and Security

(a) Promotion of peace, security and harmony;

(b) Refusal to give or obey an illegal order to use force against another citizen.

  1. Respect for Office

(a) Exercise authority and interact with people in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, participatory and decisive but fair and equitable;

(b) Seek to strengthen the integrity of a leader’s Office and its effectiveness

Principle 1:
Budget process, including multi-year frameworks, to ensure Parliament/Congress is sufficiently informed to understand the longer term implications of appropriation decisions.

To be fully understood, the budget needs to present all the details of budget performance including the results of audits and other evaluations, and the assed impact including on the key objectives previously specified for major programs (showing estimates where final figures are not available).

The budget presentation papers also need to include forecasts of the key budget figures for the next two years together with details of the assumptions on which they are based and the policy objectives they are meant to serve.

Existing commitments should be distinguished from new policies.

Budget data, including revenue, grant and expenditure date, should be presented in a way that follows international best practice and allows internal comparisons.

Budgetary processes, including the full involvement of ministers, need to be directed specifically at the generation of good estimates which are properly aligned with policy and program output intentions.

In keeping the management of budget implementation under review during the course of the year, the government should give the legislature and the public timely reports as the year proceeds, as well as at year’s end, which contain all the details of actual performance which are needed for a full understanding of any impacts of deviations from the original budget policy intentions and estimates (using revised estimates where actual figures and results cannot be obtained).

Government operations should be subject to audit reports.

Principle 2:
The accounts of governments, state-owned enterprises and statutory enterprises and statutory corporations to be promptly and fully audited, and the audit reports published where they can be read by the general public.

State-owned enterprises should be subject to the full force of the accounting, reporting, disclosure and other relevant requirements of a modern regulatory framework for corporate governance adjusted to the circumstances of small island countries as appropriate.

Principle 3:
Loan agreement or guarantees entered into by governments to be presented to Parliament/Congress, with sufficient information to enable Parliament/Congress to understand the longer term implications.

The principles to be enshrined in the law.

Presentations to Parliament/Congress should be timely.

Principle 4:
All government and public sector contracts to be openly advertised, competitively awarded, administered and publicly reported.

The award of contracts should be reported publicly and immediately.

The principle should be enshrined in the law.

Principle 5:
Contravention of financial regulations to be promptly disciplined.

The principal and subordinate laws and instructions governing fiscal and financial management should be comprehensive, up-to-date and workable.

Administration of the legal framework governing fiscal and financial management should be active and vigorous.

Ethical standards of behaviour for public servants should be clear and well publicised.

There should ready public access to the administrative laws governing access to government benefits, the applications of taxes, duties, and charges, etc, which should be as specific as possible and which should limit the exercise of discretion by public servants and other holders of public office to the minimum compatible with good administration.

The exercise of discretion in public administration should be guided by clear, published criteria.

Principle 6:
Public Accounts/Expenditure Committees of Parliament/Congress to be empowered to require disclosure

Principle 7:
Auditor-General and Ombudsman to be provided with adequate fiscal resources and independent reporting rights to Parliament/Congress.

The principle of statutory independence should be applied to the public auditor and the ombudsman.

The law which provides for the appointment and tenure of the public auditor, and the ombudsman, and which deals with their functions, operations and resourcing should accord with international best practice in specifying the independent functions they are to perform and fully protecting their performance from being compromised.

The law should specify the right of the two office holders to unimpeded access to Parliament/Congress where the office holder has grounds for believing that independence might be coming under threat.

Principle 8:
Central bank with statutory responsibility for non-partisan monitoring and advice, regular and independent publication of informative reports.

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