The Forum Compact

The Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination (Forum Compact), adopted by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their meeting in August 2009, provides guidelines for accelerating the changes that support existing country efforts towards increased economic growth and social well being in the Forum Island Countries (FICs).

Forum Leaders had become increasingly concerned that despite high levels of overseas development assistance, FICs generally, were not developing quickly enough. They were falling behind in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life. Forum leaders saw that a significant part of the solution lay in making sure that resources for development from both governments and donors was spent more effectively. There was a need for improvements in areas such as national planning, budgeting, and management of public finances and aid, as well as enhancing the coordination and effectiveness of development partner support. The revitalisation of these aspects of the development process would provide a significant boost to social and economic progress.

The Forum Compact addresses these aims. It also complements the Pacific Plan and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.


Shared challenges with the World

Many of the challenges facing the region have also been reflected in international gatherings. Two of these produced the Paris Declaration on Aid
Effectiveness (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008). The focus of the Paris Declaration was on reforming delivery and management of aid. It stressed
that the capacity to plan, manage, implement and account for results of policies and programmes was critical for development objectives.

The Accra Agenda identified aid as only part of the development picture. Democracy, economic growth, social progress and care for the environment were the prime engines of development in all countries. The Accra Agenda urges developing countries to apply stronger leadership to advancing their own policies and to better engage with their parliaments and citizens in shaping these.

The Pacific principles

Drawing on the Paris Declaration, the Pacific Islands Forum put together its own principles for aid effectiveness (2007). They refer, among other things, to the importance of national leadership and governance, transparency in national planning and financial management, creating a sense of “ownership” of development and aid, measuring results and adopting a coordinated approach among government departments and donors.

The principles represented what governments were already doing with development partners in the Pacific. The Forum Compact gave a much needed political boost to this work and signaled a determination to spread good practice throughout the region.

What is the Compact about?

The Compact encourages FICs and their development partners to examine systematically how national plans and budgets, financial management systems, monitoring and reporting of results, links between
governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and the non-government sector, and external aid, all combine to produce growth and development. It lays out what steps need taking, and in what order, to get better results for the people of the FIC. It encourages the gathering and dissemination of good practice, learning between neighbouring countries, and consistent procedures by development partners. Its implementation is facilitated and monitored by the Forum Secretariat.

Peer Review

One of the mechanisms set up by the Compact is the Peer Review, which has been favourably received. FICs can elect or volunteer to undertake a Peer Review to look at their systems with a view to making them more effective. A central feature of the initiative is the participation of local experts from Forum governments. They join with development partner representatives to conduct the Peer Reviews.

This sharing and application of “home-grown” expertise and experience among FICs is an outstanding example of regional co-operation. A recognised advantage of the Peer Reviews is the mutual appreciation that emerges between FICs and development partners about how best to deal with development challenges.

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