Democratic meeting highlight integrity of gov’ts as priority

Brisbane, Australia – There is an urgent need to address integrity and accountability of governments in Pacific island countries.

The former Prime Minister and current Minister of Public Enterprises of Papua New Guinea Rt Hon. Sir Mekere Morauta told the Regional Consultative Meeting on Democratic Institutions yesterday: “A good government, clean government, can use political stability to govern in the long-term interests of the country; a bad government can use political stability to destroy the nation.”

Participants at the meeting jointly organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Brisbane, Australia, from 27-29 February 2012 voiced their strong determination to find and share local solutions to weak governance. The findings of the meeting will shape the future work of the Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility (CPGF), based in Honiara. This was the first ever opportunity for Pacific island leaders, members of parliament, senior government officials, representatives of non-government organisations and development partners to discuss the challenges facing democratic institutions in the region.

“Political instability not only affects a government’s ability to provide services and development
activity for its people, it affects relationships with development partners and donors,” Hon. Dr Derek Sikua, former Solomon Islands Prime Minister and now Leader of Opposition told the meeting.

Delegates commended this opportunity to meet together and share experiences and ideas about democracy as it is practiced in Pacific Island states.

Three-term President of Kiribati and current MP, Rt. Hon. Sir Ieremia Tabai noted: “It is almost impossible to talk about political integrity without also talking about conduct and public trust. In our democratic system of government we need the confidence that those in power will use it to advance the public interest.”

Sir Ieremia and other distinguished delegates applauded the Commonwealth and CPGF’s commitment to supporting and equipping democratic institutions in the Pacific region.

The regional leaders and donor partners expressed appreciation to the Commonwealth, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and CPGF for consulting them prior to the establishment of a regional work programme. They called for further dialogue on the concepts of integrity and accountability in government as seen in the existing political values and principles of the region, and reflected in the Pacific Plan. The delegates cautioned that political issues were complex and subject to country-specific conditions including historical experience, constitutional and institutional architecture, and unique geographic, economic and cultural characteristics.

Pacific governments must have greater influence over donor assistance in the area of politics and democratic institutions, and agreed that part of CPGF’s role should be to foster an effective role for the Opposition in national parliaments to improve accountability and coordination of donor support.

The meeting proposed that CPGF consider facilitating regular future meetings and leadership dialogue on the challenges and successful innovations in democracy and democratic institutions in the Pacific region and that such meetings address the key issues identified during the course of discussions, including: the role of traditional authority in democratic political systems; ways to institutionalise political parties; the promotion of effective oversight parliamentary institutions; possible reforms to improve electoral systems and constitutions; the importance of freedom of information and the role of a responsible media.

ENDS.

For media enquiries contact Mr Johnson Honimae, the Forum Secretariat’s Media Officer on phone: + 679 9997998 or email: johnsonh@forumsec.org.fj