13 June 2012, Nuku’alofa, Tonga
A meeting of senior leaders from some of the Pacific’s smallest states, including Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili, Members of Parliament and senior government officials, is underway in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. The regional consultative meeting, jointly coordinated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Secretariat for the Pacific Community, seeks to identify ‘what works’, articulate nationally decided needs and indigenous concepts of ‘good’ governance and ascertain key challenges facing democratic institutions in the future.
Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano welcomed delegates to the Kingdom and acknowledged the Commonwealth Secretariat for promoting dialogue on issues pertaining to good governance through the Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility based in Honiara. He also noted the timeliness of discussions about democratic governance in Tonga given recent political developments, and while the nation still mourned His Late Majesty King George V, the reforms he helped facilitate meant that the future promised ‘very exciting times’.
In thanking Lord Tu’ivakano for hosting the meeting, Mr Max Everest Phillips, Director GIDD, Commonwealth Secretariat, outlined several aims for the three-day discussions, namely: to identify shared challenges, success stories, and opportunities for joint learning and collaboration. In particular, he asked delegates to consider ‘how size affects the key characteristics of the state which in turn effect development?’
Throughout the first day, delegates heard presentations from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, as well as senior officials from represented countries, including Cooks Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa and Tuvalu. Delegates highlighted shared problems related to ‘smallness’ including balancing international obligations of ‘best practice’ and local expectations that ‘best fit’ within the confines of limited financial capabilities.
Former President of Kiribati and Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Hon Sir Ieremia Tabai, articulated shared sentiment when he stated that ‘we have to find solutions for our own problems’, and while these can be facilitated with the assistance of regional and international institutions, ultimately they must reflect the unique circumstances in each Pacific state.
Deliberations will continue over the next two days as leaders seek to identify practical solutions to these issues of shared concern.