17 May 2010

Pacific Islands Forum defends access provided for civil society groups

7:28 pm on 17 May 2010

Pacific NGOs and the Pacific Islands Forum are at loggerheads over the agency shutting down an office to liaise with civil society in the region.

The Pacific Islands Association of NGOs, or PIANGO, calls the Forum's dumping of its Non State Actor Liaison Officer a regressive step.

PIANGO's executive director, Emele Duituturaga-Jale, says last year's move has hampered the ability of civil society to engage with the Forum.

She says the office was a focal point within the Forum and its disestablishment has effectively prevented NGOs from having any direct policy engagement with the agency.

Earlier, the political adviser to the Tonga Prime Minister, Lopeti Senituli, called the dis-establishment a backward step.

But the Forum's secretary general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, called Mr Senituli mischievous and uninformed.

And he says allegations the Forum is not committed to working with civil society are totally unacceptable and unfounded.

Despite the close down of the liaison office Mr Slade says the Forum still has a range of consultative mechanisms which allow it to engage with civil society groups.