A speaker at the Resilience in the Pacific conference in Wellington says Pacific voters have to learn the difference between self-interest and electing the best leaders of their country.
Professor Graham Hassall from Victoria University's School of Government was talking on the challenge of leadership facing the region.
He says that the traditional system prevalent in the Pacific of voting only for people in one's family or community is not based on leadership of their electorate or country.
Professor Hassall says it is one of the factors hampering the sustainability of democratic systems in the Pacific.
"If this system of favouring one's relative had been so effective then we might have seen more change at the local level across the Pacific but it hasn't occurred. So it might be time to look at a system in which you may vote for somebody who is not your personal kin, hasn't given you a gift or promised you anything, then we can see if that's a more effective way of getting services delivered to people."
Professor Graham Hassall