Views sought on replacement document for Pacific Plan
More views being sought on what should replace the region's document for closer integration, the Pacific Plan.
In May Pacific leaders are to meet in Rarotonga to consider a review into the Pacific Islands Forum's blue print for closer links.
What is being suggested is that the Pacific Plan undergo far reaching changes and be renamed the New Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Don Wiseman has more:
The review team, headed by former Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, has also called for a shake-up in the way the Forum's secretariat is managed. The review was undertaken to ensure the nearly ten-year-old Pacific Plan remains the driver of regional integration and co-operation. But through consultations around the region the review team found the Plan had lost much of its impact. Sir Mekere says a bigger, better, deeper process of regionalism is called for. Their report says this New Framework for Pacific Regionalism should set out manageable regional priorities, that are timely, simple, transparent and inclusive. It calls for an upskilling and professionalising at the Forum Secretariat. The reviewers talk of a reactive rather that proactive approach in the management of the Plan and say the Pacific Plan Action Committee is too large, part time and cumbersome. They say it should be replaced by a new Board for Pacific Regionalism, which would be smaller, more business-like and have a clear role with a wider set of skills. The Forum has sought the public's views and received dozens of submissions. It is also encouraging people to continue putting their case. The Forum's Pacific Plan advisor, Seini O'Connor, says they want public help in further refining what the new Plan should focus on.
SEINI O'CONNOR: And I think this is where having civil society and private sector and other actors come in and assist us in this thinking and helping to narrow down that focus is really a great opportunity because the review has said it, it is not just about officials being involved in this process, it is actually about broadening the conversation.
And there are plenty of groups or individuals wanting to broaden that conversation. The Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University wants to see more rigorous scrutiny of attempts to pool resources, which is a cornerstone of the Plan. Research fellow, Matthew Dornan, says historically, regional bodies have delivered services, for instance in transport, with mixed results. But he says a better approach, which should be reflected in the new plan, is for the regional body to provide advice to national bodies, rather than the services themselves.
MATTHEW DORNAN: That sort of advice isn't provided at short notice, particularly in relation to contract negotiation, so I think those are the sort of areas that we should be looking at in relation to regional service delivery. We shouldn't be looking at service provision in itself.
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls of Fiji's FemLink says they want the Plan to have a stronger commitment to gender equality and she says the Forum needs to unite its political and social elements.
SHARON BHAGWAN ROLLS: If the Plan is to work, with the work that we do around the peace and security sector, there needs to be a greater cohesion given that we also now have forum leaders' commitment to a conflict prevention and human security framework. And we need to ensure that when development is being discussed, given the experiences of conflict in our region, we need to take a more broader approach at addressing the Pacific Plan from a peacebuilding, a conflict-prevention, and human security perspective.
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls says the Forum also needs to improve its communication and should embrace community radio. A New Zealand parliamentarians' group says sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital to the economic success of Pacific countries and this must be reflected in the new document. The vice chair of the cross party New Zealand Parliamentarians for Population and Development, Maryan Street, says it is fine to talk about better co-ordination and the pooling of resources, but fundamental matters that cannot be left out are sexual and reproductive health and rights.
MARYAN STREET: The rights of women and girls and young men and fathers and mothers to determine when they have children, how many children they have, what kind of spacing they have between children, all of that is fundamental to the economic success of Pacific Island nations.
An Australian based NGO says sport has a significant role in development and this needs to be reflected in the new plan. Sport Matters focuses on using sport for development and its chief executive, Jackie Lauff, says the previous Plan had some sports indicators in it but they want the new document to go much further.
JACKIE LAUFF: What we would like to see is some specific targets that embrace the power of sport to make a difference in areas outside of participation.
One submitter, a former staffer at the Forum, economist Roman Grynberg, says fundamental change is needed because the problem with the current plan is one of ownership. He says from the outset it was imposed from outside, pushed by New Zealand's Prime Minister at the time, Helen Clark.
ROMAN GRYNBERG: The bureaucrats never believed in it so they hijacked it and used the Plan as a mechanism basically by which aid would be, not diverted, but aid would be used through the Plan for what it was going to be used for in any case so it amounted to almost nothing, because unless it is owned by the Pacific Island leaders and bureaucrats, it is never going to advance.
DON WISEMAN: Do you think they can do that? Do you think Pacific leaders want something like this Pacific Plan?
RG: I am not sure they do but I know for certain that unless it's owned, this is an imminently predictable outcome. This is exactly what you would expect when a Prime Minister imposes, what's really a very good idea. It is exactly what the islands need is a coordination mechanism, a mechanism for developing their economies collectively and dealing with their problems as a group but it was something that came from above and outside - that's what always happens without ownership. And I really think that is the core of the issue and the core of its failure.
These concerns have been recognised in Sir Mekere's review which has talked of the need for a document nurtured from the bottom up. The Forum's advisor, Seini O'Connor says they hope there will be increased engagement and she says they believe that the broadened channels they have created will ensure more voices are heard.
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