PM’s Support for Civil Society Groups Comes As No Surprise
It is empowering for them because of his policy of inclusivity and his track record with Pacific Islands Development Forum
His statement is consistent with his belief and his Government’s policy that Governments cannot do everything, nor do they have a monopoly on wisdom or efficiency.
Fiji acknowledges the invaluable role of civil society organisations at the national, regional and global levels in complementing the efforts of Governments
Prime Minister of Fiji
Inclusivity and collaboration are two of the key words in Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s operational manual. It therefore came as no surprise when he reaffirmed his support for issues raised by the civil society organisations (CSOs) in his remarks during a dialogue with Forum Leaders in Tuvalu.
“Fiji acknowledges the invaluable role of civil society organisations at the national, regional and global levels in complementing the efforts of Governments,” Mr Bainimarama said.
He crushed perceptions that his FijiFirst Government was anti-NGO (non-governmental organisations)
His statement is consistent with his belief and his Government’s policy that Governments cannot do everything, nor do they have a monopoly on wisdom or efficiency. He spoke with authority and conviction because he and his Government have been practising it at national and regional level via the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). Fiji helped to set up PIDF to address the development needs of the region. At the time it was perceived as a rival regional body to the Pacific Islands Forum. Mr Bainimarama believes that a strong prosperous nation needs the contribution of the private sector that includes the civil society organisations (CSO) and the commercial sector. They are vital partners in national development.
He said in 2016: “Whether it is through the forging of public-private partnerships to run vital infrastructure such as our ports. Or bringing the business community into the heart of decision-making in some of our national and regional organisations; the private sector is a vital partner with Pacific governments in the Pacific Islands Development Forum - the organisation we set up specifically to give the business community and representatives of civil society a voice in regional decision-making.”
He said then these were the authentic voices of the grass roots in Pacific society that had been excluded from the Pacific Islands Forum.
The benefits of collaboration were realised in 2016, when Fiji was hit by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Mr Bainimarama told the PIDF in Nadi after Cyclone Winston that the business community swung into action to help in the relief and rehabilitation effort, providing Fijians with all manner of assistance at a time of desperate need.
The Fiji Institution of Engineers sent teams of inspectors to assess the damage at the 229 schools that were struck by the 300 kilometre an hour winds. And its detailed evaluation of their needs has given us the precise information required to launch an “Adopt a School” programme to get our children back into proper classrooms. Hardware companies partnered with the Government in a national “Help for Homes” programme to give Fijians the means to fix or rebuild the 40,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed. And at every turn, the private sector was at the forefront of the relief effort, whether through donations in cash or in kind or assisting the authorities with logistics.
They all helped Fiji get back on its feet. Fijian businesses then joined forces with the Government, the UN and civil society organisations to establish the Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council. Its role is to assist businesses affected by disasters and strengthen private sector engagement in the national collective response. It became a model for partnership through collaboration.
In Funafuti, Mr Bainimarama recognised CSOs in the region for their contribution to nation-building, and the great work they do in ensuring that “no one is left behind in our sustainable development aspirations”. “Your presence in communities throughout the region ensures the voices of all Pacific citizens, from all walks of life, are heard in our national, regional and global discourse,” he said.
His support for CSOs is a source of empowerment to them because they have seen Mr Bainimarama’s track record with PIDF.
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Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern in Tuvalu on August 15, 2019.