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

Fiji Sun - - 50th Pacific Islands Forum - Ne­mani De­laibatiki Feed­back: ne­mani.de­[email protected]­jisun.com.fj

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

Voreqe Bain­i­marama

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.

(TO­MOR­ROW: CHAL­LENGES FOR PA­CIfiC Is­lands Fo­rum mov­ing for­ward)

Photo: DEPTFO News

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama with his New Zealand coun­ter­part Jacinda Ardern in Tu­valu on Au­gust 15, 2019.

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