Pacific Forum calls for public feedback on Pacific Plan changes

Radio New Zealand International: 

Monday, 10 March 2014:

The Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum says it is important there is public feedback on suggested changes to Pacific Plan.

The Plan, the region's roadmap for integration, is to be revamped.

A review team led by former Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, has issued what it calls a New Framework for Pacific Regionalism laying manageable priorities, that are timely, simple, transparent and inclusive.

But the Forum's Pacific Plan advisor, Seini O'Connor, says before leaders meet to discuss the recommendations in May there is a good opportunity for Pacific Islanders to speak up and help shape the new document.

SEINI O'CONNOR: It's a really important opportunity now because the original submissions process that happened last year during the review really opened up an avenue for people to suggest to the review team a huge variety of issues they thought were really important at the regional level. And now that the review team has narrowed down our focus a little and said actually what we need to do in future is think every carefully about which priority we need regional collective action on, and this is to distinguish a little from priorities that are important and that need to be recognised, but that are not necessarily collective action problems, those are the areas where I think by getting submissions or by having interest groups talk to their local governments, put out there view publicly, we can actually get that input to help shape that final document.

DON WISEMAN: What you expect is going to come out of it is a far tighter more focussed piece of work?

SO: That's right, I think that's really what the review has called for. I think they recognise that there were a lot of really good initiatives that were captured under the Pacific Plan in the past and that we can point to examples of success in regionalism, but it's actually a really difficult undertaking and we really need to focus our resources on pursuing it quite diligently and so they have said to us that it will be beneficial to be giving leaders fewer items to consider any one time. And I think this is where having civil society, 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's not just about officials being involved in this process, it's actually about broadening the conversation.

DW: Part of that of course is getting right down to the grass roots and there was a feeling, I think that came through strongly in the work that Sir Mekere Morauta did that was something that had been imposed from the top down and it had to be something was nurtured from the bottom up. So do you think you're going to achieve that process?

SO: Well, I think it will be challenging, but I think it's a challenge we need to take on and that we are taking on, and I think that over time, as people feel more confident that there voices are being listened to and are being reflected. We hope that there will be increased engagement and I think certainly the recommendations that we have been given for broadening the channels that we currently have for hearing those voices will help us to do that. And I hope that through the submissions that have already been made and also through the ones that people are thinking about now or further commenting on, that will give us a really good foundation of being able to have a reference document to go back to and say, look this is where citizens voices have been captured and it's now something we can have as a tangible resource to refer to in developing policy, going forward.    

Read/Listen: Radio New Zealand International

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