Date: 2 March 2017

Guam – The Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) and Payuta Inc have established a Micronesian hub in Hagatna, Guam in partnership with Westcare Pacific Islands, a not for profit organisation on Guam.

Ribbon Cutting of Pacific Partnership Office

The hub called the Pacific Partnership Office, was officially opened last week by PIANGO executive director, Emele Duituturaga and Payuta Inc Vice Chair, Theresa Arriola and Westcare Foundation Chief Operating Officer, Maurice Lee.

“PIANGO is grateful to Payuta Inc – our Guam national liaison unit (NLU) who facilitated the connection to Westcare Foundation. Westcare has availed a structured space and office which we will be sharing with Payuta Inc. Westcare will also be recruiting a programme officer to operate from the hub.” Duituturaga said.

“For a while now, our NLUs in the Northern Pacific have been calling for support and connections with the rest of their Pacific family particularly as they juggle the demands of a changing world,” she said.

She said the establishment of the Pacific Partnership Office is an effort to build regional interconnectedness and to link national activities of CSOs to regional and international levels.

“This is a reminder that much of what we do at the regional and global levels do not directly impact on the work of CSOs out here unless we spend time with them to explain the connection.”

“The establishment of this office echoes the commitment that the PIANGO family has to unifying regional consciousness that should inspire Pacific leaders in all sectors.”

She said the representatives from Micronesian NLUs also attended the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday 28th April and were inspired to build their own country hubs.  “Apart from influencing regional and international policy, PIANGO is also focused strengthening community engagement and CSO coordination from the bottom up”.

“Westcare Foundation, Payuta Inc and PIANGO will continue to look into fully resourcing the office so it’s positioned well to keep our NLUs in Micronesia, particularly those in the Northern Pacific involved in regional policy discourse,” Duituturaga said. 

ENDS

Date: 6 March 2017

SUVA – Indonesia’s scathing attack on Vanuatu at the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session is an attempt to divert the international community’s attention away from the ongoing human rights violations taking place in West Papua.

These sentiments were echoed by the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs(PIANGO)executive director, Emele Duituturaga after Indonesia criticised Vanuatu of “politicising the issue of West Papua for its domestic political purposes” at the UNHRC in Geneva .

“Indonesia’s reaction was quite telling of its unwillingness to respect and uphold the values of what it means to belong to the international community of nations – the UN.”

“Their  response was to resort to divide and conquer by picking on Vanuatu and then again offering to help Vanuatu with its alleged human rights issues in response to the Pacific coalition’s request to treat a member of the Pacific family – West Papua – with respect and dignity,” Duituturaga said. 

She said the Pacific Islands Coalition on West Papua (PICWP) of which PIANGO is a member of would not be requesting the UN to send special rapporteurs into West Papua if they didn’t have enough evidence to prove that West Papuans were suffering.

“Indonesia plays an important role in Pacific stability and peace, their contribution to the region is widely known and appreciated. Pacific governments and civil society would not just as easily undermine such an important relationship.”

“However, when there is overwhelming evidence that thousands of West Papuans who are Pacific Islanders have lost their lives as they tried to raise alternative views in the governance of their resources with state authorities and even to motivate seven Pacific countries to form a coalition on West Papua, Indonesia must realise it can no longer afford to feign innocence at the UN.”

She said according to several human rights reports, the number of victims and cases of extra-judicial killings and torture in West Papua have not significantly reduced between 2012 and 2016.

“The number of political arrests has exponentially increased over the last 3 years and all victims of torture and killings that our partners were able to find were indigenous Papuans. While indigenous Papuans make up only some 40% of the population, they make up 100% of the victims. There is a clear element of racial violence in the practice of security forces.”

Duituturaga said the systematic disempowerment of West Papuans is such that literacy rates in remote regions have dramatically decreased, with some villages registering literacy rates as low as 20%.

“Since 2007, Indonesia has not allowed any special procedures to visit West Papua. The region is largely closed for international human rights observers. Foreign journalists get either no access or are accompanied by intelligence, making independent fact finding impossible.”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg and that’s what PIANGO representative, Laitia Tamata is helping to support the PICWP delegation raise awareness on in Geneva.”

Tamata was one of the six panellists at the UNHRC side event jointly organised by the Permanent Mission of the Solomon Islands, state members and the Office of the Chair of PICWP called, “Shining the Light on the Human Rights Situation on West Papua” was held on 3rd March 2017.

Other panelists included the Solomon Islands Special Envoy for West Papua, Rex Horoi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Vanuatu Prime Minister and Head of Desk for Decolonization Johnny George Koanapa, Jakarta-based Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer Veronica Koman, Executive Officer of Justice and Peace of Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, Peter Arndt and secretary general of ULMWP, Octovianus Mote. The discussions were be moderated by Vanuatu Justice Minister, Maki Simelum.

ENDS

By – Vani Catanasiga, Research and Development Officer

Date: 28 February 2017

Global Goals

What really is the big fuss about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

This, and the question of its connection to putting food on the table are probably foremost on the minds of ordinary Pacific islanders when development stakeholders talk SDGs.

At least these are typical queries raised to the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) since it began its campaign to educate its 24 affiliates, aptly called the national liaison units on this new global agenda in 2016.

At this point, it might be important to stress that these are not necessarily PIANGO-developed goals. These were developed and agreed to by heads of states and governments in 2015 after its attempts for “collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level” through the Millennium Development Goals, fell short.

Sustainability Goals Underscore Pacific Input

Drawing from the shortcomings of the MDGs, which generally focused on economic growth and social inclusion, the SDGs or otherwise known as Agenda 2030, attempts to address hurdles to Sustainable Development with the additional emphasis on environmental sustainability.  

PIANGO officer Alanieta Vakatale and civil society representatives from around the world during a side event on SDGs at the UN’s New York office last year.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs require “shared action” which means that these goals can only be achieved by 2030 if implementation is carried out by “all countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership.” This not only places the responsibility of its achievements in the hands of our governments but on civil society, private sector, community groups and individuals as well.

With three of the 17 Goals solely dedicated to the protection of the environment and a specific goal on climate change, the region’s role in this global campaign cannot be emphasised enough. The Pacific is after all the global “poster child of climate change” with a few of our leaders recognised as global advocates for communities across the region facing the inevitable loss of their homes, heritage and livelihoods.

The Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama’s chairmanship of the United Nation’s biggest climate change meeting in Europe, the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in October this year, is a case in point.

Another high level international event and UN Conference that’s SDG-related and is expected to have some focus on the Pacific is the upcoming Oceans Conference. The conference aims to foster the implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Even more encouraging is the fact that Fiji’s Speaker of the Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni is an SDG Champion and has actively advocated on SDG 16 which promotes, peace, justice and strong institutions since 2016. Initial joint action with the Fiji Council of Social Services contributed.

Samoa as a Pacific Example

While the SDG’s 13 (climate), 14 (Oceans), 15 (Terrestrial) are probably the goals that the Pacific may be more visibly engaged with, these are not the only ones on which development stakeholders have concentrated on. Infact, the government of Samoa was amongst the 22 countries that participated in the 2016 UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) National Voluntary Review session, scrutinising national efforts for the achievement of the 17 goals.  

In doing so, Samoa demonstrated the existence of political will as well as Pacific initiative to link existing country mechanisms for sustainable development to emerging global agendas. But there is still room for improvement according to the Samoa Umbrella for Non Governmental Organisations’ Roina Vavatau.

Vavatau represented Samoa civil society at the HLPF Action for Sustainable Development-facilitated side event in New York, US, alongside PIANGO’s Alanieta Vakatale and raised the need a more robust mechanism that fosters meaningful partnerships with private sector and CSOs

“CSOs want to be consulted not just informed after government has decided,” she said at the meeting.

Coordination is Key, Not Capacity

Worries that Pacific societies lack the appropriate systems in place to ensure that attempts to fulfil the goals are met, are misplaced. The SDGs, if approached correctly, would be an opportunity for governments to rediscover the gems inherent in Pacific indigenous cultures and traditions.

Gems like “social safety nets” in indigenous cultures of Pacific people, traditional conservation methods and sustainable approaches to economic development. Tapping on these “gems” are part of a move by Pacific CSOs to rethink and redefine development approaches in the region.

PIANGO executive director, Emele Duituturaga says based on the initial 2016 campaign, once ordinary Pacific islanders understand what the SDG frames, work will no longer focus on the relevance of the goals.

“What we firmly believe as PIANGO is that, it will not be about relevance nor capacity because we have demonstrated that we have existing mechanisms in formal governments as well as traditional governance. It will come down to coordination – our ability to coordinate our implementation and actions on the 17 Goals across sectors.”

Ends

 

Decolonization is an interesting  concept as it requires an understanding of the next generation transformational thinking to be engaged personally in the process of decolonizing one’s mind, realizing that most of what we now have as our values, traditions and cultures were actually imposed on us by our Colonizers. The ability to and the process of decolonization is one that is very interesting and when not done with the proper care and responsibilities can be become a lost cause or damaging. This is so when after realizing the right to determine by one’s self what is best, is decolonizing a process of emptying one’s self from values, practices and traditions or otherwise. Is it a process of not necessarily empting one’s self and then re-filling or re-colonizing one’s self with something new?

Some of the interesting issues in decolonization for PIANGO that has a spirituality, religion and cultural identity is to interrogate a claim which labels the popular Christianity as the Pacific religion a tool of colonization.  The late Pacific Studies[1] Professor Ron Crocombe stated in this regard that: “Colonization was so effective that most of what Pacific Islanders are holding onto as they cultures and tradition were actually showed down their throats by their colonizers.

Transformational Leadership contributes to the thinking by always going back to the ‘being’ and in a radical responsibility manner, assure the being that the answer lies within. In addition, the thinking that will be pursued is that ‘the question determines the answer’ and “when one asks the correct questions.  . one gets the correct answer“. The thinking provides that as and when the time comes o ask these questions, the answers will, through the process of critical thinking unveil itself. However, as “all there is; Is interpretation”, decolonization is mindful that if the questioning is wrong or suspended prematurely, the possibility of being stuck in interpretations based on the past is highly likely. When this happens, the thinking will miss ‘the fact in the matter‘ and the choices will be addressing interpretations of the fact and not the fact itself.

The Decolonization project also has a strong political and realistic component where along these decolonization of the mind is the desire to fulfill national self determination by the indigenous people of West Papua where they are seeking the realization of their human rights to self determination in their country against the occupation of the Indonesian Government. This requires high level diplomacy and lobbying coupled with negotiating from the grassroots to National and the global UN level. Together with the people of West Papua are the concerns from the Kanaky and for the life of this project  Bougainville

The target groups includes NGL target groups and people living in countries and situation requiring the recognition of their right to self determination.

[1] From the University of the South Pacific