“We stand together as a Pacific region because there are significant benefits to sharing and combining our resources to leverage our voice, influence and competitiveness, and to overcome geographical and demographic disadvantages.”
Framework for Pacific Regionalism (2014).
The Pacific Regional Leaders Conferencr on Anti Corruption will be held on Tarawa Kiribati next week from the 3rd – 6th of February 2020.
Corruption, like all crime, exists in all countries, and the Pacific is no exception. At the 2018 Pacific Forum in Nauru, Pacific leaders recognised this by welcoming Kiribati’s offer to hold a Pacific Anti-Corruption Conference and included this proposal in the Leaders’ Final Communique.
The President of Kiribati told the December 2019 United Nations Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption that he has convened this Leaders’ Conference as a way to galvanise regional political will for action.
Pacific countries have long-standing commitments to good governance and the combatting of corruption: in the Forum Eight Principles of Accountability, the Biketawa Declaration and the 2014 Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Globally the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where SDG 16 specifically focuses on combatting corruption as an essential pre-condition to sustainable development.
At the 2017 Conference of States Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), Kiribati successfully proposed specific reference to the need for small island states, with development partner assistance, to address corruption.
At the 2019 CoSP, Kiribati co-sponsored with the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand, a resolution which was adopted unanimously. It urges small island developing States to promote the implementation of the Convention at the regional level, including through greater collaboration with regional mechanisms, such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption Project for Pacific island countries to develop a Pacific anti-corruption vision consistent with the commitment made by the leaders of the Pacific Forum under the Boe Declaration on Regional Security.
All Pacific Island Countries (PICs), except for Tonga which has signalled its intent to sign, have signed on to UNCAC, which provides a framework to combat corruption.
Pacific Unity Against Corruption builds on these now well-established platforms. In addition, the Blue Pacific narrative, endorsed by all Pacific Leaders, is a commitment to sustainable development to improve our citizens’ lives. But, without confronting and combatting corruption, we will not realise our aspirations for a Blue Pacific Continent.
While the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development makes it clear that such development is a country-led endeavour, the Roadmap also emphasises that Pacific Island nations cannot develop sustainably alone, but through the cooperation of all. This also applies to combatting corruption, especially through building and sharing anti-corruption expertise. At the Forty-Ninth Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru in September 2018, Leaders noted the intention of the Republic of Kiribati to host a regional meeting on anticorruption.
At the Fiftieth Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August 2019, Leaders welcomed an update from Kiribati on preparations for the Regional Anti-Corruption Meeting.
In the Pacific, where communities are small and often isolated by vast distances of water, rivers or difficult terrain, combatting corruption requires regional cooperation to develop effective anti-corruption strategies, frameworks and, most importantly, expertise. That is why we have chosen, “Pacific Unity Against Corruption” as the conference theme.
Without such strategies, developed by Pacific nations for Pacific people, corruption will be detrimental and often devastating for countries with small populations, limited resources and narrow revenue bases. Improvement requires not only effective laws and regulations but the commitment of all members of society – leaders and citizens alike.
More effective combatting of corruption will improve the lives of all communities in our countries, allowing improved delivery of essential services such as health and education. As corruption is reduced the benefits of economic growth will be more equitably shared by all citizens, irrespective of where they come from, or who they are.
The overall objective is to integrate and align anti-corruption work performed in the region with the sustainable development agenda and to enhance resilience of PICs.
The conference will give Leaders and/or Ministers an opportunity to:
• strengthen anti-corruption networks across the Pacific;
• share knowledge, experiences and best practices on the subject; and
• identify opportunities for regional cooperation and possible support by Development Partners towards implementation.