Organised by the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence - KPMG UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, SINGAPORE
30 April, 2014
MR MAX EVEREST PHILLIPS, Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence;
MR. TIMOTHY A. A. STILES - Global Chair, International Development Assistance Services OF KPMG;
It is a great honour for me to address you today!
I wish to congratulate KPMG for the successful launch of the 2013 CRI (Change Readiness Index) report, and I wish to extend our sincere congratulations to the Government of Singapore for being the top country in this assessment.
Your outstanding ability to manage change and cultivate opportunities for your country will serve as a benchmark and valuable learning curve for countries around the world including Tonga.
Apart from New Zealand and Australia in the Pacific, I wish to call for an opportunity for Small Islands Developing States like Tonga, to be considered for such initiatives in the near future.
There are various challenges brought forward by change that is faced by our small island states, but none more serious and vulnerable to our very existence that the global impact of Climate Change!
We are living in an era of constant change and unprecedented events -and the key to survival during the coming years, in Tonga and in the South Pacific will be our ability to adapt to these pressing changes.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN,
I am pleased with the invitation to speak at this innovative conference in international development because this is a one-time opportunity for Tonga to present on its own leadership challenges and experience, before the KPMG and the UNDP and other experts from the Development Leadership Program (DLP).
Tonga’s ability to be resilient, achieve sustained and equitable long-term growth and improve living standards of its people has always been based on its strong traditional values and cultural political systems.
At the same time, Tonga like everywhere else in the world is exposed to a vast array of long-term change trends but most significantly for the purpose of this presentation – I will talk on the recent political reform of 2010 and the key challenges faced by my leadership as first democratic government Prime Minister four years on.
To understand the present opportunities and achievements that Tonga’s Government have made the journey to where it is today, we must reflect on the centuries of traditional political leadership that has espoused the ideal of Tongan unity – initiated by King Tupou I, in 1845 and most recently by a visionary leader of our time – His Late Majesty King George Tupou V in 2010, who announced the renouncement some of the Monarch’s executive powers to Parliament and an elected Government by the people.
Since then, this leadership change has positioned Tonga at the forefront of a new wave of freedom and development in the region.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Tonga, the last remaining Pacific Polynesian sovereign state has traditionally set the pace for change in the South Pacific. The island kingdom is an archipelago made up 176 islands with a surface area of about 750 sq. km scattered over 700,000 kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean, with a population of more than 100,000 people.
Settled by more than 3,000 years ago, the Tongan Empire was projected hegemony dating back to 950 AD, when the ‘Aho’eitu, the Tu’i Tonga (Tongan supreme ruler and Tu’i Tonga Dynasty) started to expand his rule outside of Tonga to Samoa to the islands of Manu’a through marriage and military conquest.
By the 12th century, the Tongan rule had a reputation across the Central Pacific stretching as far as New Caledonia to Tikopia in the Solomon Islands and the Pacific Islands of Niue, Wallis & Futuna, Samoa and Rotuma in Fiji.
The influence of the Tu’i Tonga was renowned throughout the Pacific, and many of the neighboring islands participated in the widespread trade of resources and new ideas.
When the first European explorers arrived in the 17th century, most notably the visit of the British navy led by Captain James Cook who named the archipelago, the “Friendly Islands”, the pacific rule of the Kingdom began to decline due numerous civil wars and internal pressure. During this era, the first London missionaries and the Wesleyan Methodists began to arrive on our shores between the years 1767 – 1822. Change was inevitable.
This was a critical turning point in Tonga’s modern history, when the traditional forms of leadership that governs the Kingdom for centuries began to change and evolve.
By 1845, Tonga was unified into a Kingdom by a converted Christian paramount chief of the
Tu’i Kanokupolu Dynasty, Taufa’ahau who became the first reigning Monarch of Tonga, King Tupou I - the maker of modern Tonga. With the help of the missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker, the second Prime Minister of Tonga.
In 1875, Tonga was officially declared a Constitutional Monarchy, when King Tupou I granted the Constitution of Tonga to its people which emancipated the ‘serfs’, enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and the freedom of the press, and limited the power of the chiefs and nobility. Tonga’s Constitution is 139 years old today, one of the oldest written constitutions in the world.
At the turn of the 20th century, when the European rivalries began to accelerate in the Pacific and colonial pressures were imminent, Tonga became a British protectorate in the 1900s, but it has never lost its sovereignty and indigenous governance to a foreign power.
This makes Tonga unique in the Pacific and gives Tongans confidence in their monarchical system and much pride. However, the Kingdom continued to enjoy forming diplomacy with other foreign nations and extending its bilateral relationship with emerging powers.
To this day, Tonga began to adapt the traditional governance and leadership system to contemporary political and policy changes.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Four years ago, in 2010, the call for political reform was not an instant change, but has been accelerated and fundamental changes that have accumulated over the past 20 decades, in response to changing times.
Since then, I am pleased to say that the Government has fully embraced the opportunities to press on and take advantage of globalization and fostering partnerships with private sectors and civil society’s stakeholders as measures to taking the leap forward to adapt to change and to develop the country.
In this morning speech, I would like to address three key areas of changes and challenges that the Government of Tonga has met with.
The UNDP has identified four areas which are key drivers of change, of which I will touch upon in my discussion – these include institutional arrangement, leadership, knowledge and accountability.
First off, in 2012 the Tongan Government looked at restructuring Cabinet portfolios and streamlining Government ministries for better public administrations. Ministries, agencies, public enterprises and statutory bodies were better identified, for better allocation of budget, human resources and funds. This new public service structure enabled better identification of training needs and focus areas for development.
Key challenge is that although there is an acute need for better public administration and for better donor approached to support it- we still need a well-designed reform strategy and assistance programme that takes careful account of Tonga’s specific circumstance, politics, needs, aspiration and culture which are crucially important prerequisites for success.
Secondly, although the country has made various progresses in development both in the economic and social aspirations of the Government, the lack of proper assessment and evaluation tool that is baseline to assist in trajectories and commitments of Tonga to improving its change readiness and adaptation.
With access to the Change Readiness Index, it may help Tonga better inform development partners and funders about the potential vulnerabilities associated with key changes met by the country and understand the priorities of key areas of need for development assistance.
Furthermore, Tonga can attract more foreign investments, with the provided metrics and data from the CRI, to boost investors’ confidence and decisions to start-up businesses in Tonga.
Thirdly, perhaps the most critical of challenge as I have mentioned before, is environmental challenge. Tonga is taking crucial steps to mainstream climate resilience into development planning in collaboration with the development partners including Asian Development Bank. It is one of the three countries in the Pacific Islands chosen for the Climate Investment Fund, due to its high level of vulnerability to climate hazards and risks. The key challenge is, reliable metrics to assess change readiness and manage change.
Last year, Tonga and the Small Islands States, signed a landmark agreement with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban ki-Moon to establish a Pacific Regional Data Repository (PRDR). This Data Repository will be a key component of the infrastructure and architecture of the Pacific region’s response to the UN General Secretary’s challenge of providing sustainable energy for all in the next decade.
It is aimed at helping energy planners and policy makers make more evidence-based decisions and assist in formulating more appropriate models of progress and sustainable development for the region.
The question is –how valuable is the Change Readiness Index to Tonga and the Small Islands States of the Pacific in ensuring the success of this Data Repository?
This is a key point I would like to make is that Tonga and other Pacific Islands states be considered for the next CRI survey.
The South Pacific region is unique for its diversity and complexity in vulnerability, and the CRI can provide a new cross-country dataset to strengthen the overall understanding of the determinants of change readiness across different backgrounds and environments of the Pacific. It can also facilitate the benchmarking of the individual Pacific island countries’ change readiness over time to help stakeholders monitor both improving and worsening situations in order to inform investment and policy decisions more effectively.
The Change Readiness Index is an excellent tool not to be missed out on – the fact that is combines the capabilities of various components from enterprise, government to people and the civil society, these are key influences to a country’s underlying capability to manage change.
In conclusion, the Government of Tonga will continue to focus on the policies and strategies that provides economic and development strengths and key sectors that delivers opportunities for our small island kingdom.
Today’s conference will serve as a tremendous positive impact and purpose for us in Tonga as we learn more about the country experiences of our peers and the contribution of the Change Readiness Index to their success.
I am particularly pleased that today’s conference we will have the opportunity to cultivate new networks with the best in this profession.
Once again, thank you for your attention and the invitation to partake in this conference.