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Tonga and small Commonwealth states meet in London

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1 May 2013 Tonga's Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano joined leaders from across the Commonwealth's small states in attending a high-level conference on governance held at the Marlborough House in London, England from 23 to 25 April 2013.

The meeting, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, focused on governance, policy and public administration in micro-states, which account for 19 of the Commonwealth's members

The Commonwealth's very small states are: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brunei Darussalam, Dominica, Grenada, Kiribati, Maldives, Malta, Nauru, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

During this three-day conference, delegates share governance solutions to distinctive challenges facing micro-states in delivering sustainable development.

In his opening address, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: "In this time of global financial cuts with aid budgets stretched, small island developing states and very small states need to improve their governance in order to attract investment and be competitive and to serve their citizens."

Small, or micro-states, benefit best from models that take into account their unique characteristics including: small population size; geographically remote or landlocked; economic challenges such as few exports but high dependency on imports; limited resources; and susceptibility to external shocks and climate change.

The conference also sought practical ways to promote the interests of small states in accessing finance to mitigate against the effects of climate change. Following the meeting the Commonwealth Secretariat will set up an Expert Group to advise its members on how best to source available funds.

"Climate change is going to affect our agriculture and manufacturing industries so we have to look at the way we do things and put in place programmes of adaptation and mitigation," he said.

At the meeting, Microsoft announced plans to work with the Secretariat and governments across the Commonwealth to explore new technologies to improve the delivery of public services to citizens. These include cloud-based services, where files are kept on servers connected to the internet; 'TV white space‘ - taking advantage of unused frequencies between TV channels to provide high speed broadband; and Microsoft's Partners in Learning programme to deliver tools to advance the use of technology in classrooms.

A publication was launched at the conference by the Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tui'vakano: Principles for Local Government Legislation. It documents contemporary thinking and international good practices from around the Commonwealth on public administration in small states. An 'eGovernance for Small States Handbook' was also presented. Over 70 per cent of small states do not have e-governance strategies, which can enable small states to cost-effectively and efficiently deliver services to their citizens while strengthening social accountability. The handbook aims to strengthen the understanding of policy-makers involved in the planning and execution of e-government projects and provides cases studies from across the Commonwealth. (Full script of Lord Prime Minister's Speech available here)

Lord Tui'vakano said: "I think it's very good for smaller states to share their experience: how can we proceed and what is the way forward for others."

On 24 April the Commonwealth of Learning launched the Commonwealth Executive Masters on Public Administration programme, which has courses on governance, contemporary administrative systems and disaster management; and a certificate course on Legislative Drafting, which is being offered to Pacific small states through the Vanuatu campus of the University of the South Pacific.

Commonwealth Connects, which provides secure online communities of practice, will host an ongoing collaboration and pool of experts to provide consultation, mentoring, and advice on areas of need for very small states. The Secretariat will continue to carry out politically sensitive development work at the centre of government, including planning retreats for cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries during critical periods of transition, such as after elections.

Tonga's delegation was led by the Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano and Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Siu'ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu to address the same Conference in her capacity as a member of the Tonga traditional governance system which is unique in the Commonwealth. Accompanying the Prime Minister was Acting Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Mr. 'Aholotu Palu and Lady Robyn Tu'ivakano.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'allofa, 2013. Photos courtesy of the Commonwealth Secretaria Office, London.

Last Updated ( Friday, 03 May 2013 23:41 )  

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