Monday, October 07, 2013

X-Post: Pacific Politics - Self-determination Thinking Crucial.

Kalafi Moala writes that maybe there is a lesson or two to be learnt from Fiji when it comes to home grown solutions.

The news that AusAID has been reconfigured as a bureaucracy and placed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the new government of Australia has shaken up the Southern Pacific states, especially Tonga and Samoa. And more particularly after the announcement there will be cuts to Australia’s overseas aid of about $4.5 billion in the next four years.

Australia is Tonga’s biggest aid donor of about $33 million a year. And the same goes to Samoa, even though New Zealand aid to Samoa is significantly much greater than to Tonga. Interestingly, Australia’s aid to Fiji has increased since 2006, despite the opposition rhetoric and sanctions against the coup regime governing Fiji.

Questions are being asked at the corridors of power in Nuku’alofa and Apia whether the cuts to Australia’s foreign aid is going to impact current aid packages to these two Polynesian countries.
It is understandable if the Fijian government is privately chuckling at the turn of events, because they have had to make do without Australian and New Zealand endorsement, and in some cases significant political and economic roadblocks in the form of sanctions.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Commodore Frank Bainimarama in reference to Australia and New Zealand said that Fiji had friends who turned their backs on them when they needed them. He said: “Regrettably, and to our great disappointment, some of these oldest friends had no faith in us. They abandoned us and sought to punish us with sanctions. We sought their assistance and understanding, but they turned their backs on us.”

Prime Minister Bainimarama pointed out that Fiji has struggled for many years “under a system that created different classes of citizens in which the votes of some Fijians counted more than others.” He has reiterated time after time again over the past few years, that the new society his government was building in Fiji is a multicultural society, and that the new Constitution and electoral system reflect that. And at the United Nations General Assembly, he again pulled no punches in reference to Australia and New Zealand. He said: “They chose to support a form of democracy, governance and justice system in Fiji that they would never have accepted for themselves.”

With reference to newer developing relations with donor countries like China, Prime Minister Bainimarama said: “Our isolation led us to seek out new relationships that have proven fruitful. Now, our standing in the world has never been stronger.”

Others from the South Pacific, who gave speeches at UNGA, included New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and Tonga’s King Tupou VI. But Commodore Bainimarama’s speech was definitely the one to take note of, in the sense it gave clarity and rationality to what his government was trying to do in Fiji.
Other Pacific nations would do well to go over the points of Commodore Bainimarama’s speech, and especially his statement about self-determination of our own destinies as sovereign states. It is precisely this point that many of our Pacific states have fallen weak, in letting aid and funding determine what is important to the Pacific rather than determining what needs to be done because it is important to us.

Kalafi Moala

" Other Pacific nations would do well to go over the points of Commodore Bainimarama’s speech, and especially his statement about self-determination of our own destinies as sovereign states. "
One of the worse characteristics of colonialism is the assumption by the colonial powers that “we know best what’s good for you.” “The policies and practices for you small island states are best devised by us; we determine what is good and appropriate for you, and don’t worry, we will pay for it!” The problem with modern colonialism, as I see it, is not so much with the colonial powers themselves but rather with those colonized states that put themselves at the mercy of those who makes decisions to determine their future.

A common practice of development in the island states has been the search for aid funding as a means of securing employment rather than a means of implementing projects that are needed and relevant to social development.

There is an apparent lack of thinking and creating of development projects that will directly impact people and thus create wealth and eliminate poverty. What has become normal nowadays is the search to see where there is the availability of large funding, and then creating projects to be in line with the demands of these funding agencies.

An example of this is the millions of dollars available to funding of HIV-AIDS projects. In Tonga, for example, AIDS is not considered a major problem in comparison with other Pacific states such as Papua New Guinea or even Fiji. At least it is low on the listing of problems that must be dealt with in the nation. But because there is money readily available for AIDS projects, NGOs and others have come up with projects, some rather questionable, in order to qualify for AIDS money. It provides employment for those who are involved in the project without solving the problem.

The other major issue that attracts millions of assistance is to do with Climate Change and the Environment. Even though this is an issue that threatens the islands, projects and proposals for aid donors are still configured and built around what would attract the aid dollar rather than projects that really meet the needs.
Probably Tonga’s best initiative that attracts aid money has to do with alternative energy. The setting up and operation of the Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) and all that has been achieved in the attempt to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, and to provide alternative, renewable energy, will directly contribute to one of the chief goals of Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is the elimination of poverty.

But the South Pacific states need to heed the words of Fiji’s Prime Minister, for it will help shift the thinking from others determining our future to self-determination. “A key principle that has guided Fiji’s political development and foreign policy,” he said, “soundly grounded in the Charter of the United Nations, is that we determine our own destinies as sovereign states. At the same time, we recognize the necessity of collaborating with all member states of the United Nations with the aim of sustainable world peace, substantive justice, dignity and respects for all.”

 Source: Pacific Politics

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