Fiji’s President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere today echoed calls for unity and action against corruption.
Addressing over 200 leaders from various Pacific organisations at the inaugural Regional Anti-Corruption Conference, Ratu Wiliame highlighted the “damage” and consequences of corruption in the public sector, urging attendees to unite and combat this pervasive issue, which erodes public trust in governments and negatively impacts society as a whole, affecting citizens’ lives and future generations.
“I urge all Pacific island countries and stakeholders from outside the region who are represented here at this conference to stand together to fight against corruption.”
“We want a region not only to survive its many challenges but to thrive through it all,” Ratu Wiliame said drawing attention to corruption in areas like climate change and environmental conservation efforts.
Despite being one of the regions most affected by climate change, Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have received the least amount of climate financing, essential for their survival and efforts to combat climate change impacts. Ratu Wiliame drew attention to a report showing that countries in Oceania received a mere 1% of the total funds, equating to $0.5 billion in climate financing aid for the 2013-2020 period.
“The region which received most aid for the same period is made up of countries according to the brief…are among the riskiest place in the world for corruption. This means that there is a direct correlation between climate financing aid and high risks of corruption.”
To ensure the proper use and management of these vital funds, Ratu Wiliame stressed the need for caution and implementation of anti-corruption mechanisms. He also raised concern about environmental pollution and its adverse effects on Pacific peoples’ livelihoods and cultures, calling for collective efforts to safeguard conservation policies aimed at protecting lands, endangered species, and waters from corruption hindrances.
The conference, set to conclude at the Inter Continental Resort in Natadola tomorrow featured presentations from various organisations and legal representatives, including the British High Commissioner to Fiji, Dr. Brian Jones, UNDP, Pacific Islands Forum, Transparency International, and legal representatives from Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Nauru, aimed at promoting best practices in fighting corruption and strengthen the region’s anti-corruption efforts.
President Ratu Wiliame proposed making the conference a recurring event, to ensure ongoing collaboration among regional actors to continuously reassess the relevance and best practices for anti-corruption in the future.
Echoing Ratu Wiliame’s sentiments, Fiji’s Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Siromi Turaga said that addressing corruption is crucial for achieving all 17 SDGs and fostering development in economic growth, gender equality, climate action, and human rights. Turaga highlighted the significance of joint efforts and commitment from various stakeholders in the region to succeed in combating corruption.
He reassured participants that the region is not facing these challenges alone, pointing to various international, regional, and national commitments, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), Boe Declaration on Regional Security, Pacific Unity Against Corruption – Teieniwa Vision, and the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy which prioritises the interests of PICs and keeps Pacific people at the heart of all engagements.