Pacific Islands Forum Urged to Combat Corruption Amid Geopolitical Influence

Outgoing Deputy Secretary General Pacific Islands Forum Dr Filimoni Manoni stressed the need to confront corruption head-on, particularly in the face of increasing external geopolitical influences,

Addressing a gathering of regional leaders and policymakers during the two-day inaugural Pacific Anti-Corruption Regional Conference that concluded Friday at the InterContinental Resort and Spa in Natadola, Dr Manoni said that given the heightened geopolitical interest in the region, the commitment to combating corruption becomes even more crucial to ensure any engagement and decisions made should benefit the people and promote regional development.

“In the midst of this power struggle, we can see that global powers are increasingly willing to cast aside the rules, to favour expediency over good governance, and to eschew democratic principles,” Dr Manoni warns. “While we as a region welcome partners that align with our principles and values, we are not naïve to the fact that some will attempt to undermine our collective efforts through offers that may circumvent proper decision-making.

“• We can’t let that happen in our region.”

To safeguard the Pacific, he said it is important to establish accountable institutions that prioritise transparency and good governance principles, to ensure decisions “support our national and our collective interests, and not the interests of a select few.”

Dr Manoni acknowledges that the challenges are not only external noting the challenge of reconciling aspects of contemporary designed principles of good governance and Pacific traditional governance structures, an aspect that was also highlighted by Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption (SICAC) Director General John Hugani Kouni. Kouni discussed the fine line between corruption and gift-giving in the context of the latter being an integral part of Pacific culture. His presentation delved into the challenge faced by anticorruption agencies in the region to address gift-giving in the context of bribery without provoking the emotions of PICs.

In either scenario, Dr Manoni said it would serve decision-makers well to remember the various declarations and frameworks the PIC Forum leaders committed to and refer to those as their guide such as the Biketawa Declaration, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, all of which underline the value of human rights and democratic processes in achieving good governance.

Another significant step in this direction was the recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) by all Forum members after Tonga acceded to the anti-corruption convention in 2020.

The two-day conference featured more than 200 delegates from both the public and private sectors across Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Hong Kong as well as reps from international organisations including the British High Commission, UNDP, Integrity Fiji, and Transparency International.

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