By Pita Ligaiula
As geopolitical competition intensifies all around us, addressing corruption is more important now than ever, says Forum Secretary General Henry Puna.
“We should be working towards upholding good governance principles that keep decision-makers, like me, accountable and transparent in our actions.
“We want institutions that ensure that decisions are made in support of our national and collective interests and priorities.
“We must ensure that accountability systems, processes and institutions – state and non-state – are resourced to play their roles effectively.
“I urge all of you to continue to fight the good fight and to stop the scourge of corruption from derailing our development aspirations,” said SG Puna in his remarks to the Pre-UNCAC COSP Conference in Suva.
So, how do we all continue to engender and harness the political will needed to fight corruption? he asked.
Puna said at the regional level, the commitment is clear, in both the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and the Teieniwa Vision.
“The 2050 Strategy frames the long-term approach for regional cooperation.
“The Teieniwa Vision, adopted by Leaders in 2021, sets out a clear commitment for the region to work together and hold ourselves accountable for progressing Pacific unity against corruption.
“And we are taking concrete actions to ensure we implement the work that is required to achieve the 2050 Strategy and the Teieniwa Vision,” he said.
SG Puna said Forum Members are working very hard to develop a comprehensive implementation plan for the 2050 Strategy, which will be considered by Forum Leaders when they meet in November this year.
“In relation to our work on corruption, this implementation plan will complement the existing work on the Teieniwa Vision Implementation Matrix that our Members endorsed last year.
“I urge all of us to continue to work together, recognising our Leaders’ emphasis on the importance of regional cooperation and collaboration, towards realising our collective aspirations under the 2050 Strategy.
These plans are intimately aligned. They speak to the same goal, he said.
“And one thing that is clear, is that to deliver on our vision for a corruption-free Pacific, as anti-corruption focal points, you all have an important role to play in harnessing political support at the national level.
“This is critical as our regional commitments will fail, if national efforts are not in order,” Puna emphasised.
SG Puna said this gathering is an important aspect of their collective political will to address corruption.
“In addition to preparing the region for the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December; it also provides the Forum Secretariat and the UNODC an opportunity to continue to foster our collective political will to operationalise the Teieniwa Vision.
“This meeting also provides an opportunity to promote the active participation of the Pacific State Parties to international anti-corruption discourse.
* So I urge you all:
* Use this meeting as an opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other to strengthen your own approaches at the National level.
* Use it as an opportunity to establish support networks that will assist in your work when you return home.
“You are not alone, we have friends, family, partners and donors who are willing to assist in this important work,” Puna said.
He said just two weeks ago, the Secretariat participated in the Regional Anti-Corruption Conference in Nadi and their message was clear.
“We emphasised that corruption: is the enemy of progress, growth and economic development; it undermines democracy and the rule of law; and it encourages the emergence of criminal ecosystems that operate under the scrutiny of law enforcement such as organised crime and other threats to human security,” said Puna.
Puna said the meeting provide a valuable opportunity to discuss and agree a collective approach to the region’s engagement at the 10th Session of the UN Convention against Corruption Conference of State Parties later this year in Georgia, USA.
“I hope that we all come away from this week with a reinvigorated sense of commitment to fighting corruption within our region,” said SG Puna.