Regional workshop discusses modern Pacific parliaments

Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships (PPP), an initiative of the Parliament of Australia, brought together representatives from 13 parliaments from the Pacific region at a workshop in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 7 and 8 November 2013 to discuss how parliaments in the Pacific can address their evolving role in representing their communities. The workshop was made possible by funding assistance from the Australian aid program, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) as well as generous support in hosting the workshop from the Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly, Lord Fakafanua.

At the workshop parliamentarians and representatives from Australia, Bougainville, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Tuvalu, together with the representatives of the IPU and UNDP discussed the need for professional development. Limitations imposed by varying levels of access to technology and research services were highlighted. While many Pacific Island nations have small populations, a key theme was the need for cooperative and collaborative responses to key regional issues. Oceans policy was discussed as an area where Pacific Island nations would work together, following a presentation given by the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.

The matter of gender equality in parliaments was also discussed. Pacific parliaments have the lowest rates of female participation in the world. Workshop participants agreed in an outcomes statement that a number of measures could be taken, and in some cases further enhanced, to promote women’s participation in parliament, and the role of parliament in ensuring that gender equality is considered in all aspects of its work.