Pacific youth have added further momentum to an important emerging youth movement gaining more support to the Pacific Youth Vision on a Corruption-resilient 2050 Blue Pacific. Over fifty youths attended in person and online, over 15 high-level national and regional leaders from across the Pacific countries discussed the anti-corruption commitments in relation to two topics crucial for the Pacific countries: transparent and accountable responses to climate change and promoting gender equality. The Pacific Governance Conference was convened by the University of the South Pacific Students’ Association (USPSA) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, supported by the Governments of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, from 11-12 May in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Honourable Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Minister for Māori Development, welcoming the youth engagement at the regional level, applauded the USPSA and the support of USP for raising the voices of the Pacific and rallying people to act. The Honourable Minister said, “Everyone has a role to play in reducing corruption, tackling climate change, and promoting gender equality. I urge us all to work together, and to redouble our collective efforts.”
Mr Stephen Cartwright, British Consul General, Auckland said, “The UK is pleased to support this important work with youth in the Pacific, in partnership with UNDP. The growth of youth engagement on anticorruption and, the fact that it has reached policy decision-makers gives us hope for a more sustainable and youth-owned future. Youth is now at the negotiating table, which is a huge success.”
USP Vice-Chancellor & President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia said, “This conference was not a one and done deal, as during the Summit the youth participants found their voice as they proceeded to rally and demand for their concerns to be heard by Pacific leaders, so as to ensure their participation and contribution in the growth of region through structured policy dialogues.”
Engaging in the discussion, youth participants increased understanding and awareness of the need for more focused attention on anti-corruption in the two highly relevant issues in the Pacific, namely climate change responses and gender equality.
As elsewhere in the world, corruption negatively affects climate change responses undermining mitigation efforts and decreasing the quality of adaptation infrastructure in the Pacific. Recognizing that anti-corruption is part and parcel of the broader governance agenda, Pacific youth discussed how corruption threatens the related responses. Climate finance, for instance, which is often routed outside established channels, was discussed as one of the specifically vulnerable areas which needs closer attention.
Solomon Islands Youth Activist Ishmael Aieorea sais, “What I have learned was the importance of traditional knowledge to approach and combat corruption and climate change. Contextualizing solutions and approach that people need to adopt and adapt that climate change is very important for the sustainability of climate solution.”
As it has been reported, both within climate responses and in a wider context, gender inequality exacerbates corruption risks that ultimately disproportionately affect women and vulnerable groups of society. Discussion also addressed how corruption can also exacerbate existing inequalities reflected in practices that either privilege or target certain groups.
Ms Yemesrach Workie, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Deputy Resident Representative stressed that promoting good governance, fighting corruption, building partnerships and coalitions in support of sustainable development, especially for the benefit of the most vulnerable – align very precisely with UNDP’s mandate. “Thanks to the continued dialogue with leaders and the strategic cooperation with the regional organizations, such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the youth efforts to take the anti-corruption agenda forward is grounded on existing policy commitments and institutional infrastructures, which ensures sustainability and promotes regional unity.”
The new Youth Advisory Board on Governance launched during the Conference will be specifically affiliated to PIFS. The Board will facilitate youth engagement at the regional level in a structured and institutionalized way working with the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies. The Board will increase the policy and decision-making influence of students and young people from across the Pacific and promote good governance in support of the Teieniwa Pacific Unity against Corruption Vision and the good governance component of the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy.
The youth anti-corruption engagement is supported under the UNDP project, Strengthening Anti-Corruption, Transparency and Accountability in Pacific Islands Countries (Pacific Anti-Corruption Project) funded by the Government of the United Kingdom and the United Nations Regional Anti-Corruption Project (UN-PRAC) funded by the New Zealand Government.