A regional approach to combatting corruption in the Pacific

By Debbie Gee
TINZ Director

Developing a regional approach to combat corruption in the Pacific was one of the focus areas for the Transparency International Pacific Regional Meeting held in Suva, Fiji from 27th February to 3rd March.

Other focus areas included sharing knowledge and experience, building capability, strengthening cross-regional advocacy and collaboration and generating ideas for training and fundraising.

The meeting was warmly, generously and enthusiastically hosted by Integrity Fiji, which is well on its way to being re-established as a full Transparency International Chapter – including providing a traditional Fijian dinner and performances.

Pacific Chapter representatives from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea joined Integrity Fiji, Transparency International’s Pacific Regional Secretariat and representatives from New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). TINZ was represented by Board Director Debbie Gee and CEO Julie Haggie.

The meeting built on the Transparency International Indo-Pacific Partnership for Strong, Transparent, Responsive & Open Networks for Good Governance (TI IPP STRONGG) 2020 – 2023 Asia Pacific Programme Meeting held in Bali last November, this time placing the lens squarely and solely on the Pacific.

TI IPP STRONGG is a four-year programme that aims to contribute to reduced corruption in the Indo-Pacific region. It aims to do this by empowering a strong and independent civil society voice and network that can mobilise action in support of increased accountability of public and private institutions nationally and regionally. The programme is funded by the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

The Fiji meeting moved from review and reflection on the Monday, including presentations from each Chapter and Integrity Fiji, through planning for this year, and concluding on the Wednesday with advocacy, engagement, capacity building and planning beyond 2023.

Common threads were geopolitical tensions and influence, regional money laundering, and beneficial ownership, with Pacific Chapters seeking strategies to tackle these on a regional, as well as country-specific basis.

There was also discussion about how TINZ and TI Australia could support other Pacific Chapters in areas such as money laundering, open government, budget transparency, infrastructure and mining.

Feedback for the meeting highlighted the quality of the workshops and plenaries as well as the logistics. The overall engagement over the three days was lively, collegial, and constructive.

A highlight was a panel event on Thursday. This six-hour live streamed event explored Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) - Pacific 2021, which for the first time recorded perceptions and experiences of corruption among ordinary citizens in seventeen Pacific Island countries and territories. It revealed that Pacific Islanders believe corruption is a big problem in both their governments and the business sector.

Significantly, the event was opened by Fiji’s Attorney General and Minister for Justice, who stayed for the duration, as did the Executive Director of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC). The Minister acknowledged the GCB Pacific report, particularly noting the corruption levels amongst Members of Parliament and Police in Fiji. He committed to sharing the report in Parliament.

The regional meeting concluded with a visit and meeting with FICAC.

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