New Zealand Government prioritises Pacifika corruption

Claire Johnstone
Pacific Programme/ Maori Caucus

Claire Johnstone

Member with delegated authority on Pacific programme

We are very pleased to hear the new government is prioritising New Zealand’s involvement in the Pacific.

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) shares the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerns about the Pacific and in particular, the influence China and Russia are having on the region.

The influence of nations such as China and Russia on these small island nations can’t be underestimated as it puts at risk their integrity systems.

There are numerous examples of new infrastructure such as hospitals and new ports provided by these two countries to buy favour in the Pacific. TINZ is concerned that without a strong anti-corruption movement, this soft diplomacy will go unfettered.

Until two years ago, extremely active and effective Transparency International (TI) chapters existed in Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

This was possible because of financial support from the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The aim of the programme they funded was to build capability and capacity of chapters operating in the Pacific so they could fight corruption at both the grassroots and political levels.

Unfortunately the previous government discontinued funding of anti-corruption activities, despite knowing that corruption in the Pacific is a major impediment to good governance. Corruption represents a significant risk to the stability of the South Pacific Region. There are also ramifications for fisheries and the environment.

With no financial help over the past two years, the TI chapters in Fiji and Vanuatu closed, while those in PNG and the Solomon Islands greatly reduced their work.

The Pacific anti-corruption movement was once exceptionally active and fighting assiduously against corruption in their counties. The Fijian chapter helped prosecute 200 cases of corruption. They were also effective watchdogs during the 2014 Fijian election. Regrettably, when the previous New Zealand government withdrew funding, all of the work these chapters were doing was suspended.

TINZ is hopeful, from the renewed interest and awareness of the new government in the importance of the Pacific to our region, that further assistance is forthcoming. We plan to meet in the near future with Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, to seek his intentions for addressing corruption in the Pacific including investing in the capacity required to build strong TI Chapters to address bribery and corruption. 

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