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By Rosi Tamani, Business Editor of Fiji's Daily Post, in Durban with assistance from the Commonwealth Foundation.

DURBAN, South Africa (November 10, 1999 – Fiji’s Daily Post/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Pacific Islands non-government representatives have raised concerns (prior to the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting) that programs conducted in their countries are largely driven by donor agencies.

These include restructuring reforms, both social and economic, currently taking place in some of the smaller nations.

In Samoa, for example, Koroseta To‘o highlighted that agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank simply came in and implemented programs before carrying out some sort of consultation with citizens.

Because of the increasing trend, Don Clarke of the New Zealand Government Development Aid Assistance (NZODA) encouraged Pacific Islands NGO representatives to engage with donor agencies in terms of input and approaches.

"NGOs can even work with their governments so as to ensure that the needs for the civil society are addressed," he said.

"Civil society should be enhanced and strengthened and before any reform comes into a country, the needs and priorities of the citizens should be the heart of the process."

Another way of ensuring that donor agencies were genuine in their assistance, Mr. Clarke said, it was important for Pacific Islands representatives to participate in international NGO networks to facilitate and plan approaches in regard to donors.

Like Government and NGOs themselves, transparency should also apply to donor agencies. While donors may have their mission statements and goals, Mr. Clarke said it's important to ensure that the tremendous gap between reality and policies is narrowed.

"A lot of work has to be done on the ground," he said.

In regards to the work of NGOs in the Pacific region, Mr. Clarke said they have made important contributions to socio-economic development, strengthening civil society and therefore strengthening governance of a country.

However, he observed that Pacific NGOs lacked capacity.

"Donors in this case have a responsibility to assist in strengthening NGOs in the region."

Again, Mr. Clarke stressed that "programs on the ground should be driven by NGOs and not the donors."

Donors, on the other hand, needed to relate sensitively to the needs and priorities highlighted by NGOs concerning civil society.

Title -- 2438 DEVELOPMENT: Pacific reps worried over donor control Date -- 10 November 1999 Byline -- Rosi Tamani Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Fiji’s Daily Post, 10/11/99 Copyright – DP Status – Unabridged

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