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Pacific Island Association Of NGOs PIANGO

News Release December 16, 1999

Leaders of Pacific non-governmental organizations or NGOs went back to school last week in an effort to learn how to make their groups equal partners in the development of Pacific Island countries.

Twenty senior NGO leaders from 12 Pacific Island countries attended the "Regional NGO Leadership & Management Workshop" held in Fiji between November 29 and December 3.

At the opening of the workshop, Paula Sotutu, chairperson of the Fiji Council of Social Services and executive board member of the Pacific Island Association of NGOs (PIANGO), said governments are starting to recognize the role NGOs play in helping develop Pacific Island countries.

"You are the grassroots people," he said to the crowd. "Government attitudes towards NGOs are changing. They used to think we were unable to organize ourselves and had no money. That has changed."

Echoing Sotutu's thoughts, Larry Bennett, Canada International Development Agency (CIDA) Program Manager, Asia and Pacific, said: "The NGO sector is a very important sector that needs to be addressed during development efforts."

The workshop is the start of a planning process to design a graduate diploma program on NGO management within the region, said organizer Henry Vira of PIANGO.

More formal training will enable NGO leaders to build better organizations and give more professional recognition to their work, he said. It will also increase their skills to understand and respond better to the many forces changing Pacific societies, he said.

In the future, participants hope a formal training program will be taught by Pacific Island NGO leaders and accredited through recognized training schools throughout the region, he said.

PIANGO and the School of Community Studies at the UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand put together the workshop, with co-funding from CIDA, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA), and the Department for International Development (DFID-UK).

A second workshop is planned for March 2000 in Apia, Samoa.

For more information, please contact John Taylor, CIDA, at 300 399 or Henry Vira, PIANGO Coordinator at 05 678 25607.

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