MEDIA RELEASE October 2, 2000


"Civil society groups play an important role in settings standards on human rights. On issues such as the rights of women and children, indigenous rights, protecting the environment and the struggle for self-determination, civil society organizations have been central in setting international standards and values", states Joan Staples, Director of the Diplomacy Training Program.

Ms. Staples was speaking at the opening of the Diplomacy Training Program at Pacific Harbour in the Fiji Islands, which starts today for civil society groups from 12 Pacific island countries. The keynote opening address for the two-week training course was presented by Ms. Mere Pulea, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific.

"It is evident that governments or NGOs cannot make effective progress without civil society involvement," stated Ms. Pulea. "If citizens and their NGOs are not involved and educated on these issues, there will be little or no public support for international agreements signed by governments".

This program will involve two weeks training for 24 representatives of non-government and community groups from countries around the region: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kanaky (New Caledonia), West Papua, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia), Federated States of Micronesia, Aotearoa (New Zealand).

The course is jointly organized by the Diplomacy Training Program, based at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) in Suva, Fiji Islands. DTP is a non-government organization founded in 1989 by Jose Ramos-Horta, the 1996 Nobel Peace Co-Laureate. PCRC serves as the secretariat for the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement, with over 100 affiliated members around the Pacific region.

"We hope that this training will assist non-government and community groups to act as peoples’ diplomats, to better represent the aspirations and concerns of their peoples in the national, regional and international arenas," Joan Staples added.

The Diplomacy Training Program provides information on the use of public and international law, and how to access the United Nations and its agencies to address issues of environment, development and human rights. It also provides information about regional intergovernmental organizations, and the program will be attended by speakers from the Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) as well as resource people from non-government and community organizations. The course involves training in practical skills of negotiating, lobbying, using the media, and developing effective advocacy strategies.

For further information, contact Joan Staples or Nic Maclellan on (679) 450100

Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) 83 Amy Street, Toorak, Private Mail Bag, Suva, FIJI ISLANDS Phone (679) 304649 Fax: (679) 304755 Email: pcrc@is.com.fj 

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