VIEWPOINT: HAVING CONTROL OVER OUR PACIFIC DESTINY

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By Laisa Taga South Pacific Managing Editor

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 4, 2001 - Pacific Magazine/PINA Nius Online)---For years there has been a stereotype in our islands. It goes like this: Training and development is something that can only be delivered by an "expert" from outside. . . an outsider showing the way to us "poor" Pacific Islanders.

It is an image that unfortunately has been enforced and reinforced by some of the donor agencies and countries. They only want people from their own country delivering training and development. And a lot of the money donors give goes back to the donor country through their own "consultants."

There’s no denying, that if we are to grow in the Pacific we need to be exposed and, of course, to the best international expertise and practices. We do not deny the need to bring in top international people. But only sometimes and if necessary.

Those wandering expatriate types who continue to argue that we must always have "international standards" to meet "regional needs" are not fooling anyone these days. In fact, what they are really doing is justifying their own continuing existence by saying we must continue to automatically use people like themselves as educators and trainers.

This is a typical colonialistic and master-servant attitude from a time, which has passed - a thinking we can well do without. Today the emphasis is on empowering Pacific Islanders, and encouraging the use of the growing body of expertise in the Pacific Islands.

It’s a pity some of these wandering expatriates were not at a workshop I’ve just attended at the Fiji Mocambo Hotel at Nadi Airport here in Fiji. They would have heard the voices of a very talented group of Pacific Islanders who are trainers.

They would have heard comments from them like:

The workshop I attended was for news media trainers. But the messages from it apply to many areas of our islands. It was an advanced train-the-trainers program that was part of the continuing good work being done by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) to develop trainers and educators from within our islands.

I must pay special credit to two development agencies -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative -- for supporting these PINA efforts. UNESCO has been the real leader in this area, and it even takes Pacific Islanders to other parts of the developing world to share their expertise.

AusAID once had a reputation as an agency, which made sure a lot of the development money actually went back to Australia through fees for Australian contractors and consultants. However, the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative is helping lead a move away from that and its efforts should be given deserved credit.

In the latest phase of its project, which is about to be completed, it listened to calls from people like PINA. It brought in Pacific Islanders as counterpart trainers for all the training done under the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative.

The workshop at the Fiji Mocambo Hotel was intended by PINA and the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative to take this one step further. It was designed to equip Pacific islanders to tender for, design and implement AusAID Pacific Media Initiative training as the lead consultants themselves.

The AusAID Pacific Media Initiative is now being reviewed by a team, which is going around the region. They will decide the future direction of the project. If the review team members are smart they will listen to the voices of those Pacific Islands trainers who were gathered at the Fiji Mocambo.

For additional reports from Pacific Magazine, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Pacific Magazine.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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