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Radio Australia Time To Talk January 23, 2002 Melbourne, Australia

What makes "good governance" in the Pacific islands?

The Pacific Concerns Resource Centre in Suva says indigenous models must be considered.

With the launch of its governance website, the United Nations Development Program has joined other international organisations in promoting the concept of "good governance" in the Pacific.

But indigenous societies in the region have their own ways of governing family and community.

The Director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre in Suva, ni-Vanuatu Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, says traditional modes of governance are still relevant for the Pacific of the 21st century.

In this edited extract first published by Radio Australia’s Time To Talk, Hilda Lini explains the indigenous concept of good governance.

Motarilavoa Hilda Lini

Governance in the indigenous concept is linked to a belief system that supervises and monitors peaceful co-existence of everyone and everything that share the multi-dimensional natural world that we live in.

This is done in accordance with the natural laws of society, which are based on our indigenous creation stories and the protocols that have been made by human beings.

Six Laws of the Land

From the indigenous record, there are six laws of the land that regulate peaceful co-existence.

Because peace is paramount, it is collectively owned and protected to serve the well being of all.

Leadership and authority become a collective responsibility of the society. Leadership is groomed at an early age and continues throughout adulthood. Leaders are spiritually guided with skills, knowledge and acquiring of wisdom needed for their role in coordinating and monitoring the state of peace at all levels and in all institutions including the family, clan, tribe, village, and the island communities.

Individual rights and freedom are practiced within the parameters of collectivity. Any disturbance to peace is frowned upon and collective responsibility for peace restoration is a crucial task.

The Role of Leadership

The leader takes responsibility to compensate for breaches of the peace on behalf of his community members.

The whole society takes responsibility in all nurturing, education and teaching. This ensures that these actions are directed towards respect for peace; especially in the way people talk, act and conduct all activities.

Truth and justice are prerequisites for good governance, social security, economic self-reliance and political stability. All activities are conducted openly and all information is for public consumption to keep the communities well informed.

Information and activities that may contribute to disturbing individual, family or community cohesiveness is properly scrutinized prior to its presentation in appropriate words to the community.

Quality leadership, authority and good governance is measured by the ability to uphold cohesive community spirit, with a state of peace and feelings of social security, economic self-reliance and political stability.

In this short article I am unable to describe its full components, but this is what I call the Melanesian System of Democracy. It is free for participation to all members of the community and is open in its decisions.

Today in the Pacific region, this system of indigenous forms of governance is still found in parts of Melanesia, including my own home country Vanuatu.

Finding a Pacific Way

While all Pacific countries are governed by Western systems of governance, there is a growing sense within the Pacific community to identify models that will best suit the Pacific.

A new network, with the membership of six indigenous nations, is seriously looking into the use of indigenous models of governance as the foundation for state governments. This would mean borrowing only certain aspects of foreign systems of governance that will contribute to upholding the collective ownership of peaceful co-existence.

Go to Radio Australia’s Time To Talk ( website for more on governance in the Pacific.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia. 

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