Independent Research Think Tank Opens In Tonga

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Royal Oceania Institute to do analysis, foster dialogue

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March 31, 2016) – A new independent Tongan based think tank, named the Royal Oceania Institute (ROI) was launched today, Thursday 31 March in Nuku’alofa, and aims to advance fact-based research, analysis and foster open dialogue on topics relevant to the community.

Chairman Lord Fakafanua announced the formation of the group at Davina House. The institute has Crown Prince Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala as Patron and is currently working on final official registration, appointing a Board of Directors and selecting an Advisory of Eminent Persons to guide it.

Lord Fakafanua said they are planning to create a platform for open, fair and independent discourse on any subject, facilitate that dialogue and through their network create capacity building workshops for the development of the country.

"ROI wants to facilitate the right information getting to the right people, so that they can make the best decisions to make Tonga's sustainable development forward."

He said the idea to create the open forum for discussion is so that voices are heard and people who are in positions to make decisions whether that is on the highest level of decision making in government or everyday decisions people make at home, decisions that will impact people's daily lives. "We need to influence and empower that so they have the right information based on facts and research," he said.

"We are not an university we are a think tank and we welcome all voices. We are looking at engaging at all levels and the subjects will include major areas like trade and under that we would look at banking and financing. With environment we will look at climate change and issues relevant to the sustainable development of Tonga and the region. We would also be looking at the great power relationships so we will analysing and creating discourse about Tonga’s aid dependencies as well as our relationship with key partners in the region and also diplomatically with greater nations, as well as domestic issues such as maritime issues, which comes under security so defence falls into this," he said.

He also said ROI will not hold an official position on any issue, but rather foster discussions so that the dialogue is happening.

"With stakeholders in Tonga there might be work to unite everyone but we think this is probably the most productive way to bring to those voices together."

Independent

Tevita Motulalo ROI Director said ROI should craft a way forward for the country and region.

He said the think tank will remain independent and funding will not influence the direction, quality or outcome of their research, which they aim to publish in reports.

ROI has not yet started accepting funding.

As part of the soft launch, ROI hosted a two-day conference starting today on 'Negotiations and Public Affairs' facilitated by Robert Valdmanis, a former Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Rio Tinto Alcan and current Professor at Concordia University in Canada.

It is open to various sectors including government, media and civil society organisations.

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