Honourable Speaker, Dr. Jiko Luveni
Honourable Leader of the Opposition
Excellencies High Commissioners and Ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps
Secretary-General and Parliament staff
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am delighted to speak today on behalf of UNDP to support the launch of this important and indeed, ground-breaking, overview report. In the years to come, I believe that we will look back at the significance of this publication and the information that it provides.
Delivering the 2030 agenda depends on good governance, which includes the responsiveness and accountability of institutions at all levels. Sustainable Development Goal 16 outlines the need for institutions to be open, transparent, effective and inclusive. This publication that is being launched today is central to all of these issues.
The overview of the Fiji Parliament 2014-2018 is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the publication is an important step in making the legislature itself open and accountable to the people. Secondly, it also highlights the way in which the Parliament has held Government to account over the last four years. And thirdly, the fact that the Parliament has published data that has been collated and tracked over the last four years, provides Fiji with important statistical baselines for the functioning of the Parliament in future years.
While many people will have different views on the quality and content of debates and discussions in Parliament, this publication contains data and statistics that can measure the way the legislature in Fiji has functioned. For example, let us focus on one aspect covered by the report. In any country, effective oversight of the executive is important in and of itself, but also leads to increased policy coherence, improved implementation and responsive governance. This publication shows that over the course of the Parliament term, Government Ministers have faced and answered over 2,500 questions in the Parliament chamber on public policy, government programmes and matters of public interest. This is central to creating accountable government and institutions – and to SDG16 more broadly.
Another aspect worth highlighting is that of public participation. It is very encouraging that there have been over 2,600 appearances by witnesses before Parliament Committees. These witnesses have provided views and opinions on a range of issues, many of which are linked to the legislative process. The constitution of Fiji states that the Parliament must “facilitate public participation in the legislative and other processes of Parliament and its committees”. The information outlined in this publication has shown that Parliament Committees have ensured that this has become a reality over the last four years. Allowing citizens, NGOs, the business community, academics and others to give their views during the legislative process has allowed the Parliament to consider the content of the draft laws, but also the likely impact of the legislation on various parts of society. The fact that the committees have then made amendments to a number of laws is testament to the importance of Parliament’s efforts to increase public participation.
What this report also shows is that the views of men are currently more likely to be heard by committees than the views of women. The fact that the Parliament is now collecting this disaggregated data is extremely important. Now that we know that almost two thirds of those who come before Parliament Committees are men, the next test for the Parliament will be developing a strategy to ensure that the voices of both men and women, as well as all segments of society, are heard during the legislative process. I know that today, as we speak, the Committees unit of Parliament is at a retreat supported by UNDP, looking at this very question and developing strategies to engage more people from different sectors and backgrounds into the committees’ work. I’m also aware that the Parliament is looking at further improving its data collection so that in future we can also track, for example, how many young people are engaging with Parliament committees.
Therefore, let me sincerely congratulate you, Madam Speaker, for opening the doors of Parliament and providing, in a succinct and accessible way, information on the way that Parliament has functioned. Not only is Parliament holding Government to account, but by publishing this overview, you are making yourselves as a Parliament accountable to the people.
I am delighted that UNDP and our partners have been able to assist the Fiji Parliament in developing and launching this overview. Indeed, our support would not have been possible without the Governments of Japan, New Zealand and Australia, funding our Parliament Support Project.
Let me end by saying that this launch is the end of a long process of collecting, analysing and publishing data on the functioning of Parliament. However, this is also the beginning of another process of using this publication as a baseline to measure Fiji’s progress on SDG 16 and the way the Parliament evolves and develops over the coming years.
Once again, our sincere thanks to all those who produced this important accountability benchmark for Fiji’s parliamentary strengthening. Vinaka!