[Nuku'alofa, Tonga, 16th August 2012] A team of Pacific experts in planning, budgeting, development and aid management are currently in Tonga to carry out a Peer Review of Development Coordination.

At the invitation of the Government of Tonga, the Peer Review team includes Mr Colin Tavi, Manager of Vanuatu's Monitoring and Evaluation Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Oscar Malielegaoi, Assistant CEO Budget of Samoa's Ministry of Finance and Mr Gary Wiseman, Manager of UNDP Pacific Centre, Fiji.

"The ultimate purpose of the Peer Review process is to assist countries to improve the planning, budgeting and delivery of development programmes, consequently improving development outcomes and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," explained the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

Peer Reviews are an initiative under the 2009 Cairns Compact for Strengthening Development Coordination (Forum Compact), which is a commitment by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support the implementation of Pacific Plan priorities, providing the principles and processes for more coordinated and efficient delivery of development programmes at the national level.

"This exercise is particularly timely for Tonga in light of the government and public sector reforms currently underway," added Mr Slade.

"I would like to congratulate Tonga for volunteering to undergo a Peer Review and making the most of this opportunity for mutual learning among Forum Island Countries and Development Partners. This review is about how best to address our often shared development challenges in the spirit of regionalism and camaraderie."

The Peer Review team will consult over the next two weeks with Tongan ministers and officials in central planning and financial management agencies and key service delivery agencies, such as Ministries of Education and Health. The team will also meet with representatives of key development partners, representatives of non-government organisations and the private sector, among others. Their advice will be submitted to the Government of Tonga and development partners for consideration and reported to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their annual meeting in 2013.

Other Pacific island nations Nauru and Kiribati were the first to undergo Peer Reviews in 2010, followed by Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Niue in 2011, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tonga in 2012.