RESS RELEASE - 8th June 2011 - The Niue Peer Review Team has completed its consultations in the country with a presentation of preliminary recommendations to the government with the final report expected in six weeks.The Team was in Niue from 27th May to 3rd June 2011 and met with the Niue Cabinet of Ministers including the Acting Premier, representatives of various government departments and agencies, the private sector and non-government organizations, and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue, the only resident development partner.
The peer review was conducted as part of the implementation of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination endorsed by Forum Leaders at their meeting in Cairns, Australia in 2009.
Forum island countries (FICs) volunteer to undergo the peer review and select who should do the review. Niue chose representatives of the Nauru and Samoa governments to represent FICs in the team and AusAID to represent development partners.
The peer reviews consider the ways that FICs, with support of development partners, use their own money and the aid they receive to ensure a better life for their people and make progress towards achieving their national priorities inclusive of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"It wasn't a straight forward process in the peer review of Niue as the team had to consider a number of other significant and challenging issues before making recommendations to the government. There are significant and immense challenges for Niue particularly in the country's donor relationships," said Noumea Simi, who represented the government of Samoa on the Niue Peer Review Team.
"I have always taken the stance that countries in the region should be encouraged to take the lead and ownership of the process and that the pathway is one of choices available to them, and that we should no longer be just passive takers of development assistance but that the best way to strengthen partnerships is to come up with mutually agreed contracts so we know what is expected of us as recipient countries and what is expected of our development partners."
Ms Simi added: "The biggest lesson I have learnt from this peer review is an appreciation of what I had presumed to be not a complex process because of the size of Niue but if you have to make a comparison, there are many challenges that the country has to face."
Ms Greta Moses, who represented the government of Nauru on the Team commented: "The value of the peer review process depends on how the country that is undertaking the peer review, can take forward the Team's recommendations. As outsiders we can only make recommendations but only the people of Niue know what is best for them."
"The Government of Nauru, who was the first country which volunteered to undertake the peer review, responded well to the recommendations and observations from its peer review. Some of the observations were not very positive but as we had requested the peer review for this very purpose of identifying the weaknesses in our systems, the government took them on and is now addressing the gaps," Ms Moses said.
The Australian Agency for International Development, AusAID representative on the Niue Peer Review Team, Bill Costello said the peer review on Niue had gone very well.
"I liked the way that I have been able to work together with my Forum island country counterparts and bring very complementary perspectives to the process. At the same it is interesting that we have agreed on what are the key issues and what is important for Niue and that is because the Principles of Aid Effectiveness applies equally to the FICs and the development partners."
Mr Costello said: "The big challenge for a small country like Niue is to get into the driver's seat. It should come up with strategies that would allow Niue to negotiate assistance from development partners as equals. The challenge for the peer review is to give Niue some tools and ideas to think about and adopt where appropriate to help them to be in the driver's seat."
"As a development partner representative on the peer review team I was able to see the constraints that Niue faces, like most other Forum island countries. The challenge now will also be for development partners to adapt their programmes to the local environment in Niue."
The report of the Niue Peer Review Team is scheduled to be finalised six weeks after the conclusion of the consultations.