Ombudsmen and government representatives from 11 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum met in Brisbane, Australia recently to launch the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance.The Alliance is a key outcome of an initiative in the Pacific Plan. A major pillar of the Pacific Plan is good governance and with that comes the call to strengthen ombudsmen services throughout the region.
"This is another positive for the implementation of the Pacific Plan initiatives as it marks its third year after the Forum Leaders' endorsement in 2005," said Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Mr Slade added: "Forum Leaders see the role of the ombudsman as pivotal to maintaining open and accountable governments in the region and the launching of the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance can only strengthen the work of the ombudsman throughout the region."
Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman John McMillan, who was elected chair of the Alliance at the Brisbane meeting said: "A key aim of the Alliance is to support the development of legislation and programs that recognise the right of citizens to transparent and accountable government services."
"The Alliance aims to foster integrity in the delivery of government services by supporting the creation and maintenance of strong ombudsman and allied institutions in the Pacific," said Prof. McMillan.
Foundation members of the Alliance include the Ombudsmen from the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, New Zealand and the Commonwealth and NSW Ombudsmen from Australia.
Membership of the Alliance will expand beyond Ombudsman offices. Alliance membership is open to any statutory or constitutionally-based organisation that protects people from maladministration, violation of rights, unfairness, abuse of power, corruption and any injustice or lack of procedural fairness by a public authority.
The Alliance is currently providing advice and support to Palau, Nauru, and Niue as they consider the establishment of an Ombudsman office.
The Pacific Ombudsman Alliance will be supported by a small secretariat initially located in the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman of Australia. The secretariat reports to a board that is predominantly made up of Pacific Island representatives.
The launch of the Alliance was assisted by funding from the Australian Agency for International Development, AusAID.
The alliance is hopeful of attracting further donor funds from Australian and New Zealand development agencies to enable it to carry out an ambitious work program in the Pacific over the next five years.