GON and UNDP hosts workshop on strengthening the right to information and open government in Niue 

Photo credits: John Hyde/Anti-Corruption Consultant, United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project

A two day workshop on open government and right to information is being held this week, organised and facilitated by the Crown Law Office of the Niue government and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 

The workshop is attended by senior government officials, members of the Fono Ekepule and village council representatives. 

On day one, held yesterday, the participants heard presentations from the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption team, UNDP, representatives from the NZ Ombudsman’s Office, a panel of local media representatives and a presentation from the Office of Australia’s Information commission. 

The workshop aims to improve understanding of the current situation in Niue with regards to the public’s access to government information. 

According to a UNDP press release issued this morning, Solicitor General of the Crown Law Office of Niue Justin Kamupala shared that “the right to access government-held information is a critical component of democracy and a foundational pillar of open government. It enables citizens to participate more fully in public life and helps to combat corruption.”

“Improving the right to information is not necessarily about fixing a broken system. Rather, we should view it as an opportunity to enhance and build on the good things that we do for the public, and there are many instances where we are already doing this, such as stakeholder consultations,” says Justin. 

Niue Star newspaper owner and journalist Michael Jackson also shared that “the right of people to information is a critical part of any democracy.” 

“This is especially crucial for a small island like Niue where everyone knows everyone, and where the coconut wireless can often be the source of information. But official information needs to be readily available and accessible to the people to allow them to make informed decisions, especially as we head into elections,” says Michael. 

The challenge for the Niue government is that most information that should be readily available to the public such as audit reports, budget reports, government departments annual reports are not. 

BCN’s Acting General Manager Esther Pavihi said that what is lacking in the Niue public service is a culture of proactive disclosure of information, to the public and also to the media. 

UNDP Anti-Corruption Adviser Sonja Stefanovska-Trajanoska also shared the significance the right to information and open government workshop has in developing awareness and discussions in Niue on “potential policy and institutional reforms” that would help support open government. 

On Wednesday the UN Pacific Regional Anti-corruption team will be co-hosting with the Niue Chamber of Commerce a women entrepreneurs anti-corruption workshop and on Thursday they will hold a workshop on anti-corruption capacity building for Niue’s youth and young entrepreneurs, both workshop will be held at the Scenic Matavai. 

BCN News understands that the government is considering introducing Rights to Information policy or Freedom of Information legislation but in the meantime, understanding the current issues around the availability and access to government information, is a good start towards that end.

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