Luganville, Vanuatu - Constituents in Espiritu Santo, the largest island of Vanuatu, where Vanuatu's second-largest town and the provincial capital, Luganville is located, attended public outreach activities conducted by Vanuatu’s National Parliament, enabling citizens to raise their concerns and express their opinions on governance issues including public finance, laws and parliamentary procedures.
A group of parliament staff, who represent four divisions of the Parliamentary Secretariat, Hansard, House Procedures, Committees and Corporate Services, flew to the island of Espiritu Santo, and travelled to three regions; Eastern, Southern and the offshore island of Malo, where they met constituents at 10 locations in and close to the local communities. The purpose of the public outreach was to raise awareness on the roles and responsibilities of Vanuatu Parliament and encourage citizens to meaningfully engage with Parliament.
“Today’s awareness was an eye-opener for us at Lathie community and also Santo Presbytery. We’ve never had this kind of awareness before. The presentations have clarified many questions in my mind. I believe this awareness has helped us chiefs and pastors with some answers to the queries of our people. I now have some of the right answers to respond to the queries of my people.”
Pr. Graham Path
Acting Moderator of East Santo Presbytery
Team Leader of the outreach teams Assistant Clerk House Procedures, Mr Maxime Banga said, “The teams of parliament staff were able to interact with over 7,650 people in total from 14 communities. We were able to capture the concerns and opinions of our constituents while we provided detailed information on the function of parliament and how our work matters to them.”
The awareness raising activities in the communities were followed by a budget briefing session for civil society members and a consultation exercise on the new Parliament Bill to address issues concerning the administration of Parliament.
In December 2020, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) coordinated a workshop on independent budget briefs that were developed by the National Parliament and their counterparts from the Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australian Federal Parliaments as the ‘Floating Budget Office’. The same approach was well received by 50 representatives from Santo-based civil society organisations including youth groups, women’s groups, and churches, as well as provincial government and political party representatives.
“Most of the things presented at this budget briefing are new to me. I am glad to listen to the presentations, As an Area Administrator, I only have knowledge and information about the budget of my area council and as far as the Department of Local Authorities concerns. Today, I had the opportunity during this workshop to know the breakdown of the whole budget of the government. I know it will help me gauge its impact on the rural communities, especially on us at Santo Rural and Malo.”
Mr. Paul Jamaran, Area Administrator of Big Bay Inland
This same group of participants were also invited to attend the consultation on Vanuatu Parliament’s new Parliament Bill. The consultation created opportunities for the citizens to deepen their understanding of the importance of the Bill and the procedure, and at the same time for Vanuatu Parliament staff to learn people’s views and obtain comments from the constituents. Holding public consultations is part of Parliament’s role to fulfil the requirements for amending any legislation. Two successful consultations were also conducted for staff in March 2021 and for Members of Parliament in May 2021 supported by UNDP.
“The consultation in Santo was extremely important both for Santo residents and for Parliament because we were able to capture contrasting views from stakeholders based in a more rural setting outside of the main city, Port Vila”, said Stephen Felix, Principal Legal Officer and lead on the consultation exercise.
Vanuatu’s National Parliament is strengthening parliamentary engagement and aiming at a more open and participatory democratic decision-making mechanism. Its efforts have been supported by UNDP with financial support from the Governments of Australia, Japan and New Zealand as part of Pacific regional initiative to strengthen national legislatures.
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[ NEWS SOURCE: UNDP WEBSITE ]