By Madeline Saga
The Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat (MSGS) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) jointly organised a Forum in Honiara, Solomon Islands on the 17th of September 2019 . This event was held in conjunction with the UNDP’s Pacific Regional Conference on Inclusive Political Parties (18-19 September 2019).
The Forum was attended by Dr Alphonse Gelu and Madeline Saga from the Registry and a number of party executives including Joyce Grant, Morris Tovebae and Grand Chief Ila Geno. Dr Gelu was invited to speak about Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) experiences on maintaining democracy. He outlined the relationship with IDEA back in 2015 to conduct a democratic assessment for PNG. The discussions with IDEA on promoting democracy were not new to the Registry.
The Forum covered in detail the introduction to the MoU and the 2019-2020 Work Plan. On the part of International IDEA, Ms. Leena Rikkila Tamang, the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific gave an introduction about her organisations Key Expertise and Prospects for Melanesia. This included International IDEA’s tools, data and knowledge resources and how best they may be relevant to Melanesia.
Participants of the Melanesian countries that also included Political Party representatives were grouped into their countries and were given the opportunity to make presentations based on these discussion topics involving Democracy education for young people, crucial issues for democracy research, Election Observation and addressing challenges and solutions to Melanesian women’s participation in politics. Based on these topics, each participating country was asked to:
* Comment on the relevance of the topic in Melanesian context
* Identify how (through what activities) the topics could be carried out by MSGS and IDEA at the regional level
* Identify any necessary changes in behaviours, relationships and practices for the topic to be successfully conducted.
As a result of these presentations of the member countries, both the MSGS and International IDEA have vowed to ensure to make contact with the participating organisations as the beginning of this work plan of 2019-2020.
The Registry was pleased to be a part of this forum as it is through this forum that has given awareness of other regional institutions within Melanesia who are able to jointly fund activities that the Registry intends to implement in the next four years. As a result of this forum the Registry has identified key areas that would be relevant for this support from the MSGS and IDEA. The Registry looks forward to maintaining an open dialogue that will form a stronger interaction with other Melanesian countries that will lead to a strong regional relationship within Asia and the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand and their political parties.