Knut Ostby: Address at the Opening of the Palau National Congress Awareness and Development Issues Seminar

Jan 8, 2013

Address to be delivered on behalf of Mr Knut Ostby, UNDP Resident Representative at opening of the Palau National Congress Awareness and Development Issues Seminar.

Salutations: H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., President of the Republic of Palau; Hon. Mlib Tmetuchl, President of the Senate; Hon. Noah Idechong, Speaker of the House of Delegates, distinguished and long term serving members of OEK, newly elected members of OEK, distinguished guests, resources persons, ladies and gentlemen.

The United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr. Knut Ostby would like to offer his warmest congratulations on your election to the highly responsible positions as Members of Palau Congress – the 9th Olbiil Era Kelulau.  Since Mr. Ostby’s latest mission to Palau in November last year, a number of events have taken place. One of the most dramatic was the passing of the Typhoon Bopha in early December. We in UNDP are very aware that Palau is still working hard for recovery and reconstruction after the Typhoon, and as you know, we are ready to support the recovery work.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) values very highly the partnership that it has with the Palau Congress. It is this partnership which has enabled UNDP to support this induction seminar and bringing together a highly skilled and qualified group of national and international resource persons to work with you over the next few days.

UNDP supports the Parliaments in several Pacific islands countries and Palau is one of them. We have organized a similar induction programs for Parliamentarians in Tonga, Kiribati, and Tuvalu and for the Senators in the FSM Congress in 2011 and recently in Vanuatu in November 2012.

Honourable members, UNDP regards the role of Palau Congress as absolutely critical in the democratic governance process and nation building. The Congress is indeed the paramount institution of the nation where the voices of the people of Palau should be heard. It is where proper scrutiny is made of the governance of the country and full accountability demanded for the use of the national resources for the benefit of the nation. It is where the laws of the nation are defined based on full consultations with the people. In short, Members of the Congress have the key function of representation, accountability and legislation.

Many of you have mastered these roles - but many are new - and some are keen to learn more in order to perform their roles better. This awareness and development issues seminar has been designed to provide the initial forum for dialogue and awareness at the start of this 9th Congress to assist you in your roles. This is an ideal time as it marks the beginning of the next four-year life of the 9th Olbiil Era Kelulau. At least some of you have come into the Congress for the first time – and we are keenly aware that Senators and Delegates are not born with the required skills – they need to understand and nurture their skills, they need to learn of the cutting edge developments solutions and tools from around the world to serve the people who have elected them and to assist with national development.

The Support to Palau Congress Project 2010 - 2012 focuses a great deal on capacitating the OEK Secretariat to perform its support role better for you – through appropriate technology, research and information services and training of personnel.  In addition, a critical aspect of the Corporate Plan developed through this project is to help you as members of the OEK, to understand, consider and incorporate in your debates and dialogues, your policies and programmes, lessons from around the world on what has worked in nation building, human development, climate change, millennium development goals, poverty reduction, gender equality and sustainability for future generations.

Three potential areas of dialogue, for example, which we hope you would consider as providing you an opportunity to use as benchmarks for monitoring national development is the millennium development goals or MDGs, the post 2015 development agenda and the Rio plus 20 outcomes. As you know, the MDGs have been arrived at through global discussion and agreements in which Palau participated. The MDGs establish key statistical targets on poverty reduction, universal primary education, gender equality and the empowerment of women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development. Therefore, the MDGs represent the “right to development”.

Honourable members, we hope that your awareness and development issues seminar over the next few days would provide you a platform for dialogue to address the critical issues facing the people of Palau. These issues should occupy your efforts in the next four years as the elected representatives of your people.

That brings me to one of your functions – that of representing the voices of the people who have elected you to the august body to which you now belong – the Congress of Palau.

An important lesson that UNDP has learnt from its presence from around the world is that only when the people, and especially the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the poor can participate in the political decisions of their country is their economic and social status adequately addressed. There are many ways to ensure the participation of people, including through opportunities to participate in public hearings, through the media and through their political parties.

Another crucial role that Senators and Delegates play is that of oversight and scrutiny of the Executive. It is your role to ensure that the resources of the nation are truly directed for the benefit of all, for national development. It is a role which requires your vigilance against such diseases as corruption, and support for integrity, transparency and accountability. It is a role that requires healthy debate and scrutiny. It is a role which requires commitment to participate in mechanisms for scrutiny such as the public accounts committee and concrete follow-up actions on the recommendations. UNDP shares the hopes and aspirations of the people of the Republic of Palau - that you would truly move the nation forward.  
As Senators and Delegates, part of your job will be to represent the wide variety of views that exist in society. A vibrant, democratic society will always have people who differ with each other. Different views and different ideas are some of the fundamental factors that create development – it allows a country to find new solutions to problems from the past. To allow these different views to come out, and to harness them into constructive solutions for the country, is a main task for Congress. This is indeed a great challenge, but it is also one of the most important contributions that a Congress can make. We hope that the workshop you are about to begin can be a contribution towards this very important work in front of you.

In conclusion Honorable members, on behalf of UNDP and the UN system in the Pacific I wish you all the very the best, at the start of your new term as the representatives of the people of the Republic of Palau, for the next four years.

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