Nuku’alofa, Tonga – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is expanding its reach in the Pacific with the establishment of an office in the Kingdom of Tonga.

The UNDP Office in Tonga was jointly opened by the Prime Minister of Tonga Lord Tu’ivakanō and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Knut Ostby yesterday. Government ministers, senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, development partners and civil society organizations attended the opening ceremony.

“Today’s event marks a significant step forward by UNDP as a genuine development partner that is seeking to strengthen its responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency towards the development challenges and priorities of the Government and people of Tonga,” said Lord Tu’ivakanō.

The UNDP office is strategically positioned within the Aid Division of the Ministry of Finance and National Planning in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.

Mr Ostby said that through the new office UNDP would assist the Government of Tonga in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), strengthening institutions of democratic governance and promoting gender equality. 

“The UNDP Office in Tonga will be a gateway for the Tongan Government and for other partners in Tonga, connecting the country to the UN’s resources for technical assistance and policy advice,” he said.

Mr Ostby also congratulated Tonga for its historic political transition and the election of a democratic parliament in November 2010.

“UNDP welcomes the recognition by Government of the need for more equitable development of Tonga’s communities, the critical role of education to ensure long-term well being of the Tongan people, and the necessity for improved governance through greater transparency and accountability expected from a fully elected government.  We certainly look forward to the translation of these into accelerated achievement of the MDGs in Tonga by 2015,” Mr Ostby said.

UNDP currently provides assistance to Tonga through its national and regional programmes in a range of areas including the achievement of the MDGs; support to Tonga’s Legislative Assembly; disaster risk management and the energy and environment sectors.

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