Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Madam Tangariki Reete,

Honorable Members of Parliament,

Mr. Clerk and Secretariat staff of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning, Mauri,

It is my honour and privilege to address you at the occasion of this “Induction program for newly elected and returning members of the Kiribati parliament”.

I would like to start by congratulating all 45 Members on your successful election, and wish you a productive term in Parliament. We note that 17 of you are first time members and hope that induction will be useful introduction for you to the work and role of the parliament. It is also great to know that siting among you are four female MPs, almost all first timers, which makes Kiribati parliament one of the few Pacific parliament to have significant female representation.

I also take the opportunity to congratulate Madam Speaker on her election as Speaker of the Parliament, the first Kiribati women to hold this august office. In the Pacific, the Kiribati parliament is now the second legislature to have a woman Presiding Officer, and therefore represents a positive change and example which other parliaments in the region can follow.

UNDP is honored to support the Kiribati Parliament in holding this induction program. Thanks to partnerships such as ours, UNDP is the world’s largest implementer of parliamentary strengthening programmes, helping parliaments around the world to build their capacities to effectively legislate, provide oversight of governments and represent citizens – and help achieve the Agenda 2030. We are pleased to continue this agenda in the Pacific region, working with all 15 Pacific parliaments.

Background of Induction work

Over the past years, UNDP has provided support to your Parliament. Our support is focused on key areas such as professional development of MPs and staff, the improvement of Committees’ legislative and oversight work, and support to parliamentary outreach and citizen engagement roles.

Your induction programme over the next few days covers a range of key issues which are relevant to your role: Parliament as an institution, the Constitution and separation of powers, law making process in parliament, the role of committees and their staff and oversight and scrutiny, anti-corruption, the Standing Orders and their review process – only to name a few.

You will also hear from the Ministry of Finance on the Budget Cycle, from the Auditor General on audit reports, the Department of Strategic Planning on your Kiribati Development Plan (KDP) and UNDP and regional parliaments on gender mainstreaming into the work of parliament.

COVID 19 and its impacts

As you know your elections were held under difficult circumstance during the pandemic, which has impacted all aspects of the country’s life.

This is the very reason I am delivering this address through video conferencing as opposed to being there physically to meet and congratulate you. But again, it is also an opportunity for us to congratulate Kiribati as a country to organize successful elections despite the looming threats of a pandemic. Such experience sets an example for the region and world that democratic governance is the way do things, irrespective of challenges.  

While all of us are making several changes to operate under the pandemic, it has and is going to leave everlasting impacts on development, economies, and society as a whole. It is therefore crucial, not only contain the impacts of pandemic, but also to work together at ensuring further progress in development.

To this end, all branches of the State need to cooperate in developing and deploying quick and appropriate response measures, while respecting and maintaining the separation and balance of powers. The role of parliament is paramount: as representation of the people, it has to ensure that the Executive actions in response to COVID-19 are measured, appropriate, proportionate to the country’s needs and respectful of human rights.   

Sustainable Development Goals

As elected parliamentarians, you will play a crucial role in shaping Kiribati’s national development policies and laws that advance human development and ultimately accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs.

For the benefit of first-time MPs, please allow me to briefly highlight the SDGs. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals with poverty eradication as the overarching objective of the agenda, alongside the promotion of economic, social and environmental development.

The ambition of this agenda is to be transformative and leave no one behind, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

These 17 goals are interconnected. Often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another. The goals are also integrated and “localized” into Kiribati’s Development Plan.

Parliament is the at the core of representative democracy, and as such is central to the realization of the SDGs. In line with Goal 16, strong, transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions are key for the achievement of all 17 Goals.

But attaining the global agenda requires local action in every single country – and Parliament is a powerful agent of change. It is by ratifying international agreements, translating the global goals into real development at national level, adopting laws that respond to Kiribati’s development priorities, and monitoring their implementation while keeping the Government to account, that your Parliament can drive that change.

Gender

In 2017, only 6% members in the Kiribati parliament were women, but with recent elections, the percent has increased to 8.7%. We hope that this trend will be maintained, and we will see more woman in the Kiribati parliament in the years to come.

But this will only happen if you as members will continue to encourage and support aspiring women to come forward run for elected offices and actively support their campaigns. As the old adage goes, “Charity begins at home”, please look no further. You can inspire and encourage your spouses, sisters, daughters and nieces to consider running for the elected office. Talk to females in your constituencies, help them understand the importance of parliament and the need for their participation.

The newly elected women and Madam Speaker will be a great role models for the young girls and women to take part in elections; that can be further promoted through platforms such as the “Women Practice Parliament” supported by UNDP.

Former Chilean President and current the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet once said, “for me, a better democracy is a democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected.”

Within parliament, it is also important to create more opportunities for women. Parliament could for instance consider appointing more female staff members at senior positions or giving some committee chairpersonships to female MPs.

Ladies and gentlemen:

UNDP support for the induction was made possible by the generous assistance of the Government of New Zealand, through the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative project (PPEI). We thank them for their consistent commitment to supporting parliamentary development efforts in your parliament, and, more generally, in the Pacific region.

Honorable Members, I wish you well in your interactions in the coming days, as well as during your parliamentary term; and I look forward to our upcoming collaboration.

Thank you and Kam Rab’a

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