Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Gracia CHADRACK 

His Excellency Prime Minister, Hon. Bob LOUGHMAN

His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Ishmael KALSAKAU

Leader of the Opposition, Hon.  Ralph REGENVANU

Honourable Ministers and Members of Parliament

His Excellency, the Acting High Commissioner of New Zealand to Vanuatu, Mr Richard Dirks

His Excellency, the Ambassador of Japan to Vanuatu, Mr CHIBA Hirohisa

Secretariat staff of the Vanuatu National Parliament

Ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning.

It is my honour and privilege to provide these remarks at the Parliament Bill Consultations for Honorable Members of the Vanuatu Parliament.

UNDP is pleased to be working with the Vanuatu Parliament to conduct this significant consultation that would lead to the development of your Parliament Bill.

The proposed Parliament of Vanuatu Bill builds on your remarkable success of revising the Parliament's standing orders in 2020. The standing orders have significantly improved the work of Parliament and its committees. When enacted, the Parliament Bill would be a critical step to support the changes outlined in the revised Standing Orders of Parliament.

Among others, the proposed Bill is important, in that it will enhance Parliament's oversight capacity by strengthening requirements for attendance at parliamentary committees and the production of documents to these Committees, to name a few. The Bill also proposes provisions for improving the separation and balance of power between the state institutions, improving the financial powers of the Parliament and creating a parliamentary staff cadre. In addition, the consultation also includes a proposition for reviewing and strengthening the powers of the Public Accounts Committee in regards to the Expenditure Review and Audit Act.

I also understand several Acts contain matters regarding the operations of your Parliament, its committees, and your duties and responsibilities as Honorable Members. Therefore, a key recommendation coming out of the Standing Orders process between 2018-19 was the consolidation of these legislations so that relevant laws are aligned and consistent.

Honourable Members, your inputs in the development of this Bill are vital. This consultation will determine your Parliament's quality, strength, and capacity to fulfil its constitutional mandate in years to come. Therefore, I am sure that you will actively participate in today's consultations, so that the Bill will not only be truly representative of your collective will and intelligence, but more so, be in the best interest of the people of Vanuatu. 

COVID-19 and its impacts

As you know, the extensive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unparalleled. We are facing a global health crisis unlike any other — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people's lives. But this is much more than a health crisis.  It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core.

For many of us, the coronavirus has been the most substantial and perhaps life-changing event of our lives. It will continue to have a massive impact on us as individuals, society, and the workforce.

While Vanuatu remains largely free of the COVID-19 impacts, we have helped your Parliament with business continuity support so that you can continue your constitutional duties should a lockdown force parliament to meet remotely. We have provided the necessary hardware and software solutions in this regard. These will also be useful to organise virtual sessions and committee meetings in the event of climate-related crises.

Background of Support

Since 2016, UNDP has provided support to your Parliament through the New Zealand Government funded Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative (PPEI) Project and the Japan Government-funded Strengthening Legislatures in the Pacific (SLIP) Project and the since 2018. Our support is focused on critical areas such as the professional development of MPs and staff, the improvement of Committees' legislative and oversight work, and support to parliamentary outreach and citizen engagement roles.

Despite the widespread devastating impact of COVID-19 in our region, UNDP has continued to provide unwavering support to the National Parliament of Vanuatu in the last 18 months. These included: the induction program for both Honorable Members and Committee members, which resulted in the adoption of your revised Standing in technical support to the Standing Orders Review Committee in June last year,  technical (procedural) advice and guidance as you contended with the COVID-19 emergency and safety measures such as social distancing and how they were going to be implemented, the National Youth Parliament programme, the Parliament Open Day and the floating budget office which was organised virtually.

We stand ready to provide further support to the Parliament and Honourable members. Therefore, I encourage you, Honourable Members, to reach out to our parliamentary development team through your secretariat for further support that we can provide within our mandate.

Ladies and gentlemen:

UNDP support for the consultation was made possible through the generous assistance of our project donors: the Governments of Japan and New Zealand. We thank them for their steadfast commitment to supporting parliamentary development efforts in your Parliament and the Pacific region.

Honourable Members, I wish you well in today's consultations and look forward to continuing our cooperation with you.

Tank yu Tumas. Thank you.

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