Vanuatu daily news digest | 17 June 2014

The calls for a return to custom governance continued throughout the Tuesday morning session of the Public Forum on a National Sustainable Development Plan for 2016 – 2030. Speakers from the groups providing consultation, whether of the Vanuatu Christian Council ("we must return to making good use of our resources"") or the Vanuatu National Council of Women ("we must take charge and look after what we have"), empowerment of the people of Vanuatu was the essential message. Hilda Lini was the harshest critic of the formal structures put in place in recent decades which seem to be leading Vanuatu, still regarded as a Least Developed Country (LDC) internationally, along the same paths as other failing countries in Africa and Asia.

The gathering learned of the unfulfilled needs of the disabled, the missing links in custom governance which undermine the work of chiefs. Efate island chiefs have had their priorities listed since 2012. They include strategies for decentralisation of administration, chiefly Public / Private Partnerships where businesses such as the fish factory are concerned which could give ownership to the chiefs and women, assisting employment of women and young people. And chiefs would also like to see a micro-economic system in place to ensure the majority benefits from traditional products. The National Youth Council also has strategies in place for putting an end to the urban drift of the young. Andrew Napuat pointed out as an administrative failure the fact that with all the government networking which exists, no data base has been set up by the government for registering the employability skills of school leavers.

The most persuasive appeal for a return to the basic values was made by Andrina Thomas. "We are rich. We have land, sharing, caring and custom land. Keep your custom land. Do not sell it. We must all consider the 77% of the population living in the rural areas." It seems certain that the National Sustainable Development Plan to emerge will be truly ni-Vanuatu. That is surely the requirement of the consultation partners.

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Reporting the National Sustainable Development Plan will keep me unlikely to pick up the balance of the week’s news for a few more days. Ed.