KOROR (United Nations Development Program/Pacnews) — There are mechanisms for engaging citizen’s democratic process through regular elections, participation in local government development consultations and planning. However, in many Pacific Island countries, including Palau, the levels of citizen participation are still limited and citizens do not fully engage or participate in the development of their state.  This is largely due to reliance on their elected officials, lack of knowledge in their constitution, laws and civic duties or simply lack of interest in politics.

Within the last two weeks, the Palau Local Governance Strengthening Project (PLGSP), a joint initiative of the Government of Palau and UNDP Pacific Office, implemented the second local governance community workshop in Ngeremlengui State. The PLGP held two community clinics in Ngeremlengui State, one for all citizens on November 7 and the second one for the youth on November 12, 2019.  Both clinics were held at the Ngeremlengui Old Age Center and were organized and facilitated by the Ngeremlengui Youth in partnership with the PLGSP.

The community clinics (workshops) were designed to raise awareness and empower citizens to become partners with their governments and other service providers in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights.

Similar community workshops have been convened in the States of Melekeok, Hatohobei and Ameliik. To ensure the full participation of all women and youth, specific consultative sessions were also arranged for these two groups.  However, the project aims to inform all citizens of their civic rights and duties to their governments and to discuss ways on how they can support in the development of their state.

Speaking at the opening of the Ngeremlengui State youth clinic, Ms. Eunice Akiwo, Director of the Bureau of Domestic Affairs, said “the Government of Palau strongly believes in strengthening the capacities of state governments and local communities to ensure improvements in accountability, transparency and good governance in the management of state finances, human resources and other resources.”   Ms. Akiwo represented the Minister of State in laying out the overview of the project, PLGSP, to the people of Ngeremlengui State.  The Speaker of Ngeremlengui State Legislature, Mr. Madraisau Sulial spoke on behalf of the Governor and the Legislature in welcoming everyone and laying out the desired outcome of the project for the people and the government of Ngeremlengui.

The LGSP Team consisting of the LGSP Project Officer Dwight Alexander, Project Coordinator Shirley Tulop, Chief Jeffrey Erungel of the Division of State and Community Affairs, Chief Lorraine Franz of the Division of Media and Information Services and Mr. Abraham Osima. The Clinics covered the entire constitution of Ngeremlengui, provided copies to all participants, and explained the duties of the Governor, the legislature and the traditional leaders.  They also highlighted the civic rights of the citizens and their duties to their state.  The Project Officer explained the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDG’s) and the aim of each government and community to achieve such for their citizens.  But such goals can only be achieved with inputs and participation from everyone in both policy planning and community development.

Ngeremlengui youth leader, Amelia Franz, said the two community workshops conducted in Ngeremlengui so far have been very informative and useful, they were encouraged to hear that as citizens, they can participate directly or indirectly in demanding accountability from service providers and public officials.

She added, “both community workshops held at Ngeremlengui combined information on rights and service delivery and encouraged community members to call for increased transparency, accountability and good governance from our state and national leaders. The second workshop was particularly for youth and we appreciate government’s commitment to empower young people with important information on our rights as future leaders of Palau”.

More than 100 people attended both clinics in Ngeremlengui with the second being dominated by youth, including high school and elementary school students who were keen participants in the sessions.

The community workshop is the second in a four-part series of community workshops aimed at creating awareness and empowering citizens to promote equal, inclusive and informed participation of citizens to seek increased transparency, accountability and good governance. A similar clinic was held for all community members in Ngeremlengui on November 7.   A third is aimed to update and inform the traditional leaders of the state and the last is the governance clinic with the elected leaders of the state after the state election.

The series of workshops are organized by the Palau Local Governance Strengthening Project in partnership between the Ministry of State and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is conducted with the aim of increasing citizen’s understanding and participation on local governance issues and to consistently provide feedback on government services they are receiving. (PR)