The Tonga Strategic Development Framework 2015-2025 is an overarching framework to ensure Tonga’s development. Civil society plays a key role in its implementation but a more engaged interaction with government is required.
The Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT) is collaborating with government and the private sector to monitor the implementation of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework, ensuring civil society actors are better informed, better coordinated and better able to engage with government in a structured and productive way. With an emphasis on the priority areas of climate change and local governance, the CSFT is mapping alignment between the priorities of civil society and government, and undertaking a comparative analysis to ensure the Tonga Strategic Development Framework aligns with commitments made in international treaties. By building the capacity of CSOs in data collection, research and monitoring and evaluation techniques, CSFT is ensuring civil society can make a credible contribution in helping government to implement the Tonga Strategic Development Framework to its full potential.
By the end of the project, it is expected that institutionalised engagement between civil society and government will have been established to promote improved implementation of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework and the sustainable development of Tonga. CSOs will be better informed on issues of climate change and local governance; better equipped to play a monitoring role alongside government in the implementation of national priorities and better able to access and interact with government processes through the structured engagement framework. There will also be a clear process established for CSOs to provide constructive feedback to improve processes of engagement and policy dialogue.
The Civil Society Forum of Tonga
The Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT), established in 2000, is a national umbrella organisation of CSOs in Tonga. It represents civil society organisations and coordinates their activities in Tonga, playing a key role in building their capacity. It also serves as the National Liaison Unit for the Pacific Island Association of NGOs. The forum enjoys the recognition of government as the main coordination body for CSOs. As a result of this recognition, CSFT is able to represent civil society in political spaces on national committees appointed by government.
Promoting awareness of the role the media can play to ensure citizens are better informed about political and economic decision-making is a priority for Tonga.
With this grant from the Commonwealth Foundation, the Centre for Citizenship Education is promoting the principles of development journalism, illustrating models of good practice, developing the skills of media professionals and building the capacity of the media and government to develop good working relationships. Lending his authority to the initiative is Lord Fakafanua, pictured, Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly.
A website (www.tonganz.net) will provide a focal point for information sharing, where briefings, profiles and case studies on political and economic issues will be published.
This project demonstrates the potential collaboration and learning between civil society organisations and institutions in governance. It will help to familiarise citizens of Tonga with the recently introduced Freedom of Information policy, as well as establish a two-way dialogue to improve development. This project builds on the citizenship education programme carried out by the Centre for Citizenship Education prior to the 2010 Tongan election, and is supported by the office of the Clerk in Tonga.
Centre for Citizenship Education
The Centre for Citizenship Education is a New Zealand charitable trust, established to give a focus to citizenship education at a national and local government level in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
The organisation works primarily in the information sector, to ensure that citizens understand their rights, responsibilities and opportunities within a democracy, and are motivated to participate actively at all levels of society. It achieves its aims through professional and institutional development, as well as the production of resources and policy advocacy.