Lord Tu’ivakanō: Address at the Official launch of UNDP Tonga Office

May 25, 2010

Lord Tu’ivakanō, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga

Nobles of the Realm,
Ministers of the Crown,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It gives me great pleasure to address you this afternoon and to thank Mr. Knut Ostby, the UNDP Resident Representative, for the invitation to co- launch the United Nations Development Programme - Tonga Office.

I welcome the timely establishment of the UNDP Tonga Office, 45 years since the UNDP began its operations and in the same year as the historic beginning of the first democratically-elected Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The UNDP Tonga Office is strategically positioned within the AID Division of the Ministry of Finance and National Planning to provide technical assistance in areas, among others, of capacity building and to facilitate policy advice to national stakeholders, including the Legislative Assembly.  In addition, today’s event marks the UNDP’s significant step forward as a genuine development partner that is most willing to strengthen its responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency towards the development challenges and priorities of the Government and people of Tonga.

The UNDP assistance continues to be directed towards Community Development in rural and outer islands to further contribute to the economic and social development of the country as a whole.  Notably, the UNDP’s strategic areas of assistance to the Government of Tonga include: 

Poverty Reduction and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
The Capacity Building Project for MDG-based Budget, Planning and Aid Management assists the Government of Tonga to achieve its MDGs.  This is reflected in Tonga’s 2010 National MDG Report with confirmation that good progress has been made in education, child and maternal health, and providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.  However, it is noted that more work is required to eliminate poverty and gender disparities.

Good Governance and Human Rights
The Support to Parliament Project focuses on strengthening Tonga’s Parliament by providing resource and infrastructure to achieve tangible results.  This comprises, among many others, the drafting of a strategic plan, recruiting and training staff and Members of Parliament, cross-cutting issues-based workshops and support resources such as a handbook for MPs, computer access and internet connectivity.

Crisis Prevention and Recovery
Under the Tsunami Early Recovery Project, the UNDP supports the Tongan Government in organizing relief efforts and the rebuilding of infrastructure and homes that were severely damaged on the northern island of Niuatoputapu by the tsunami in September, 2009. Additional essential aspects are the improvement of livelihoods of affected residents, as well as the overall practices for disaster risk management and early warning systems for better preparation.

Environment and Sustainable Management Project
The Sustainable Land Management project aims to develop the capacity of government officials to efficiently carry out projects that will help eradicate land-induced poverty, particularly in rural development efforts.  It also targets the enhancement of the National Action Plan and complete medium-term National Investment Plan and its coordinated Mobilization Plan.

The Tongan Government’s Report for The Second National Communications is assisted by the UNDP in three major elements: a national greenhouse gas inventory, abatement analysis and vulnerability and adaptation assessments as basis to access implementation funding. 

Moreover, the Government of Tonga embraces the UNDP’s evaluation process of the Assessment of Development Results (ADR) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to ensure inclusive economic growth.

I take this opportunity to convey my best wishes towards a continuous and strengthened partnership between the UNDP and the Government of Tonga for many more decades to come. 

Thank you and ‘Ofa atu.