Knut Ostby: Address at the Official launch of UNDP Tonga Office

May 25, 2010

Lord Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano.
Nobles of the Realm
Honourable Ministers of the Crown
Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished senior government officials
Ladies and Gentlemen

Although I have visited Tonga several times in the past since my appointment as UNDP Representative in April 2009, this is for me a extraordinarily happy occasion. This time, I am here to officially launch the new UNDP Office in Tonga, and therefore I know that when I leave this time, the follow up on UNDP relationships, programmes and operations in Tonga are in good hands.

I am very grateful for all the support that this initiative has received from the Government of Tonga. In particular I wish to thank the Lord Prime Minister for his strong support and for honoring this launch with his presence, and I would like to thank the Ministry of Finance and National Planning for hosting the UNDP Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for facilitating its establishment, as well as all other Ministries for their continuous support.

Further, I would like to recognize that UNDP’s work across the world is based on a tripartite relationship with host countries and donors, and that the donors present here today are playing a crucial role in making our programmes possible.

I would also like to highlight the special interest that has been shown from UNDP’s Administrator, Ms Helen Clark, and our Regional Director, Mr Ajay Chhibber, in ensuring that UNDP’s outreach in the Pacific is strengthened. The opening of this Office is a direct result of their strategic vision and their strong support for our operations here.

On Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga has made great strides in the historic democratic transition and devolution of power from the sovereign to an elected parliament. I would like to warmly congratulate Tonga on these steps, and UNDP has been pleased to support Tonga in that process through the successful completion of the induction of Members of Parliament in January of this year.

The current Government is spearheading the road towards a new democratic system in the country. UNDP congratulates the new Government for producing the four year Tonga Strategic Development Framework (TSDF) within record time (3-4 months) of being elected. Within the Tonga Strategic Development Framework, UNDP is very pleased to note Tonga’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. This is of crucial importance now that the deadline of reaching the MDGs by 2015 is looming just four years ahead. Specific, focused initiatives are need to accelerate the progress towards the MDGs. To this end, UNDP welcomes the recognition by Government of the need for more equitable development of Tonga’s communities, the critical role of education to ensure long-term well being of the Tongan people, and the necessity for improved governance through greater transparency and accountability expected from a fully elected government.  We certainly look forward to the translation of these into accelerated achievement of the MDGs in Tonga by 2015.

UNDP Office
Returning to the opening of the UNDP Office today, with this presence Tonga is part of a network of offices in countries across the world, operated by UNDP. UNDP provides programme assistance and policy advice to 166 countries, and have country presences in more than 135 countries across the world, which makes us a global development network. 

I would like to stress also that UNDP is an integral part of the overall UN system. We are 15 UN agencies delivering development assistance from offices in the Pacific, and many more available on demand on the global scene. UNDP will continue to work closely with all the other agencies of the UN system to strengthen the coherence and coordination of our support to the countries. As you know, there is already a WHO Office here in Nuku’alofa, and we hope to continue to expand the UN presence and programme support to Tonga in the future.

Through this UNDP Office, we will assist the Government of Tonga in encouraging economic growth and attainment of MDGs, strengthening institutions of democratic governance, promoting gender equality and empower women.  The UNDP Office in Tonga will be a gateway for the Tongan Government and for other partners in Tonga, connecting the country to the UN’s resources for technical assistance and policy advice.  With the able and dedicated efforts by Ms. Milika Tuita, we will work with Tonga through the UNDP Office here to achieve the national development objectives (expressed through the Tonga Strategic Development Framework) through connecting the country to our global network of knowledge and expertise.

On this special occasion, let me further emphasize our deep appreciation to the Government and people of Tonga for your continuous support to UNDP, and to the establishment of the UNDP Office here. After extensive consultations and preparations, United Nations will now have a home in Tonga – through this is not very big, but very dynamic UNDP Office co-located within the Ministry of Finance and National Planning and in consultation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lord Prime Minister, Nobles of Realm, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

UN/UNDP Programme
In the Pacific, the work of the United Nations is covered by the UN Development Assistance Framework, which was developed in consultation with national and regional stakeholders throughout 14 countries in the Pacific, aligning it with the Pacific Plan and the respective national plans. The Framework (or UNDAF) guides our work for the 5-year period from 2008 to 2012 .

Through its national and regional programmes, UNDP currently provides assistance to Tonga in development effectiveness, MDG monitoring and reporting, HIV/AIDS, support to Parliament for legislative needs assessment and induction training, tsunami Early Recovery, Disaster Risk Management, Sustainable Land Management, renewable energy, and in Smalls Grants Projects in the environment sector.

Through the UNDP Office itself, we are hoping to be able to maintain policy and programme dialogue with counterparts on a daily basis. This will help us to understand local developments better and improve our programme responsiveness.

And because enhanced aid effectiveness is an important part of our agenda, the presence of our Office in Tonga will help us coordinate better with other development partners. This will help us to offer better and more integrated development services to the Government and other partners.

Looking forward, it is clear that while together we were able to achieve strong results, more can and must be done in future. To that end, we are working together with the rest of the UN system towards a new UN Development Assistance Framework that will cover the years 2013-2017. We have just started the process and we expect to consult with each and every one of the 14 Pacific countries we cover over the next few months. We expect that our Office here in Tonga will be of great help in this consultation process, to ensure that national priorities are captured, and that they are duly combined with the comparative advantages of the UN system. In this way we can make sure that we are focusing our support to Tonga in those areas where it will be most useful.

Lord Prime Minister, Nobles of Realm, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s event marks not only the formal launching of the UNDP Office in Tonga, but potentially a promising start for a new stage in our partnership. And most of all, UNDP looks forward to continuing to work with you to generate tangible improvements in the Millennium Development Goals for the people of the Kingdom of Tonga, and to meet the goals of Tonga Strategic Development Framework. First and foremost, we are here for you, ready to work on your priorities, based on where we can be most helpful for Tonga.

Malo ‘aupito and God bless you all!