Asambleas Ciudadanos


 

the Citizens' Assembly in Oceania

 

 

Oceania Assembly for Citizens of the Water Continent

Translations : français . Español . English


We, from Aotearoa-New Zealand and the Pacific region, have been directing our work to cultivating cultures of responsibility amongst Pacific peoples of the Water Continent. We are delighted to be part of the international Citizen Assemblies.


We have read with great interest the document from the Brazil Citizen Assembly entitled ‘What Amazonia does the World Need’. This has inspired us to consider the question ‘what Oceania does the world need?’ This question will provide a focus for our Citizen Assembly programme.


Background


As our work on responsibility has developed over the years of partnership with the FPH our ideas, thinking, research and actions have led us to identify priorities in our programme, which we have named as Across Oceania / Te Au o Te Moana. These priorities correspond with the geographical, environmental, demographic and political context of our region. In summary these are:


  • Integrated governance – an inter-sectoral, interdisciplinary process for planning and decision-making
  • A special interest in water – to correspond with the massive marine environment
  • Working in partnership with indigenous peoples of the region.

These priorities are shaped by analyses of systems which contribute to the global environmental crisis, to the maldistribution of wealth and to the legacy of colonization. In seeking to respond constructively and creatively to these environmental and social challenges our responses are designed to contribute to solutions.


It is apparent that solutions include engaging in relational processes based on an ethics of responsibility and designing political and social systems that bring the voices of indigenous peoples to decision-making tables. This is important not only for reasons of historical justice, but for the opportunity to benefit from the holistic and relational world views of indigenous peoples which are embedded in their social systems.


In the Pacific, the attention to water relates to the magnitude of marine responsibilities held by states. Under the Exclusive Economic Zone system, the extent of jurisdiction over ocean territories of Island states, including Aotearoa-New Zealand, far outweighs the land mass of the states. The Pacific Ocean is of significance to the global ecosystem in proportions that can be considered as parallel to the forests of Amazonia.


Proposed Oceania Citizens Assembly 2010


The 2010 Citizen Assembly will focus on ‘What Oceania Does the World Need’.


Assembly Purpose


The purpose of the Assembly will be to identify key areas to be addressed for the long term health of oceanic societies and environments in the context of the ‘need the world has for the Pacific Ocean’ region. Oceania for the future viability of the planet will be shaped through notions of interdependence and participatory citizenship. The Assembly for an ‘Oceania that the world needs’ will be guided towards strategies for governance at local and global scales. (A critical note: In NZ, the over-riding focus on economic and financial priorities has led to citizenship being replaced by the notion of taxpayers).


At this stage it is anticipated that the meeting will be held in Aotearoa-New Zealand in August-September 2010.


Preparation


Engagement with participants is already underway through several projects being carried out through the Charter for Human Responsibility and the Across Oceania Assembly programmes. In November 2009 the RESPONSE committee will undertake an intentional consultation with Māori for a collaborative Assembly process. Participants will be identified as part of this collaboration.


Key topics, again selected collaboratively, will be identified and papers prepared to resource the Assembly. These will be distributed to participants 2 months in advance.


Funds


RESPONSE is actively working on funds for Charter and Across Oceania Assembly activities. RESPONSE is a member of the Council for International Development (CID) and Partners for International Community Development (KOHA_PICD) which is opening a pathway to resources to engage with Pacific Island country partners. We will make applications to support the costs of Pacific partner participation as the criteria for these agencies have correspondence with initiatives for responsibility.


Participants


Representatives will be drawn from groups and organizations with which we have carried out project activities and have built up shared understandings of responsibility, expertise in governance, socio-cultural interests, knowledge of water ecosystems of the region, and who are able to evaluate Pacific priorities in a global context. We are working towards involving leaders, professionals, locally engaged actors, and political actors who may constructively contribute to this process.


We are planning for a total of 30 participants: 15 from Aotearoa-New Zealand, a total of 9 from Pacific Islands including Papua-New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, Hawaii; 2 from the Philippines, 2 from Australia. Provision is made for 2 representatives of the FPH. Assembly Process The meeting will be held over 4 days and designed as a round-table process for in-depth engagement. We will discuss whether to hold the meeting on a marae (traditional M_ori meeting house), in which case the proceedings will be determined by tribal protocols. Outcomes from 2010 Oceania Assembly Although we cannot fully imagine what will emerge from the Assembly, the following outcomes are anticipated:


  • Building on the Charter programme and Across Oceania, the Assembly will bring further impetus to the national and regional programme. The Assembly will bring further consolidation of Across Oceania partners
  • We will invite participants to contribute to an edited collection of papers or contributions to the Assembly. We hoped to achieve this from the inaugural Across Oceania meeting but it seemed to be premature, and we have not directed resources towards achieving such a publication.
  • The proceedings will be filmed in anticipation of making a documentary that will contribute to the global Assembly process.
  • Actions to make progress on integrated governance in member countries and through regional organizations and forums will be identified.

Diagram of Assembly process: The two contributing layers of circles meeting for the Assembly process suggest a two-hulled waka (ocean-going vessel) – hence visualizing the Assembly as a long voyage!



Current Citizen Assembly Activities


During 2009 the team engaged in the Charter for Human Responsibility and in Across Oceania are involved in projects which are building towards an Assembly of Oceania partners in 2010. These activities are taking place in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and in Pacific Island countries as well as the Philippines.


In Aotearoa-New Zealand


Here all our work is undertaken with M_ori partners. By way of example we sent two M_ori representatives to the Brazil Observers conference. Both are involved in different organizations and in environmental education. This has opened up new levels of engagement in environmental education networks for us, as well as deepening our influence in this sector. It has led to a project of making a short film on water – a Pacific focus for a global responsibility. This is due to be completed in August.


Our leadership team includes three academics with experience in and knowledge of governance, and with significant research capacity. This means we have the potential to undertake specific research on our priority areas, and have publications and proposals for research to this effect.


Our work has taken a new trajectory over the past two years as we have become associated with the development sector. This brings us into regular contact with international aid agencies and brings the opportunity to raise issues of responsibility and governance, and to advocate for environmental responsibility and for an ethics of respect for indigenous aspirations. Engaging with the development sector is a strategic alliance which strengthens out Pacific networks, and gives access to supplementary funds for project activities. It takes time for resource and funding proposals to bear fruit.


The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of Aotearoa-New Zealand. This 1840 Treaty between the British Crown and M_ori leaders continues to be the main avenue to redress historical injustice, and is at the centre of proposals for a new national constitution. Members of RESPONSE are closely involved with national organizations involved with this movement and we have plans in place for a national meeting on constitutional change.


Environmental projects are a significant part of our activities and give a practical and applied dimension to environmental responsibility. These are in different parts of the country and include a collective land restoration initiative and a wetland enhancement programme. Both are led by M_ori with non-M_ori involvement.


We are working with another NGO to host a water seminar in October. We have identified diverse participants including engineers, artists, scientists, M_ori water experts, environmental NGO’s and local council leaders.


RESPONSE is continuing to engage with networks relating to governance and environmental responsibility, and to participate in a range of sectors, especially in education and social services and in some political organizations through various professional capacities. Being involved in the development sector has opened a significant new set of contacts, representatives of which will be included in the Citizen Assembly 2010.


Australia


Our contacts in Australia have been harder to maintain, partly because we have given attention to cultivating relationships with Pacific partners. Betsan has been invited to visit a social justice and community development organization in Adelaide, in September 2009, to give a seminar on an ethics of responsibility.


Pacific


Across Oceania brought the opportunity to inaugurate a programme on responsibility with five Pacific countries: Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti as well as including the Philippines. The Philippines are independently involved in the FPH Charter. We have maintained communication with all participants and have undertaken specific activities to further develop the Across Oceania network.


In particular we took a team of six from the Philippines and New Zealand to Fiji for a Local Management of Marine Areas (LMMA) network meeting in November 2008. As a result of this we have been approached to lead a regional meeting to contribute to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Oceania programme. In reality this is proving difficult to progress but it has brought us significant recognition with a number of Pacific organizations.


An outcome from the LMMA meeting has been an action-research proposal. This has been submitted on integrated governance for coastal marine fisheries in two areas in the Philippines. This is a partnership between RESPONSE and OTRADEV.


Two further activities are in the process of development: one a water project with a village in Samoa, and another with a group working on Solidarity Economy principles in Vanuatu.


This proposal provides an outline of the 2010 Oceania Assembly, and gives an update on activities which will flow into this event and ongoing citizen movement. Please let us know if any further clarification is needed.





 

 

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