For the next ten days, Global Integrity (in the form of our local research teams and intrepid visitors Norah Mallaney and Nathaniel Heller) will be facilitating Global Integrity Dialogue workshops in Tonga and the Solomon Islands. We’ll be reporting on the events with reflections on the challenges and opportunities of pursuing governance reforms in small, remote island nations, as well as any general hilarity that ensues.
The Global Integrity Dialogues are sessions designed to bring diverse stakeholders from government, civil society, media and the international community together to discuss anti-corruption policy, using our Integrity Indicators data as a checklist of possible reforms. As the name implies, we don’t make recommendations, but bring a facilitated, evidence-based discussion to a frequently overheated topic. See more here.
But first, some brief observations as we prep for Thursday’s workshop here in Nukuʻalofa:
- The “everybody knows everybody” effect really matters regardless of what small country you’re in. Below a certain country size (say, a half million people; Tonga has roughly 112,000) the amount of interconnection in public life goes off the charts. This has big implications for governance and transparency reforms, making some “classic” best practices (like pushing Freedom of Information mechanisms) simply less important in the grand scheme of things. Context matters.
- You can’t plan for everything. Late last week, a ferry capsized off the coast of Tonga, with the missing persons list climbing towards 100 souls as we type. This is a huge deal in such a small country, and will likely shape and frame the discussion and debate on Thursday (questions are being raised as to whether the vessel was seaworthy enough to even leave port).
- We still find it amazing that we can check our bags in Washington, DC, travel in the air for 24 hours through three airports on two different and unaffiliated airlines, and see our bags happily roll off the belt in Tonga on time and unscathed. For all the (deserved) bashing the airlines get, sometimes they can do things right.
— Nathaniel Heller
Image of royal palace by Nathaniel Heller.
This is a great site that you have here. I have a debate site myself and I would like to exchange links with you. We need to stick together. Let me know. Jason
A fantastic opportunity for real time observation of a corrupt micro-state falling apart.
Because the population is small and interconnected and there are personable people in power the rottenness of the system can almost be excused….if you turn a blind eye to the abuse of every rule of law. But you cannot excuse a government purchasing a vessel for ferry use that the previous owners were selling for scrap because it was unseaworthy, and allowing it to sail – overcrowded. The backlash will occur once the mourning is over. And the results may be as dramatic as the November 2006 rioting. The insensitive departure for a European holiday by an effete king just days after the ferry sinking will again breed disorder. But what do you do when the population can get so worked up about the domination of a self interested aristocracy, that they burn down their capital. Few other "city" centres have been as comprehensively raised as happened in Nuku'alofa less than 2 years ago in a "peaceful protest"..