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The Pacific Island Countries and SDG #16

By Luke Lustig-Bruce

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Image 1: Koroyanitu National Park

My name is Luke Lustig-Bruce and I am currently working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with the UNDP’s Pacific Office. Since graduating in 2019 from Royal Holloway, University of London, I have maintained a keen interest in development studies and international affairs. In the interim between my Bachelor's and graduate degrees, I became qualified with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner in the UK to give advice on applications for asylum. Though challenging at times, witnessing the plight and graft of asylum seekers inspired me to work in the development space in order to contribute – in some small way – to greater respect for human rights and the alleviation of poverty. I was therefore overjoyed when I found out that I had been offered a position as a Junior Professional Consultant with the UNDP Fiji.

Having worked as a JPC with the IDDIPs programme since late January, I have had the privilege of working on two projects with the Effective Governance Department in the UNDP’s Pacific Office. Both projects seek to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 – to ensure effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The first project – Vaka Pasifika – seeks to promote accountability and transparency in the public financial management of Pacific Island Countries (PICs). The project does this by strengthening the independence of regional Supreme Audit Institutions while building their capacity to effectively audit public finances. However, the project also takes a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to reforming public financial management in the Pacific. Vaka Pasifika seeks to build capacity among parliaments, ombudspersons, anti-corruption agencies, civil society organisations (CSOs), and the media, to ensure that reforms to public finances are not just transparent and accountable, but also participatory and collaborative.

This experience has been invaluable to me; it has taught me about the unique political, economic, and cultural dynamics in PICs. Furthermore, working on this project has allowed me to hone my communication skills, write more informed policy and legal research, to enhance my understanding of the UN system, and engage productively with a variety of stakeholders.

Image 2: Koroyanitu National Park

Similarly, working on the UNDP’s Digital Democracy project has made me more cognisant of the developmental barriers affecting PICs, and the policy instruments through which these barriers may be overcome. This project aims to promote the use of digital technologies for participatory, e-government while combatting disinformation, hate speech, and the use of digital technologies for malicious ends. In my role as a JPC, I have been assisting in organizing meetings with potential stakeholders, conducting research on civil tech applications, and drafting Terms of Reference for potential partners.

When I complete my internship in May, I will undoubtedly possess a range of skills and experience that I would not otherwise have – and for this, I am deeply grateful. The internship also aligns perfectly with my graduate studies, in which I took various modules ranging from Global Economic Governance to Public International Law. I am unsure where my future career will take me, but I am sure that my role as a JPC will help me get there!


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