The Pacific Judicial Development Programme (Program) provides a valuable and responsive modality for development engagement in promoting justice, the rule of law and good governance across the Pacific region. It is a regionally-owned judicial leadership network which is well-established and demonstrably resilient over the past decade and a half.
The Program complements Australia and New Zealand’s country-based law and justice programs in the Pacific by providing assistance to numerous smaller islands which otherwise might not be feasible. In a region characterised by smallness, dispersion, diversity and economic fragility, the Program provides a robust and proven mechanism for engagement in promoting justice, the rule of law and good governance.
The Program is overseen by a governing body, known as the Programme Executive Committee.
The Program operates under the oversight of the Pacific Judicial Conference, comprising the Chief Justice of each participating country, which convenes biennially. At present, it serves the judiciaries of 14 countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Fiji has earlier participated but its membership is presently suspended.
The Program’s key counterpart for each respective country includes:
- The High Court of Cook Islands,
- The Supreme Court of Federated States of Micronesia,
- The High Court of the Kiribati,
- The High Court of the Republic of Marshall Islands,
- The Supreme Court of Nauru,
- The High Court of Niue,
- The Palau Supreme Court,
- The Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea,
- The Supreme Court of Samoa,
- The High Court of the Solomon Islands,
- Tokelau Office,
- Supreme Court of Tonga,
- The High Court of Tuvalu, and
- The Supreme Court of Vanuatu.
Since inception, the Program has been continuously supported by the international community notably the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Asian Development Bank, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the United Nations Development Programme, reflecting global recognition of the importance of the role of courts in promoting justice, the rule of law and good governance. The current phase, between July 2010 – June 2013, is being funded by MFAT, with co-funding from AusAID until the end of 2011.
Phase 2 Progress and Achievements
The Federal Court of Australia was selected by MFAT in 2010 to manage the Program and has since seen the completion of all approved projects within the overall budget. Furthermore, budget savings funded the completion of 7 additional activities. The Program is taking visible steps to strengthen the mechanisms for judicial leadership, build the capacity of local key actors and devolve managerial functions to local stakeholders for the purpose of consolidating the sustainability of judicial development across the region. Building key mechanisms and processes for this purpose include regular regional leadership meetings of chief justices, the mobilisation of the Regional Training Team of qualified local trainers, and the piloting of toolkits at the local level. These important endeavours are formative complex and sensitive and require ongoing support for sustained development outcomes.
To date, the current phase is contributing measurably through delivering the following key programmatic outputs and outcomes relating to improving the delivery of justice locally and across the region:
1. Access to Justice - The major outcomes of this component will be measurable through improved access to justice by enabling the region’s judicial leadership to assess, plan and direct an integrated process of judicial development for both customary and formal justice services providers.
- Three participatory country assessments have been completed for Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands. These assessments have been endorsed by the respective chief justices and are now starting to be implemented locally.
- A customary dispute resolution strategy has been formulated and endorsed at the regional level. Work is now focusing on devolving the management of implementation through piloting an access to justice assessment toolkit for local application.
2. Governance – The major outcomes of this component will be measurable in terms of improved judicial governance and leadership through mechanisms that strengthen judicial integrity, improved sustainability of judicial development through devolution to localised management and more vibrant regional leadership networks.
- Three codes of judicial conduct have been completed for Niue, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. Judicial officers and other local stakeholders participated in formulating these codes which have been adopted and endorsed by each chief justice.
- A code of conduct toolkit is now being developed and piloted with training for introduction and implementation in other countries.
- Extensive work has also been completed on institutionalising and strengthening the sustainability of judicial development across the region through the reactivation and devolution of implementation activities to committees in each country, and the piloting of toolkits for use at the local level.
- Regional networks continue to be built for judicial leadership by chief justices, the exchange of experience by national coordinators and the delivery of training by the regional training team.
3. Systems and processes – The major outcomes of this component will be measurable in terms of improved capabilities in judicial administration; and the introduction and implementation of systematic judicial performance monitoring and annual reporting across the region.
- Three diagnostic assessments of the needs for judicial administration have been completed for Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands; and a time standards toolkit has been developed and will soon be piloted with training for introduction and implementation in other countries.
- A judicial performance monitoring framework with detailed indicators has been designed and approved at the regional level, baseline performance data has been collected in all countries under the Program, and an annual reporting toolkit developed for piloting with training for introduction and implementation across the region.
4. Professional Development – The major outcomes of this component will be measurable in terms of improved competence of judicial service providers across the region resulting from the enhanced supply of judicial development services using local trainers.
- Four Training-of-Trainer workshops have been conducted at induction and advanced levels involving 65 judicial trainees, resulting in 41 being accredited as regional/local trainers.
- Core training modules have been developed involving 2 judicial orientation and 2 decision-making workshops which have been conducted for both law-trained and lay participants (31 trainees); and the Cook Islands bench book has been fully updated and revised.
5. Responsive Fund - this is an incentive-based mechanism providing targeted funding for training and capacity development activities that are locally led, developed and managed.
- Twenty two localised activities have been conducted in: Tokelau; Nauru; Kiribati; Marshall Islands; Vanuatu; Papua New Guinea; Cook Islands; Tuvalu; Tonga; Niue; Solomon Islands; and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Phase 2 extension
The vision for this Phase is to consolidate and extend the delivery of the highest quality practical judicial training and court development services, while significantly enhancing the institutionalisation, localisation and sustainability of those services for stakeholders across the region. The purpose of Phase 2 is to continue to support participating countries to enhance the professional competence of judicial officers and court officers, and the processes and systems that they use. Continuing from Phase 1, the focus of Phase 2 extends beyond meeting the educational needs of judicial officers (both law trained and non-law trained) and court officers to include support for process and system improvement.
In order to maximise continuity, this phase continues to be structured around the four thematic pillars used in the earlier phases:
- Access to justice,
- Registry systems and processes, and
- Professional development.
Within the substantive pillars, the extension plan for Phase 2 included 11 projects.