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Overlapping authorities: Governance, leadership and accountability in contemporary Vanuatu

Morgan, Wesley (2013) Overlapping authorities: Governance, leadership and accountability in contemporary Vanuatu. Journal of South Pacific Law, 2013 . A1-22. ISSN 1684-5307

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International development agencies are increasingly paying attention to the challenge of improving governance outcomes in the Pacific region. Studies have been completed exploring ways to augment ‘state building’ and a number of donor-funded projects have been established with the aim of improving civil society leadership as means of holding governments accountable. This paper explores some of the contemporary discourses of ‘good governance’ and ‘developmental leadership’ that have informed recent development praxis. This paper then situates recent thinking about leadership in the unique and complex context of Vanuatu—a young post-colonial state encompassing culturally and linguistically diverse communities scattered across an archipelago of 83 islands. In Vanuatu today, orthodox and universal prescriptions for ‘good governance’ need to be understood as they interact with a particular lived experience of hybrid modernity in which Western notions of rationality and ethics co-exist with resilient indigenous ways of knowing and being. Unique and localised systems of community governance and dispute resolution remain central to people’s lives, alongside introduced models of church leadership and even more recent systems of state government. This paper explores areas of tension and compatibility between contemporary systems of kastom governance and dispute resolution, and models of leadership and accountability that constitute the nation state (and its corresponding rule of law). These are not abstract considerations. In 2013 the Vanuatu government signalled a willingness to give the Ombudsman’s Office new ‘teeth’ to prosecute leaders for breaches of Vanuatu’s constitutionally mandated Leadership Code. At the same time, donor organisations like AusAID and the World Bank are implementing programs aimed at strengthening kastom governance in communities across the country. This paper reflects on these developments and poses questions about how Vanuatu citizens and civil society organisations might hold leaders accountable across distinct but overlapping realms of authority attributed to kastom leaders and state lawmakers.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) > School of Government, Development and International Affairs
Depositing User: Generic Email
Date Deposited: 22 May 2018 03:11
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2019 22:12

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