Asambleas Ciudadanos


the Citizens' Assembly in Oceania



Pacific Assembly and IUCN Sharing Power Conference

Translations : English . Español . français

in Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, Aotearoa - New Zealand - 10-15 January 2011

Pacific Summer Assembly: inspiring and re-energizing learning, insights from the assembly

The idea of Sharing Power as a new vision for development was a focus to counteract the mis-use of power in managing environmental resources. The planet can’t sustain the current development model so it was a timely to have in-depth citizen discussions with people with experience in many professional fields and from local practitioners. Holding the January 2011 Pacific Assembly with the Sharing Power summer conference, hosted by the Ngati Awa tribe, brought the benefit of strong voices from Aotearoa and the ability to draw on Pacific and international ways to address economic, environmental and social issues in a climate for transformation. The confluence of Response Assembly with the IUCN and CEESP brought together opportunities to connect with globally influential people we could not have arranged to meet independently. CEESP has a demonstrated commitment to Indigenous Communities that are demonstrating the sharing of responsibility for environmental projects.

The conference was attended with over 200 participants and so many interesting presentations. We heard from Sir Taihakurei Durie, who is involved in progressing the UN Declaration on Responsibility, and Professor Sir Sidney Mead of New Zealand; Winona LaDuke, Ojibe First Nation, USA; and Ashok Khosla, President of IUCN, of India. The key note speakers had powerful messages of power sharing and sustainable development and the care for the Mother Earth.

Local hospitality

The hosting of the conference event by Ngati Awa provided an opportunity to demonstrate the global significance of Indigenous influence on emerging notions of responsibility, governance and the environments. During the six days we were together and able to mingle and hold discussions both in sessions and over the marvellous meals. The young people in our group were inspired by being able to mix with so many people wanting to discuss these issues and to make change. The generosity of Ngati Awa included magnificent facilitation and organization and providing food from the land and sea in abundance at the feasts, or hakari accompanying powhiri (welcome ceremonies) and during the conference – and even extended to oyster tarts with morning coffee. Field trips to neighbouring iwi – Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Tuhoe as well as to Ngati Awa Whale Island were accompanied with introductions to current challenges, agreements for co-management through Treaty settlements and the offer to drink from the deep springs of local knowledge and vision.


We had a pre-Assembly before the conference for the group which was supported through the FPH Assembly programme. These were people from Aotearoa, France, Samoa, Vanuatu, Philippines, Fiji, Australia, with a youth contingent and people from a whole range of social and professional fields. Unfortunately the Papua New Guinea representative had to withdraw. Having Edith Sizoo and Pinky Cupino was fantastic – allowing people in our Pacific network to meet the people we speak so enthusiastically about and to hear from them directly.

Focus for Discussions

Holistic social and economic systems emerged as key platforms for navigating towards respectful and just relationships with people and planet. At the conference, an ethics of responsibility was often raised as framework to support the growing awareness of our love for earth and her bountiful provision for life. Responsibility was understood as a responsive and relational way to guide collective decision-making for the future. The holistic approach can be summed up in a phrase given to Winona La Duke (Ojibwe, USA) by her father: ‘Don’t talk to me of your philosophy unless you can grow corn’ . This encapsulates a key message shared by indigenous peoples world wide. Swedish Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostram added her weight to the concensus that sustainability is most robust where communities are directly engaged in managing their lands, fresh water, oceans, resources and food supplies. The huge variations in geography and ecologies mean that local enterprise has to be highly responsive to local conditions and built to the scale of local resources and social capacity. Food sovereignty in local communities and the production of energy according to local scales need to be strong dimensions of community sustenance.

Power with people and nature

With a conference theme of sharing power, the quintessence of this is treating others with respect and exercising power responsibly. One of the young people said “We had all been talking about how we as people, we as individuals have power, no one had yet talked about power being external too, being in something other than humans, in nature”. A learning from an Aboriginal elder that was shared was that every thing has power. Water has power, when we drink it, it becomes a part of us. The food that we eat has power and when we eat it, it also becomes a part of us. In saying that what we put out contains our power also. Every action we take contains a part of our power. Responsibility for moving towards economies of interdependence was proposed as a reference for guiding decisions when faced with dilemmas – both at a micro-scale – in families, parishes, social services and at macro-scales in communities, regions, nations and at the level of global corporates, treaties, UN Declarations, environmental protocols and climate change agreements. It was generally agreed that responsibility is not the same for everyone – it is proportionate to the access to power and influence. Plenary sessions gave the opportunity to highlight the main themes and panels gave time for participants to share their knowledge and experience.

Challenges ahead

The message of the environmental and social benefits of local economies based on stewardship was argued for and affirmed. The political implications of this counter-balance to large scale corporate industrialized resource exploitation is that governments can either facilitate local economic development, or stand in the way. The challenge that continues is to bring social and environmental responsibility to multinationals, corporates, finance institutions and nations at a global scale. The main purpose of this incredible gathering in Aotearoa-NZ was to bring indigenous approaches to sustainability to environmental and conservation policy internationally and to make progress towards bringing economic and social policy into harmony with the regenerating capacity of ecosystems and use of environmental resources. Much more can be drawn from this extra-ordinary gathering with its invitation to share power and take up citizen responsibility - a way forward which the Pacific assembly was energized to continue. Next steps are being discussed and will emerge more clearly as our assembly participants let us know their comments, insights and plans.

Nga mihi nui ki Ngati Awa, kia ora mo o manaaki ki a matou.

Betsan, Te Kawehau, Maria and Victor







Pacific Summer Assembly