Opening statement by Secretary General at FOC session
Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji
16 - 17 December 2008


Madam Chairperson
Associate Members and Observers
Colleagues from CROP agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and a big Ni sa Bula Vinaka and Talofa Lava to you all.

I know it is very late in the calendar schedule, and that the Forum Officials Committee has had a long year, but I am delighted to see you all. It is important for us in the Secretariat, important also for the Forum that a meeting of this importance should take place at the headquarters of the organisation. Most warmly, I welcome you all.

I appear before the Committee for the first time, and I am pleased that it is early in my term of office because I seek interactions of mutual understanding, continued support and cooperation from you all: senior officials of member governments; associate members and observers; and colleagues of the CROP agencies.

This budget and work programme session of the Committee was agreed to at your last Pre-Forum FOC meeting in July. Part of the reason for convening this session late in the year, as I understand it, is to ensure alignment of the Secretariat’s work programme and budget for 2009 to the new Corporate Plan and its programme strategic plans.

The substantive issues for the Committee’s consideration relate to the new Corporate Plan, the programme strategic plans, and the related corporate reforms. This package of reforms provides clear purpose to focus energy and commitment of the Secretariat to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of services. They are reforms that respond to you, the members, and your interest and concerns for the Secretariat to be more strategic and focused and to be smarter in undertaking core functions. And so, by these reform measures, your Secretariat is reacting to both challenge and the opportunity to do better.

It is thus with a sense of privilege, almost excitement, that I come at the time when the Secretariat, in conjunction with member countries and other stakeholders, is reviewing its strategic direction and ways of doing business. The corporate reforms that will be tabled by the Secretariat will, in my estimation, go a long way to enhancing the Secretariat’s effectiveness and efficiency and provide for greater clarity of the core functions of the Secretariat.

I understand that the draft Corporate Plan was tabled for the Committee in July of this year, and I am touched by your kind consideration, Madam Chairperson, and the courtesy of the opportunity afforded to me by the Committee, as the new Secretary General, to provide some input to the Plan before the Committee formally adopts it along with the programme strategic plans.

I have taken advantage of this opportunity and have registered some thoughts. But I will tell you that, almost unhesitatingly, I do support the strategic direction of the Secretariat as endorsed by the Committee and as espoused under the new Plans. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the Corporate Plan, with the accompanying programme strategic plans, will strategically position your Secretariat and its limited resources to better support the Leaders’ decisions and the key regional priorities identified by the Leaders and other key regional ministerial meetings.

I am advised, that the process to develop the 2008-2012 Corporate Plan has been inclusive and participatory and that you, member countries and representatives of CROP agencies, and other stakeholders of the Secretariat, have been consulted and have had your inputs factored into its formulation.

The annual work programme and budget for 2009 that the Secretariat will be tabling is, I am informed, a significant departure from the format and presentation of previous years. We will be tabling a budget with a small surplus, and one where expenditure was developed to match confirmed funding available. This, I hope, will provide greater certainty and clarity on what activities will receive funding in 2009 and what funding gaps exist in our work programme.

The Committee will consider in greater detail the Corporate Plan, the programme strategic plans, the 2009 budget in its improved format as well as other related reforms. I will reserve comments on these other matters until we reach the appropriate stage in the agenda, later today and tomorrow.

As we gather as the Forum family, let me tell you, as I am sure many of you will know, that the Forum Ministerial Contact Group monitoring the situation Fiji had visited Suva last week. Honourable Ministers had discussions with Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister and other key stakeholders and these were frank and informative. Ministers did, however, express disappointment that the Fiji Interim Government had confirmed that it did not intend to hold elections by March 2009 in line with its previous commitments to Forum Leaders. The Forum is, of course, committed to constructive dialogue with the Interim Administration, and to support and encourage the Interim Administration to return Fiji to democracy within the framework of the decisions of Forum Leaders. In accordance with the directions given to the Ministerial Contact Group by Forum Leaders in their Niue Communiqué, the Ministers will be reporting to Leaders at their special session scheduled for 27 January 2009 in Port Moresby.

Colleagues, we have a heavy agenda with little time today and tomorrow to tackle it. We are conscious that this meeting may be a significant disruption to your plans for the festive season and I shall not add much more to detaining you. But I do express appreciation to all of you for making the effort to attend this meeting, and my colleagues in the Secretariat and I all look forward to working closely with you over the next two days.

Thank you Madam Chairperson.