Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at PPAC meeting

Your Excellencies
Senior Officials
Heads of CROP Agencies

1. Let me begin by warmly welcoming you all, on behalf of the Secretariat, to the second Pacific Plan Action Committee meeting for 2009.

2. This year has been a particularly intensive one for all of us. We have had to undertake a great deal of work under the Pacific Plan. Additionally, there has been a range of key Ministerial processes actively engaged with questions of regional cooperation and integration; the three-year Review of the Plan has been undertaken, which we will have to consider at this session; and we need also to proclaim and advocate the importance of what our collective endeavours have achieved. A notable example of such advocacy is the latest publication by the SPC on its achievements, challenges and targets under the Pacific Plan. We extend to Dr Rodgers and his team warmest congratulations for this.

3. This meeting holds particular significance on our calendar of events. In your capacity as a standing committee of officials, you will be called on over the next two days to consider various issues and recommendations with a view to providing advice to Forum Leaders on how regionalism may help in addressing the respective and collective challenges facing Forum countries.

4. The region’s technical agencies are represented. Like the Forum Secretariat, they are here to be of assistance, as may be required, to advise and clarify and generally to be of service in the preparation of your report for Forum Leaders.

5. In offering these opening remarks, allow me also to provide a brief report of our progress in implementing the Pacific Plan over 2009. I am pleased to say that we have seen significant progress in a range of areas. I would highlight the following as some of the notable results, namely:

(a) The maintenance of our whole-of-region position to protect our interests in the fisheries sector internationally;
(b) The commencement of a fit-for-purpose shipping service for a number of our small island states and addressing concerns over limited existing services;
(c) Significant progress with the bulk procurement of petroleum initiative with the launch of Phase One of the Project;
(d) The continued work in the health sector to better support Pacific peoples in addressing emerging issues such as non-communicable diseases, HIV and the H1N1 pandemic;
(e) Ongoing deregulation of mobile telephone and internet services across the region with the resulting expansion of services and the lowering of prices; and
(f) Progress on trade matters, more specifically PACER-Plus agreement to establish the Office of Chief Trade Adviser and for negotiations to commence after the conclusion of the Forum Leaders’ meeting in Cairns later this year.

6. Progress has also been made in implementing the Forum Leaders’ 2008 decisions on the region’s institutional framework. In this connection I acknowledge the volume of work undertaken by the CEOs of SPC, SPBEA, SPREP and SOPAC over 2009. We cannot under-estimate the sheer efforts employed, the personnel engaged nor, indeed the resources involved. I offer to them all my highest admiration and warm congratulations.

7. The decision taken by the historic Joint Governing Council meeting last week was the culmination of intensive planning and processes that would not have been possible without leadership and endurance of, in particular, the three CEOs of SPC, SOPAC and SPREP.

8. I want to mention, in particular, a significant element of the Joint Governing Council decision, namely, the agreement that the progress on the transfer of SOPAC functions be reported not only to the annual meetings of the three Governing Councils, but also to the Pacific Plan Action Committee. I believe this to be a very satisfactory and practical outcome, that allows this Committee a role in monitoring and thus in the successful implementation of these important decisions. I am sure Member countries and CROP agencies would wish to work collaboratively in pursuit of this end.

9. In reflecting on the progress we have achieved, I draw attention as much to its significance as I do to the efforts that have gone into achieving it. Lest we forget, the success that we are now beginning to see with the RIF process represents the results of committed perseverance. So, it is with emphasis that I contend that the continued success of our work will hinge on our continued commitment to staying the course. Inherently, it is our collective pledge to regional cooperation and integration through the Pacific Plan.

10. Perhaps unlike other bodies, this Committee is tasked to consider, if you will, the big picture. The difficulties and challenges are acknowledged. But, our perspective should not be tainted by frustrations, obstacles and disappointments. Nor should we neglect the distance travelled and the ground that we have gained. The fact is that the issues to be tackled cannot be divorced from the reality of long-term commitment.

11. As I close, I reiterate that the Pacific Plan Action Committee Meeting represents an important point of engagement on those issues that we as the region’s civil servants, will consider for our Leaders’ attention and direction. My colleagues in the Secretariat and I very much look forward to working with you all the ensure a successful and productive Committee meeting

Thank you.