SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade FRSC meeting opening address
Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji
4 – 5 June 2009


Madam Chairperson,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Secretariat I extend to you all a very warm welcome to the 2009 meeting of the Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC).

This Committee already has a significant history, since the Forum Leaders’ meeting in 1990 and their decision to have it reconstituted and revived to consider the needs and priorities of member countries in the area of law enforcement co-operation. Today, the FRSC has evolved to become the principal meeting of security experts responsible for developing and implementing our regional security agenda. This agenda has grown, demonstrating the expanding security and political challenges facing the peoples of the Pacific.

Contemporary security issues have become more complex, more challenging, and more sophisticated. We are also meeting against the backdrop of the global financial and economic crises which has complicating effects for a region that has always faced difficult choices in matching a myriad of pressing priorities with scarce and finite resources. The economic impacts on the global economy may also be a driver for insecurity, and in some cases a catalyst for criminality, the likelihood of which would pose threats to the stability and security of our communities. So while we must focus on the region’s traditional law enforcement and compliance priorities, we can expect that new challenges will always test and expand the FRSC’s agenda. There is need, therefore, to adopt forward thinking and innovative approaches to ensure effective achievement of the Forum Leaders’ vision for a peaceful, secure and prosperous region for our people.

Transnational Crime and Counter Terrorism
The Pacific region continues to face complex law enforcement challenges; and support to law enforcement agencies and other security sector organisations remains a high priority for all countries. Our own effort through the Forum Secretariat’s Political Governance and Security programme seeks to collaborate and work with a broad range of stakeholders to develop long-term regional strategic initiatives. The development of the Pacific Transnational Crime Assessment (PTCA) is an example of such collaboration.

The guiding premise to the Pacific Transnational Crime Assessment is that all Pacific communities are vulnerable to the activities of transnational crime groups. If initiatives are not introduced to address transnational criminal activity, the impact will adversely affect domestic civil order, diminish border revenue, increase local crime, undermine the effectiveness of law enforcement, and adversely impact upon the safety and livelihoods of the people of the Pacific.

The 2009 Pacific Transnational Crime Assessment, which is developed in cooperation with specialist regional law enforcement agencies and Secretariats, highlights ongoing transnational criminal activity in the Pacific region. The effective use of domestic legislation and enhanced law enforcement capacity is required together with regional cooperation, to combat the threat posed by transnational crime.

It is clear from the variety of investigations undertaken in the last year that the region continues to be targeted by individuals and groups attempting to undertake a range of transnational criminal activity. These include the illicit movement of drugs, weapons and people. We are even beginning to witness the incidence of new organised crime groups entities attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in our banking and financial sectors.

Communication and collaboration
The biggest impediment to effective law enforcement is communication and collaboration between law enforcement agencies. For too long, law enforcement agencies have been working in isolation from each other and with anecdotal information. No law enforcement agency is able to effectively address criminal activity by itself; hence the need for better and stronger collaboration among agencies.

Previous Committee meetings have recognised the issue of quality information sharing. The Information Management report that has been completed at your request has a number of key recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of domestic agencies and regional stakeholders. Although the initial mandate provided by the FRSC supported regional information exchange, consultations undertaken in each of the target countries identified a greater need to focus upon domestic data collection practices and information sharing arrangements. The report on Information Management provides details and raises issues for your consideration.

Emerging transnational crime issues
A number of emerging transnational crime issues have been identified this year that will challenge Pacific Island Countries. In the border security sector, increasing instances and lack of response to commercial fraud is one such strategic issue. This is even more relevant as the effects of the global financial crises start to compound and importers start looking to evade import duty on goods, or even source counterfeit products which can increase harm in our communities. Illegal migration, the movement of undeclared currency across borders, and identity crime are also ongoing. We need to collectively support activities to counter and mitigate these activities.

As you will know, we are working on possible responses. Training on document examination, and the implementation of border currency reporting regimes, for example, have been positive developments to address these issues. For the continued enhancement of a border detection capacity, there is need to ensure the sustainability of these programmes; and perhaps also to introduce other core-skills training programmes such as intelligence gathering and profiling.

Several projects to address transnational crimes have been identified for the consideration of the Committee and the opportunity exists for the region to be proactive and strategic in our response. Corruption has increasingly being identified as contributing to increasing crime and transnational criminal activity. Poor governance and corruption contribute to the entrenchment of transnational criminal groups. To be properly effective we need to look at a more coordinated ‘whole of law enforcement’ response.

There is also the problem of small arms and light weapons which is predicted as an increasing concern. Their increasing availability and use, with serious consequences, have been noted for a number of years. The prevalence of these weapons, and where there is lack of a coordinated response, poses a clear danger to our Pacific communities; and we will be seeking your support to help combat small arms and light weapon incidents in the region.

Security Sector Governance is another area that provides greater opportunities for dialogue between law enforcement, Pacific governments, parliaments, accountability institutions, civil society and the security sector itself, in order to promote good practices in security sector oversight. Work began in 2008 and will continue throughout 2009.

Work undertaken to date, including these proposed new activities, not only contribute to improving the regional security environment, but also informs the international community that the Pacific is proactively responding to global security challenges. The failure to act invites risk to the Pacific region becoming the weak link in global efforts against such activities; and the greater risk of the region becoming the focus for such unwanted activities. Fundamentally, and as we are know, what goes on in the rest of the world, affects us in the Pacific. In our own interest we have to be smarter about the way we work together.

There is need to bear in mind that fighting terrorism cannot be separated from the task of preventing organised crime, of tackling the spread of small arms and other weapons, and of containing and ending conflict. We must ensure that the conditions of poverty and despair that give air to ignorance, hatred, violence and extremism are properly and effectively addressed. Above all, we need to remain resolute in upholding the rule of law, and the principles that underpin the rule of law. A clear affirmation of these principles and of humanitarian and international law norms will help deny to the perpetrators of these crimes whatever they seek to gain from violence.

Legislative requirements for the security related Declarations
I would need to say that we have some concerns in the Forum Secretariat that the enactment of the legislative commitments, particularly under the Nasonini Declaration, appear piecemeal and slow. We are cognisant of the fact that other competing national legislative priorities maybe a contributing factor in the delay in the preparation of necessary legislative work, but we remain optimistic that positive and constructive working relationships with the authorities of Member countries, especially of Forum Island Countries, will assist in the steady enactment of these legislative frameworks. I need hardly add that your Secretariat remains ready to help, as needed.

Regional Model Law on Customs
The collaborative effort of the Secretariat and the Oceania Customs Organisation in completing a regional legislative template for Customs Administrations is to be commended.

The next step is for the Secretariat and the Oceania Customs Organisation to work together with national Customs Administrations and Attorneys-General in adapting this Model Law. It is hoped that through this exercise the adapted customs legislative framework will suit the national legal infrastructure and take into account resource implications.

These significant changes to national Customs Law are intended to create an environment of risk management whilst facilitating a level playing field in terms of trade and increasing revenue for national governments within the confines of international and regional trade agreements.

Good Governance
In the area of good governance, I want to report and to commend the considerable progress which has been made with respect to improving standards of accountability and integrity through the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative (PRAI), in particular through the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to commence sub-regional audit support for Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu. Through this sub-regional arrangement, we expect that audit reports would be completed and submitted on a timely basis and of uniformly high standards. While this serves as a temporary short-term measure of support to the acute shortage of experienced auditors in the Smaller Island States, we hope that the systems put in place will become longer-term in their continuity and effect. Similarly, the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance established in 2008, a service delivery and mutual support organisation for ombudsman, is now providing service to the region. Both the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative and the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance are amongst four of the key initiatives which the architects of the Pacific Plan believe would herald the success the of the regional governance initiatives.

After many delays, the first sub-regional workshop on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) for Melanesia was held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in March 2009 in partnership with the UNDP. Approximately six years after the Forum Leader’s decision of 2003 for Forum Island Countries to consider and ratify UN Convention Against Corruption, only PNG and Fiji have ratified it, respectively, in July 2007 and May 2008.

The purpose of the sub-regional meeting amongst Melanesian stakeholders was, inter alia, to promote awareness amongst key stakeholders and examine practical options to take the anti-corruption work forward, including through UN Convention Against Corruption and the ADB-OECD anti-corruption frameworks. [The meeting also considered lessons learned and experience from other regions to implement UNCAC with a view to strengthening partnerships between key stakeholders that would facilitate regional and global support for national action plans.]

Unfortunately, we are having problems with the sub-regional workshop planned for the Micronesian sub-region, because of the current global economic crises and its effect on funding sources. However, rather than missing an opportunity to address this critical issue, a national workshop on anti-corruption will be held to coincide with a Freedom of Information workshop that will be held in Palau towards the end of June 2009.

Broader Peace and Security Issues
In their annual meeting in Niue in 2008, Forum Leaders endorsed the Land Management and Conflict Minimisation Guiding Principles and mandated the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), with support from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), to develop a regional programme to support the integration of the Land Management and Conflict Minimisation principles into national land management and land reform programmes. The Committee will be updated on the next steps of this process tomorrow.

Sexual and gender-based violence
For the first time at this meeting, the issue of sexual and gender-based violence will be presented to the Committee, based on the experiences of some of our member countries. This is part of ongoing efforts to ensure that gender is adequately considered when developing policies and interventions relating to peace, conflict and security matters, ensuring also that best practice and lessons learned are shared across the region.

New initiatives: civil society and climate change instability
Two new initiatives will also be presented to the Committee under the Human Security Framework for Conflict Prevention. First, there is an options paper looking at ways to strengthen dialogue processes at the regional and national levels between officials and civil society organisations (CSO). This is key to ensuring that our efforts remain grounded in the notion of Human Security, which relates to the overall condition and security of communities, families and individuals. Secondly, the UNDP Pacific Centre will present a new initiative seeking to mitigate the risk of instability stemming from climate change, an acknowledged and significant threat to our region.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is also an issue of fundamental importance in the development effort. It is so because the adverse impacts of climate change endanger economic and social progress. This is most certainly the case, especially for the Smaller Island States, which are widely acknowledged to be amongst the most vulnerable and the least able to adapt and to cope. Overcoming the well-recognised vulnerability of Smaller Island States and the exposure of island communities to the effects of global climate change, natural disasters, environmental damage and global economic shocks will be an essential element of sustainable development in our region.

We look forward to hearing your views on these initiatives over the course of our meeting.

Security Developments in the Region
Let me then touch quickly on a number of security developments in the region.

Solomon Islands
Significant progress has been made in the development of relations between the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and the Solomon Islands Government (SIG). Allow me to express to the Solomon Islands Government and to RAMSI our congratulations on the successful conclusion of the new SIG/RAMSI Partnership Framework. I cannot underscore enough the importance of this achievement which paves the way for a renewed partnership between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI. We commend the spirit in which this work was undertaken, in particular to ensure that the Partnership Framework remains a living document that will evolve over time to reflect changing priorities, conditions and developments in the Solomon Islands.

Furthermore, and to ensure the success of this unique regional partnership, the continuing positive involvement and contribution of our Forum member countries, as well as the Forum Secretariat, in the activities of RAMSI is, I believe, crucial. Such cooperation can only strengthen our resolve to ensure that this partnership enriches the lives of the people of Solomon Islands.

I would also wish to convey our grateful appreciation for the continued support and assistance provided by the Government of Australia to RAMSI, in particular the announcement of the extension of Australia’s commitment to RAMSI for at least another four years until 2013. This generous gesture is made amidst the global economic downturn, and will ensure the successful continuation of the work of RAMSI for the people and Government of the Solomon Islands.

The third meeting of the Forum Ministerial Standing Committee (FMSC) on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) held on 15 May 2009 considered several pertinent issues in relation to RAMSI, not least given the fact that our respective Leaders will expect to be briefed on matters that were referred to the FMSC for their consideration.

As the Committee will be aware, Forum Leaders came to unprecedented decisions with respect to Fiji at their Special Retreat in Port Moresby on 27 January 2009. Forum Leaders were totally united and unanimous. With effect from 2 May 2009, Fiji’s participation in all Forum meetings, at Leaders, Ministerial and official levels, has been suspended. In accordance with obligations under the Biketawa Declaration, Fiji has been duly informed of the Leaders’ decisions.

The Fiji situation is one of great concern to all Forum Leaders. The welfare of the region is inextricably tied up with the welfare of Fiji. But the present situation in Fiji involves clear disregard of the core values of democracy, good governance and the rule of law recognised by all Forum members, as well as the vast majority of the international community, as crucial to the future peace and prosperity of the Pacific Forum region.

Despite increasingly deep concerns at the negative and wide-ranging impacts of events over the past two and a half years on the people of Fiji, and since the events of April this year, Forum Leaders have continued to express hope and encouragement for Fiji’s earliest possible return to constitutional democracy through free and fair elections, and as consistently made clear all along, Forum countries stand ready to assist Fiji to that end.

Each year, the Committee is asked to consider a range of security related issues arising from an increasingly complex and interrelated set of international, regional and national security developments. At the same time, we continue to evaluate the effectiveness of past actions to ensure our responses remain relevant and our responsibility to implement our regional agenda is fulfilled. As the Secretariat has done on many occasions, we would encourage the Committee to take ownership of the implementation of their decisions at both national and regional level, and offer to you the enduring support of the Secretariat, in close cooperation with regional law enforcement bodies, and with the assistance of other relevant regional and international stakeholders.

The Cairns Forum from 4 to 7 August looms ahead as a key opportunity to advance the prospects of our region. There is no doubt that our Forum Island Countries are faced with a wide variety of security threats, ranging from natural disasters to environmental degradation; from climate change to rising sea levels; from food security to tackling the effects of the global economic crisis. Put simply, we do not have the luxury of adopting an approach of studied inaction.

The region must respond collectively to a host of challenges where collective responses serve to provide commitment and strength. No one country can feasibly manage alone in today’s world, where the problems of one neighbour invariably affect the next. Peace and security in our region are inextricably linked to peace and stability in our respective member countries; and much turns on the mutuality of needed cooperation on issues of common concerns.

With all this said, it remains for me to wish the Committee every success. We have a full agenda before us and under your leadership, Madam Chairperson, we have every reason to look forward to firm and positive results.

Thank you.