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Statement by Forum Chair at PALM5


STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE TOKE TALAGI, CHAIR OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM AND CO-CHAIR OF PALM5, 2009 AT THE OPENING  SESSION ON THE ISLAND OF HOKKAIDO, JAPAN, FRIDAY 22nd MAY 2009

Your Excellency, Taro Aso - Prime Minister of Japan;
Your Excellencies, Leaders of Forum Pacific Island Nations;
Secretary - General of the Forum Secretariat;
Ministers & Envoys;
The Governor of Hokkaido;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

• Fakalofa lahi atu kia mutolu oti. It is my pleasure to convey warm greetings from the respective Governments and people of the Pacific represented here at this 5th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting with Japan. We wish to express our sincere appreciation, Mr Prime Minister, to the people and government of Japan for convening this summit and for the courtesies extended to us. Despite the chilly whether here in Hokkaido, the reception we have received has been extremely warm, for which we are most grateful.

• We are fully committed to strengthening this long standing partnership and friendship between Japan and Pacific Islands Forum, towards a shared a common destiny for peace, security and prosperity for all our peoples.

• Intrinsic to this partnership are a set of shared basic values including democracy, good governance, rule of law, freedom of press, and the promotion of economic growth and sustainable development.

• Our histories, and the hopes, aspirations and beliefs of our people are the foundation upon which we seek to explore mutually beneficial opportunities between Japan and the Pacific Island Countries.

• As we set forth to establish a renewed political commitment in a number of areas, including, climate change and sustainable development, building resilience to our vulnerabilities, and fostering exchange between our cultures, we must be cognizant of the realities faced by all parties particularly in light of the global economic crisis. The global credit crunch has compounded many of the existing challenges we face. However, we must endeavor to see these challenges in a positive light and learn from these lessons to ensure a more resilient future.

• To this end we acknowledge and appreciate Japan's continued support and commitment towards the development initiatives of the Pacific Islands Forum members. We are grateful to the Government of Japan for remaining to be a significant development and trade partner to the Pacific region, and look forward to your continued support to our development efforts through bilateral and regional channels that we have established over the past years.

• Japan’s commitment to aligning its support to the Pacific Plan is well recognized and very important to our regional integration and development efforts. Our regional priorities articulated in the Plan are a synthesis of our collective national needs and aspirations, and an acknowledgement of where we hope to gain significant ground by working together.

• The Pacific Plan calls for greater ownership of regional initiatives, particularly at the national level, to ensure that we reap the benefits of our joint efforts. I therefore encourage my colleagues from the region to remain committed to these initiatives and consider the necessary changes that are required to ensure that we reach the goals that we have set for ourselves and have embarked upon together.

• We are extremely grateful for the assistance Japan has provided through the Okinawa Partnership. Many of our efforts in the region in trade and economic development, good governance, sustainable development, health and education have been significantly advanced due to the support we have received from Japan through this initiative. For this you are to be congratulated.

• As many of us are beneficiaries of development assistance, we are constantly looking for ways to improve development effectiveness in the region and in line with internationally agreed principles of donor harmonization and AID effectiveness. The implementation of the Okinawa Partnership has helped us better understand the modalities surrounding Japanese development assistance and its significance to member countries. To this end, we look forward to increased consultation between Japan and the Forum members to facilitate improved alignment between Japans development assistance and programmes, the assistance of our other partners, and our own national and regional efforts.

• I encourage the Government of Japan and our other Development Partners to continue to align their future development assistance plans with the Pacific Plan at the regional level and bilaterally on the basis of our respective national development plans.

• I am confident that the outcome of our deliberations over the next few days will help bring us closer together in partnership as we move forward in meeting the challenges and aspirations of the people of this region. We are all Islanders in an Ocean of bountiful resources and opportunities, let us navigate these waters together wisely and build a future that is beneficial to all that share it.

ENDS.