SG's Opening Statement, Mauritius Strategy Meeting, Feb 2010


Regional Meeting, 8th Feb, 2010, Vanuatu.

1. Mr Prime Minister, it is an honour, always, to be in your country. Thank you for your words of welcome and the clear direction you have provided this regional meeting in your remarks. On behalf of my delegation, and I’m sure on behalf of us all, I want to register our gratitude to you and your Government, and to the people of Vanuatu for hosting this important meeting and for the warm welcome we have received since we arrived.

2. May I then express warm appreciation and congratulations to Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, the distinguished Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) for her keynote address and to take this opportunity to thank ESCAP for the work they have lead in pulling together this comprehensive draft report on the general progress of sustainable development in the Pacific region over the last 5 years, in line with the objectives of the Mauritius Strategy for further Implementation (MSI).

3. The Report is now before us. Rather than dealing with the details, I want to offer reflections on implications for the five year review of the MSI, and in particular, the MSI’s intention, its value and its future direction.

4. 15 years ago the international community agreed that by their unique characteristics small island developing States (SIDS) faced special challenges and therefore accorded to them the measure of “special case”. In doing so, a United Nations programme of action was fashioned and launched to support SIDS in their endeavors to achieve sustainable development. The Barbados Programme of Action is the result, and it is well known to you all. With the international recognition of particular vulnerabilities and the acknowledgement of isolation, dis-economies of scale and susceptibility to natural disasters and climate change impacts, the BPoA was a significant achievement for SIDS, perhaps a defining moment. The Barbados Programme of Action was broad in nature and covered SIDS issues, our Pacific issues, across most sectors in a comprehensive manner. At that time, fifteen years ago, there were no other geographical groupings that were accorded such special status.

5. Today, fifteen years later, we are in a different global context. There are other ‘special cases’ such as Africa, the least developing countries, and countries in conflict or post-conflict situations with their special demands which have become a greater focus of international attention. There has also been a proliferation of international agreements to address a host of pressing global priorities. Concurrently, countries in this region have advanced in significant ways as developing economies and in efforts towards deepening regional cooperation and integration through mechanisms such as the Pacific Plan, initiatives founded on collective endeavour and on the basis of overcoming vulnerability in an ever-globalising world.

6. The draft Pacific Report before you today reviews a catalogue of considerable activity and of sustained regional engagement. It paints a mixed picture of gains at many levels, sound gains and achievements, of needed improvements and, characteristically, of continued vulnerabilities.

7. The efforts and responses of the region have involved a mixture of policy and practical implementation. The Executive Summary of the draft Report highlights important initiatives such as: the development of the Digital Strategy; the implementation of projects to improve rural internet connectivity; the development and improvement of sub-regional shipping services, particularly to the smaller island states of the region; and initiatives to reduce the cost of important commodities such as pharmaceuticals and petroleum through bulk procurement. Consolidation of efforts in the health sector to address major health threats such as HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases, which are always challenging, continue as they must.

8. Major development partners such as Australia and New Zealand, the European Union and the United Nations system and the multilateral financial organizations, have on the whole sound understanding of the Pacific region and appreciable efforts are being tried to tailor their assistance and support to the region to accommodate unique circumstances and requirements and especially the limited capacity of island communities.

9. So all in all, with the passage of fifteen years there have been several opportunities for the review of the sustainable development efforts of the region. The current Report, while recording findings of much substantive progress, also notes that much remains to be done. Above all, for all Pacific communities, there remains major gaps in basic exposure and vulnerability.

10. The Global Economic Crisis has exposed the fragility of economic bases in the narrowness of options and the other underlying factors of vulnerability. For many if not all Pacific countries the Global Economic Crisis has impacted directly on main sources of income in the areas of remittances, tourism and foreign exchange earning power. Except for the outstanding performance of countries such as Vanuatu, Pacific economies are not growing sufficiently to create jobs and much needed job opportunities, and the outlook is not predicted to change substantially this year. A compounding factor is the already widespread and observable changes with the impacts of global climate change.

11. In these circumstances and with global factors as they are, it is essential that the Pacific region maintains the need and justification for the special case for SIDS. Not because they seek special treatment above other more deserving communities, but because of their disadvantaged position conditioned by the inherent vulnerabilities of smallness and oceanic isolation which renders them especially exposed to insecurity and unable to respond to the risks of global environmental and economic forces, forces which are not of their making and well beyond their control.

12. But what is the value of the BPoA and the MSI to Pacific countries, and as a region today?

13. The vulnerable condition and circumstances of islands means that development efforts must be focused to enable communities effectively to overcome the challenges they face. Collective efforts with development partners should be designed to suit the constraints of capacity and to develop the required ability to react and to respond to the risks and challenges of global impacts. It is well acknowledged that SIDS can only do so, effectively and realistically, with the commitment and coordinated support of the international community. This is the essence of the BPoA and of the MSI.

14. You, Mr Prime Minister and other Forum Leaders have placed particular importance on this through your adoption of the Cairns Compact at your meeting last year and your emphasis on effective development assistance in the region with increased efforts to reduce fragmentation of aid, improved coordination, and harmonization and aid effectiveness in the region.

15. It is gratifying that we now have comprehensive global agreements and regional policies in many of the sectors represented by the chapters in the BPoA and MSI. We recognize that the BPoA can sometimes appear too broad in its coverage and lacks depth in sector details to be an easily implementable agreement. However, we should not overlook the essential benefit as a political platform and agreement for the specialised treatment of a grouping of island countries facing common and unique challenges and vulnerabilities. Nor should we fail to heed the warning stated at page 10 of the draft report, and I quote: “by the essence of its objective, the MSI is about facing that critical issue for its essence the Mauritius Strategy works to strengthen resilient island communities. It is a strategy that aims fundamentally to generate national integrity and self-reliance in sustainable development, and provides true measure as Pacific communities work towards achieving the Pacific vision of a region of peace, security and economic prosperity, so that all its people can lead free and worth while lives.”

Thank you.


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