Statement by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at opening of 41st PIF

Port Vila, Vanuatu

4 - 5 August 2010





Hon Prime Minister of Vanuatu and incoming Forum Chair,
Hon. Edward Natapei,
Hon Stephen Smith, representing the Prime Minister of Australia as outgoing Forum Chair,
Your Excellencies, Forum Leaders and their representatives,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Girls and Boys who have turned out in numbers.

May I commence with words of warm tribute and congratulations to the people and Government on the occasion of Vanuatu’s 30th year of Independence, and to say that it was a special privilege to share the joys of your National Day celebrations, of outstanding achievements of nationhood and of unity among your communities.

Honourable Prime Minister,

Allow me to express our grateful appreciation to you and the Government and people of Vanuatu for hosting the Forum meetings this week, and more especially for the very kind arrangements for our care and our work. I want in particular to thank all the children here today for they delight us all to see them at the start of our day. Children are the real point of the nation’s investment and upon whose faces we see so much of the promises of tomorrow.

Tankiu tumas!

To the Prime Minister of Australia, Hon Julia Gillard, the outgoing Forum Chair, who is today represented by the Hon. Stephen Smith, I express the acknowledgement of a grateful region for Australia’s generous contribution and leadership of the Forum over the past twelve months.
Forum Theme

Honourable Leaders,

A most worthy theme has been set for this year’s Forum meeting: “Navigating our challenges and opportunities together towards addressing the needs of the most vulnerable of our communities”. We thank the Government of Vanuatu for these noble sentiments, of particular pertinence on this occasion - sentiments which have imbued the Forum’s collective actions in past years, and which must continue to direct and bind the endeavours of the Pacific for the future.


The future, that is, for the entire Forum region.

As we prepare for the Forum’s 40th anniversary next year we can reflect on the beginnings and the routes which Forum countries have navigated together, as we reflect on the foundations established by Forum Leaders who have moved on, and the values and directions set for our Pacific Forum countries.

This is a region of remarkable contrasts and of immense diversities: diversities of land forms and people; innumerable languages little known elsewhere; and of cultures and traditions, unique and distinct, one from the other.

There is, in the natural order, much more to divide than there is to unite.

But the legacy of this Forum organisation, the true legacy of the Forum, is unity. Unity, not of a few, but for all Forum countries. The Forum has overcome diversity, and will overcome diversion, in the name of unity. Unity already well tested for near 40 years. By the logic of our regional circumstance, and by the dictate of our time, there cannot be any other way. For those who seek definition, that is the real meaning of the Pacific Way.

The challenges

Our region continues to face major challenges in the efforts to pursue development aspirations and the quest for improving the lives of all Pacific people. Not one of our member countries has been spared the effects of the global financial and economic crises and associated high cost of fuel and food as well as the dangers of climate change. Many of you Leaders have taken part in key international meetings, in Copenhagen and elsewhere, to find global solutions. Vanuatu, too, has hosted a number of important meetings, on these very issues.

Effective solutions will not come easily. Not for Pacific states already disadvantaged by smallness and isolation and by sheer vulnerabilities. But these are handicaps of old, inherent of the condition of islands; they cannot, and must not, deter from the quest for just and committed global solutions and from regional efforts to shore up resilience and coping capacities.

In Cairns last year, Leaders took important decisions on regional priorities in the framework of the Pacific Plan for the next three years, to focus efforts on strengthening capacities and the abilities of Forum communities to overcome vulnerabilities.

The Compact for strengthening development coordination in the Pacific was a critical decision of Leaders in Cairns as well. Its implementation has become a central activity in regional efforts to ensure aid effectiveness and to revitalise commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the Pacific. It must continue in assurance and with the support of all.


The Biketawa Declaration that was adopted ten years ago remains a practical vehicle for regional unity. Last night, the Hon Prime Minister Natapei launched a photographic exhibition at the National Museum of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Biketawa Declaration.

The exhibition aptly captures the history and images and tells the story of the uniqueness of RAMSI, and also provides evidence of a highly effective regional arrangement for response and management of a crisis. It is a regional arrangement that can only be possible with strong leadership and committed partnership, and with the full support of all Forum member countries. We acknowledge with appreciation the special roles Australia and New Zealand play.

Allow me to express to the Government of Solomon Islands, to all contributing Forum members, and to RAMSI our collective gratitude.

CROP and Development Partners

I want to report to Leaders that the highest degree of collegiality and cooperation exists among the Heads of regional organisations in their implementation of Forum mandates, including the Regional Institutional Framework (RIF), and in the functioning of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP). With fraternal tributes I should like to acknowledge the role and contribution of my fellow CROP Executives who are present to support Leaders in your deliberations.

Equally, the region engages actively and constructively with all development partners, in a range of formats and processes, including the PIC-Partners meeting and in the implementation of the Cairns Compact. These partnerships are vital for the region and are deeply valued, and I thank all partner-representatives present here today.

To the Honourable Prime Minister of Vanuatu, may I say that we all look forward to serving with you and to assisting you and your Government in every way possible to make the Forum stronger and better, in unity.

Thank you.

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