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Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at FOC meeting

 
FORUM OFFICIALS COMMITTEE
PRE-FORUM AND BUDGET & WORK PROGRAMME SESSION
Forum Secretariat, Suva
18 – 19 August 2011

OPENING STATEMENT BY TUILOMA NERONI SLADE, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT

Members of the Forum Officials Committee
Colleague CROP Heads
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

On behalf of the Secretariat’s senior management and staff, I welcome you all to this year’s Forum Officials Committee Pre-Forum and Budget and Work Programme session. I wish to thank Papua New Guinea, the last Chair of FOC and welcome the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Chair for this year’s meeting. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of the Secretariat’s new Deputy Secretary General, for Economic Governance and Security, Ms Andie Fong Toy and thank the former DSG, Mr Peter Forau, who completed his time with the Secretariat earlier this year, for his contribution and commitment to the Secretariat.

2. Since 2007, the Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) has been entrusted with the consideration and transmission of Pacific Plan related issues to Leaders. This, I believe you have done successfully over the past two days and I commend you for all your hard work.

3. FOC has the dual role of considering important political security issues and activities under the Biketawa Declaration among other things – which are not considered by PPAC - as well governance of the Secretariat including its Budget and Work Programme.


40th Anniversary Activities

4. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum, a significant milestone for our organisation. You would have noticed the extensive rebranding of our website, stationery and signage to reflect this important occasion, featuring a new anniversary logo. This is an important year for us all and our celebrations recognise the wisdom of our founding Leaders of newly independent states who had the vision and foresight to seek out strength in numbers through regionalism. We have come a long way since the naissance of this premier political grouping of our region’s independent states. In the face of numerous challenges notable successes have been achieved. In reflecting on the path travelled thus far, this year provides an opportunity to celebrate the region’s development to date and to reflect on the future and the various challenges as we move on.

5. As the governing body of the Leaders’ secretariat, you have an important role to play in ensuring that the Secretariat is provided with appropriate guidance and resourced to implement the vision of the Leaders, for a region that through regionalism, is peaceful, harmonious, economically prosperous and secure in its environment and for all Pacific people.

6. My statement this morning will highlight some of the main activities of the Secretariat since the last FOC meeting in July 2010. Before I do that, however, let me spend a few moments on our global environment and its impact on our region and the work of the Secretariat.

Effect of Global Economic Crisis

7. Like the rest of the world, Forum member countries continue to be challenged by external forces including global economic and market fluctuations, climate change, food security and fuel prices. They are forces which highlight the need constantly to build and strengthen resilience and coping abilities, more effective coordination of all available development resources, and trade and trade facilitation as key drivers in lifting the economic and sustainable development performance of the region. All these issues are collating as the Forum marks its 40th anniversary this year and which challenges us to match history with the aspirations of the future.

8. At the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting held in Apia in July, Ministers in their 2011 Action Plan noted that while the global economy is now showing signs of recovering, this is still uneven - indeed, we know from the economic ratings and turbulence in the leading markets in the US and Europe in recent days that the global situation remains fragile. Economic Ministers highlighted the need to continue to maintain macroeconomic stability and necessary reforms and recognised the importance of providing leadership, maintaining political stability and building a coalition for change through proactive consultations with the private sector and the community. They acknowledged that reform is an ongoing process and outlined actions essential for Forum Island Countries’ efforts to expand the economic base through such actions as pursuing reforms to create an enabling environment for private sector development, reforming the governance of State Owned Enterprises and strengthening areas of comparative advantage such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries sectors.

Impact of Climate Change on Leaders’ Vision

9. The impacts of climate change are matters of reality throughout the region and are, indeed, the greatest challenge of our time. Viewed through different lenses, political, economical, social and environmental; climate change priorities will vary significantly. We need improved connectivity of these viewpoints and coordinated, collaborative approaches to resourcing and effective responses.

10. Climate change and development are integral, one to the other. The world is already locked into a certain level of global warming which will affect all economies and communities. Adaptation is a must, not an option, and there is real potential to roll back many of the gains in development made to date, and for some Forum members, their very survival is as stake. Urgent mitigation, including through transformation of economies from depending on fossil fuel, to using energy more efficiently, developing renewable energy sources and diffusing technology without comprising economic growth in the near and long term is critical to ensure long term sustainable economic growth and development. These efforts must be underpinned by sound national plans, systems and institutional structures which must mainstream and reflect climate change priorities, as well as sufficient, timely and predicable resources.

11. These factors have moved the climate change issue from one traditionally dealt with by the environmental sector, onto the firm responsibility of political Leaders, and central line agencies of economic planning and finance. With every seriousness we need to ensure that at the global, regional and individual country level, our respective policy and institutional machinery is sufficient and responsive to this evolution.

12. In recent years, the Forum Secretariat has been tasked to take on increasing roles in effectively coordinating, linking and reflecting the implications of climate change with the economic growth and development policies of the region. Over the last year, the Secretariat has also been tasked with collating and coordinating advice on ways to improve members’ ability to effectively access and manage climate change resources, in line with ongoing efforts under the Forum’s Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination. The establishment of the CROP Executives’ Sub-Committee on Climate Change is a significant step in addressing this issue. The Secretariat is combining and integrating efforts with other CROP organisations to better respond to these mounting requests for support and will itself need to be strengthened to ensure it can effectively respond to members.

Regional Security

13. The Secretariat plays the lead policy and coordination role in addressing regional security concerns. A key focus of the Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC) when it met in June this year was to recognise ongoing collaborative work in the region to address the main security issues for the Pacific. These include challenges posed by maritime security issues, the increasing risks of cross-border and trans-national crime, the security impacts of climate change, and key conflict prevention issues, including addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), land management and resource extraction and recognising the factors which might become drivers of conflict in the future. In this regard, the recently launched UNDP/PIFS publication, Urban Youth in the Pacific is an important contribution in providing policy and programming options for Pacific governments and other stakeholders, to prevent young people becoming involved in crime and violence, and to better increase their prospects to fulfill their potential as productive citizens.

14. A new challenge for the Secretariat identified at last year’s FRSC stems from a very old issue. I refer to the hidden and dangerous presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in a number of member states despite almost 70 years since the end of World War II. As tasked by member states, the Secretariat has been giving detailed consideration to this issue and has devised a regional strategy with the aim of assisting members in dealing with this significant problem which is a significant obstacle to land use and development and an ongoing threat to public health and safety. The region also faces ongoing human rights and governance challenges which must be addressed to ensure state responsibility and responsiveness first to citizens and also to ensure credibility with the international community and development partners. The Secretariat continues to play a lead role in developing policy options to assist all member states to better meet their international obligations and respond to increasing domestic and external demands for greater accountability, inclusivity and transparency of governance. Our partnership with international and CROP agencies and the support of donors is vital to take forward this work and I acknowledge and thank them all for their valuable support.

RAMSI

15. As mandated under the Biketawa Declaration, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) continues its work with the excellent collaboration between the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) and the Mission in particular relating to the progress made in the implementation of the SIG-RAMSI Partnership Framework. At the 5th meeting of the Forum Ministerial Standing Committee held in Honiara at the end of June this year, the Committee noted that RAMSI was reducing in size in line with the indicative timelines and milestones in the Partnership Framework. Both RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Government agree as the process of reducing the size of the operation continues, there must be careful consultation and communication among contributing countries, and above all within the Solomon Islands. The critical importance of maintaining the regional character of RAMSI, including through ongoing participation by Forum Island Countries’ police personnel with appropriate skills was also noted. Personally, I was very impressed with the confidence shown in Solomon Islands with the hosting of several regional meetings by the Government in Honiara at the same time as the FMSC meeting, including the important gathering of the Pacific Health Ministers.

Fiji

16. The situation in Fiji continues to be a concern for us all, not only out of concern for the people of Fiji, but also because fundamental Forum principles are at stake. One needs only to note the principles of the Biketawa Declaration or reflect on the Pacific Leaders’ Vision, to see that military rule and an erosion of human rights and individual freedoms are inconsistent with the noble ambitions and high hopes of the Forum. The Ministerial Contact Group, MCG, which has been mandated to monitor the situation in Fiji and report back to Leaders met in February this year and strongly encouraged Fiji to restore democracy as soon as possible, noting that a constitutionally elected government is essential to ensuring that necessary steps are taken to build investor confidence and grow the economy. MCG Ministers also were concerned about the continuing extension of the Public Emergency Regulations since their promulgation in 2009 as an infringement on the basic human and democratic rights of Fiji citizens. The MCG also agreed to make recommendations to the Forum Leaders on Fiji’s participation in regional trade and economic meetings. We look forward to the MCG’s report to Leaders in Auckland with a clear focus on whether Fiji authorities are taking sufficient steps to enable a return to parliamentary democracy as they maintain they are committed to do.

Trade Issues

17. As I alluded to earlier, the ongoing global economic instability compounded the challenges that our member countries face to develop strong and resilient economies. The Secretariat believes that increased regional trade, if pursued properly and equitably, offers the prospect of stronger economic growth through greater regional cooperation and integration. Your Secretariat continues to coordinate trade-related work with support from the region’s development partners. During the past year, the Secretariat supported work on four trade negotiations including the intra-regional Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, the Doha Round at the World Trade Organisation, and we also assisted in the coordination of PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. To help the community better understand trade issues, the Secretariat also organised a Non-State Actors Dialogue on PACER Plus in October last year.

18. An important focus of our trade work over the last year were the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations with the European Union which, on the whole, are now on an organised path of steady progress with a number of major technical workshops undertaken to finalise market access offers and legal text in preparation for the conclusion of negotiations. Good progress is being made on PICTA Trade in Services negotiations, with the fifth round of negotiations completed early this year and the sixth round of negotiations to take place soon. The Secretariat’s support for the development of national trade policy frameworks and work to strengthen the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest has continued. The Trade and Invest first group annual report has been launched; and the inaugural Pacific Investment Summit was held in Sydney in September last year. A second Pacific Investment Summit will take place in Auckland next month in conjunction with the Forum Leaders meeting.

Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination

19. Work has also progressed on the implementation of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination endorsed by Forum Leaders during their meeting in Cairns in 2009. At their meeting in Vanuatu last year, Leaders, among other things called for identification of priority actions for strengthening development coordination at the country level. Work on this has already started. Two countries, Nauru and Kiribati, undertook peer reviews last year and three, Niue, Vanuatu and Tuvalu, this year. Already there is evidence of some good progress and practices as well as some remaining challenges that need to be addressed to strengthen development coordination. Some of these issues were discussed at the PIC Partners’ meeting held in Nadi last month and at discussions at PPAC in the last two days. A Full report on the progress in strengthening development coordination will be presented to Leaders in September.

Budget and Corporate Matters

20. The other focus of this FOC session is consideration of the Secretariat’s corporate responsibilities, in particular the implementation of the 2011 Work Programme and the proposed 2012 Budget and Work Programme, the proposed new Programme Strategic Plans and other institutional strengthening work.

21. A proposed revised 2011Budget and Work Programme will be tabled for the Committee’s consideration and endorsement. These reflect the substantive developments since the adoption of the 2011 Approved Budget and Work Programme, including new funding coming on board from the EDF-10 and revisions to forecast for the disbursement of the PEC Fund. The revised budget also reflects actual expenditures to-date and more realistic forecasts of expenditures for the remainder of the year.

22. The Committee will also be requested to approve the 2012 Budget and Work Programmes. Some challenges were encountered in developing the 2012 Budget, as will discussed later, due to uncertainty in funding levels for the core budget. As a consequence, funding levels for the core budget for 2011 were used for budgeting purposes. Hopefully, once the funding levels for the core budget are ascertained with certainty, the 2012 budget could be finalised. The 2012 work programme are aligned to the new proposed Programme Strategic Plans 2012 – 2014 which are also being tabled for the Committee’s consideration and approval.

Strategic & Corporate Plans Refresh

23. The Programme Strategic Plans 2012 – 2014 are required to replace the current plans which will end this year. We foreshadowed this eventuality at the Committee’s meeting in 2010 when the strategic plans were tabled for refresh, resulting in revised plans being developed. The discussions and comments of the Committee last year, influenced the development of the new plans together with the inputs from staff. It is pleasing to observe that the key strategic directions and objectives of the current plans stood the test of time and remain relevant and form the basis of the new plans. The focus of the new plans are on smarter and more efficient ways of doing business making maximum use of limited resources.

24. The Secretariat is undertaking preliminary discussions on its proposals for a new Corporate Plan to succeed the current corporate plan at the end of 2012. The process to develop the new Corporate Plan will commence towards the end of this year and into 2012 where we expect the broadest and inclusive consultation with member countries, donors and funders, and other stakeholders with the view to present a new Corporate Plan for consideration and approval by the Committee at its 2012 meeting and for the Plan to take effect at the start of 2013.

Staff Remuneration and CROP Harmonisation matters

25. Progress with regard to staff related matters includes the 2011 review of the terms and conditions of work for support staff (PAL) which still requires further work, the Triennial Review for Positions Advertised Internationally (PAI), Job Banding implementation, and CROP Remuneration Harmonisation.

Conclusion

26. What I have outlined identifies the global environment of the Secretariat’s work, and the Secretariat’s response. We aim to improve even more and strengthen the Secretariat’s policy leadership, coordination role and its corporate management and functions. Indisputably, we need the confidence and support of member countries, and we will continue to work hard for their reward – as we will to sustain the excellent relations and collaboration we already enjoy with CROP agencies, the region’s development partners and other stakeholders.

27. In presenting this material to FOC, I am only a voice, for the substance and quality come from the staff of the Secretariat. Most warmly I thank my two Deputy Secretaries General, the Programme Directors and all the Secretariat staff for their contributions to the achievements of the Secretariat for the past year.

Thank you.


 

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