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Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at PPAC meeting

Pacific Plan Action Committee Meeting
Forum Secretariat, Suva
16 August 2011

Opening Remarks by Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade
of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

 

 

 

Your Excellencies
Senior Officials
Fellow CROP Executives
Members of PPAC

Welcome to this Pacific Plan Action Committee (or P-PAC) meeting in the fortieth anniversary year since the establishment of the Pacific Islands Forum. I know that many of you have travelled from far and wide to attend this meeting and we acknowledge the effort and your participation.

2. Your deliberations over the next two days will be important in taking the regional agenda forward and assisting Leaders along the way. While the region is facing an unprecedented number of challenges, I believe we can also be rightly proud of what has been achieved so far.

3. Over the past year, and working together, there have been some excellent examples of cooperation as envisaged under the Pacific Plan. In the fisheries sector, there have been major monitoring and surveillance operations covering a number of countries and jurisdictions. We have worked on improving development coordination, including through peer reviews in Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Niue.

4. We have responded to Leaders directions on considering how Forum countries can better access and manage climate change funding. There has been further collaboration in the education sector, with commencement of a number of regional initiatives under the Pacific Education Development Framework. Implementation has commenced on the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability, with a real focus on supporting the rights of people living with disabilities.

5. This is an active and engaged region, in the Pacific and globally. Forum countries remained visible and constructive at climate change negotiations held in Mexico last year. We are seeing some progress in a number of areas in our region, but unfortunately the challenges don’t get any easier.

6. The international community is only just emerging from the effects of the last global financial crisis, yet there may be second one on the way. Forum countries are vulnerable to fluctuations in the international markets and highly dependent on imports for food and fuel, with limited capacity to absorb any increased costs.

7. Climate change continues to present a grave threat to the development and security of member countries and for some communities, climate impacts threaten their very existence. And there are the health and development impacts of non communicable diseases in all Pacific countries, the seriousness of which, in the longer term, we do not fully understand at this point.


8. Our region has some of the highest percentage of tobacco and alcohol consumption, and the highest rates of obesity, in the world. Many of our young people are unemployed and frustrated, keen to contribute but unable to do so.

9. Colleagues, forty years ago Pacific Leaders came together in common purpose to realise the natural sense and strength in working together. And so it is, with even greater potency, today.

10. Many of the challenges confronting the region can more feasibly be best dealt with at a regional level, with countries learning from each other to identify effective pathway and best practice. The Pacific Plan, the master strategy for greater regional cooperation and integration, is a key part of that approach. The Plan must guide regional agencies and other key players to ensure that national governments receive advice and services that are appropriate, targeted and accountable.

11. Efforts towards achieving the goals of Pacific Plan, must necessarily keep the international agenda in sight, for this is a region that is heavily influenced by world events, from the global climate change challenge to fluctuations in the international financial markets. It is important where possible that we aim to influence the international agenda and ensure that the views of our region are fairly represented.

12. Over the course of this year and into the next, a number of international meetings will be held at which our regional and national interests will intersect. The next round of global climate change talks will be held in Durban in November and December this year.

13. While some are skeptical about the outcomes of this process, the meeting in Durbin will be a critical stepping stone towards maintaining, and further developing an effective emissions reduction scheme. These talks are also set to decide on what the Green Climate Fund will look like. We need to ensure that the unique challenges and constraints of our constituency are factored into the governance arrangements and operations of that global fund. We also need to ensure that national governments have the capacity and systems in place to access global resources from this Fund. It is clear that climate change financing will remain a complex environment, and navigation through this will require trained if not specialist knowledge and significant capacity.

14. Supporting national efforts to tackle the impact of climate change will require increased and strengthened support from regional agencies. It will also require flexible and harmonised approaches by bilateral and multilateral development partners. But it is not just about accessing funds; it is also about ensuring that national systems can absorb and effectively utilise available funds.

15. This is why the development coordination agenda under the Forum Compact is so vitally important, not just for climate change financing, but for all government expenditure. Gathering the necessary evidence to reinforce and foster good practice amongst development partners and countries in our region is quite simply, essential.

16. The many years of national and regional experience have been well documented and further strengthened through implementation of the Forum Compact over the past two years.

 

17. We should use and effectively demonstrate this experience to help shape global thinking on this subject, including at the forthcoming High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to be held in Busan, Korea, later this year. In particular, through the peer review process, I believe we have demonstrated the real value of learning from each other and I would like to thank those Governments and Senior Officials of member Governments who participated in all peer reviews.

18. There are two other global processes which are of particular importance and interest to the Forum and which will be the subject of discussion over the next two days. The first is the high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on non-communicable diseases (or NCDs), which will be held next month in New York. The serious health and economic impact of NCDs was highlighted by Pacific Health Ministers, in their meeting in Honiara in June, and discussed by Executives of CROP in July this year. The up-coming high-level meeting in New York is an opportunity to bring increased global attention to the specific issues and concerns in the Pacific region.

19. The second is the Rio+20 meeting, to be held in June 2012. Twenty years since global consensus on the need for sustainable development is a significant milestone. Rio was the birthplace of a number of important international agreements, including on climate change, bio-diversity, land degradation, and ocean management. It was also the birthplace of the special case for Small Island Developing States.

 

 

20. The international acknowledgement of Small Island Developing States as a “special case” for both environment and development is about their inherent vulnerabilities, and highlighted the need for the international community to address their particular circumstances. The Pacific Plan provides a realistic and made-to-fit regional framework to address and support the sustainable development aspirations of our Pacific Small Islands Developing States.

21. The Pacific Plan has harmonised regional reporting and obligations to global agreements, and translates at a regional level the priorities of Forum Island Developing States. The Pacific Plan must continue to provide the framework for facilitating the necessary regional responses to the outcomes of Rio+20.

22. As such, any approaches on sustainable development must be translated and amended to fit the national context and priorities of each country which, naturally, need to be determined by each member Government.

23. In considering the themes of Rio+20, one of which is green economy for sustainable development and poverty alleviation, we must be careful not to get distracted by the use of new colour-coding terminology. Instead, we must build on and acknowledge the work that has been underway globally, in the region, and at the national level for a number of years in support of these approaches.

24. While there must be assertion of the special case of Small Island Developing States at Rio+20, there should also be a clear statement of the stewardship of the Oceans by Forum Countries and of their concerns for the sustainable use, development and health of the Pacific Ocean. As the world runs short of minerals, food, energy and pharmaceuticals, they will look beneath regional waters as, indeed, they have begun Any concept of green economy must therefore reflect fully the place and importance of the blue world of our oceanic areas.

25. Let me close by emphasising the importance of our discussions over the next two days. Our task is to ensure that Forum Leaders have the necessary advice to make informed decisions on furthering regional cooperation and integration to support national priorities, and ultimately benefit the people of our region. We must also support Leaders in their efforts to effectively engage with, and influence, the global agenda.

26. I look forward to working with you over the next two days on some of the most important issues facing our region.

Thank you.
 

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