OPENING REMARKS BY TUILOMA NERONI SLADE,
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
20TH SMALLER ISLAND STATES LEADERS’ MEETING,
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
6 SEPTEMBER 2011
Distinguished Leaders of the Smaller Island States of the Pacific Islands Forum
Distinguished Delegates and Observers
CROP Executives and their representatives
Greetings to you all,
First, may I record our collective appreciation to the New Zealand Government for hosting and arranging this meeting at this impressive venue.
2. And then to say that I am honoured now to convene this 20th meeting of the Leaders of the Smaller Islands States of the Pacific Islands Forum and, on behalf of the Secretariat, very warmly to welcome Hon Leaders and their delegations to this the first of a series of meetings of Forum Leaders this week.
3. This year marks a significant milestone in the history of the Pacific Islands Forum, for 2011 is the 40th year since the founding Leaders in their foresight recognised the intrinsic value of regional cooperation and integration. In doing so, Leaders set the foundations of the Pacific Islands Forum, and began to map out a course for regional development and for well-being and prosperity for all.
4. Your meeting remains an important fixture of the Forum Leaders gathering, for it captures and reflects the unique nature of issues facing Smaller Island States of the Pacific and the recognition by all Pacific Leaders that the perspectives and requirements of Smaller Island States require special attention.
5. Your meeting therefore presents you as SIS Leaders with the opportunity prior to the combined Leaders meetings, to caucus and deliberate on issues of particular importance and relevance to the SIS.
6. I might say that in the preparatory work your Officials were very mindful of that objective and the strategic timing of your meeting, and I should like to thank and commend them for their efforts in putting together the agenda and documentation before you now.
7. The Officials report to you is in the form of a letter dated 15th August, 2011 from the Chair of the SIS Officials Committee, the distinguished Ambassador of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to the incoming Chair of the SIS Leaders meeting.
8. The Officials’ report consolidates all the principal issues for Leaders’ consideration and guidance, and will be the main document for your deliberations.
9. The key priority areas identified in addressing the long term challenges of SIS are not new. But they require refocusing and a reenergising of efforts with the mobilisation and coordination of limited resources, so that the responses to those challenges become targeted and effective. The priorities identified include:
(i) climate change, in particular with respect to sustainable financing options;
(ii) strengthening of development coordination;
(iii) education and health;
(iv) transportation, in particular sub-regional shipping services;
(v) trade agreements and labour mobility in the context of regional economic integration; and
(vi) energy, with respect to renewable energy and bulk fuel procurement
10. Officials have also identified emerging regional issues that warrant consideration in conjunction with the regional priorities identified by Forum Leaders under the Pacific Plan for 2010 - 2012. These include gender equality and the inclusivity of people with disabilities in development.
11. Climate change remains the overwhelming challenge in our development pursuits. Since Copenhagen and Cancun and the resulting pledges of increased climate resourcing, the region, through the Forum Economic and Finance Ministers meetings, has considered a range of appropriate and feasible options to better position Forum countries to access available global resources and more effectively to manage and account for the flow and utilisation of these resources. This has been complemented by our own efforts to strengthen development coordination through the Forum Compact and by doing so, continue the significant work being undertaken in the SIS, to strengthen national systems and bring clarity to where development resources are most needed and best used.
12. The Forum’s Compact has progressed well and I am particularly pleased to commend the efforts of SIS countries, despite the known capacity constraints, to be at the forefront of the implementation of the Compact. The Secretariat is very grateful for the SIS leadership on this process, in particular by your Governments’ willingness to provide self assessments on the status of national plans, budgets and aid coordination activities and challenges. Specifically, I thank the Governments of Niue and Tuvalu for agreeing to host peer reviews this year, and the Governments of Kiribati and Nauru for moving on implementing the recommendations made under their peer reviews reports of 2010.
13. These country experiences are also important in supporting and shaping the position of the Forum region as we seek to influence the outcomes and negotiations at the upcoming Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, in November. We as a Secretariat are committed to ensuring the region is well prepared and is able to engage in the preparatory meetings and at the High level Forum itself, which will redefine the global development cooperation agenda.
14. The Pacific Plan remains the master strategy for strengthening regional cooperation and integration. We have made some good progress across the five main themes adopted by Leaders in 2009. To complement efforts and to measure the extent of what is being achieved, the Secretariat has proposed the development of a performance framework for the Pacific Plan that will, essentially, draw on the accountabilities and performance targets within the existing regional institutional architecture.
15. The devastating impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on lives and livelihoods of all Pacific peoples is a crisis of serious magnitude which needs to be addressed with immediacy by all Governments of the region. I take the opportunity to note and applaud Palau’s leadership and efforts in declaring a state of emergency on the threats of NCDs. The Secretariat and CROP agencies are continuously collaborating with Governments and development partners to ensure that NCDs are addressed at all levels as a major development challenge to the region.
16. The Secretariat is happy to report that we have appointed six SIS Pacific Plan desk officers, and that the deployment of SIS Desk Officers at your capitals has been instrumental in facilitating regular reporting on the activities that you contribute to in implementing the objectives and intent of the Pacific Plan and the Forum Compact. The Secretariat through the SIS Unit will continue to support the Desk Officers and we will pursue efforts to provide the Desk Officers with adequate resources to allow them to continue the good work they have been providing.
17. Hon Leaders, the Secretariat and all CROP agencies, and I believe I can speak for my fellow-CROP Executives who are present here today, all stand ready to support SIS countries in their efforts to meet the development challenges.
18. With these words, may I wish SIS Leaders a fruitful meeting and a productive week of deliberations.
19. As required of me and in accordance with your decision to appoint the SIS Leaders meeting Chair by alphabetical order, I am honored to invite His Excellency, President Jurelang Zedkaia from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, to assume role of Chair and take charge of the meeting.
Thank you for your attention. END