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SG address, Regional UNDAF workshop, Nadi

Address by Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
United Nations Regional Workshop on the United Nations Development Assistance Framework
Nadi, Fiji, 4 May 2011

UN Resident Coordinator for Fiji, Mr Knut Ostby,
UN Resident Coordinator for Samoa, Ms Nileema Noble,
Heads of UN Agencies,
UN Colleagues.

At our recent meeting in Suva, Mr Ostby very kindly invited my participation today in your work. While I had to move mountains to be here, it was an invitation I could not decline given the importance of this Workshop and the strategic directions that will result from this meeting for the work of the United Nations in the coming years.

Current UNDAF
2. I should like to begin with the current UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), and observe that it is aligned, I believe, with the Pacific Plan. That being the case let me immediately say that there could not be a higher commendation for the Forum. Indeed, if not already recommended by the UNDAF Mid-Term Review, I would be emboldened to hope that the United Nations might, once again, consider the Pacific Plan as a key building block in the development of the next UNDAF.

Pacific Plan
3. My own view is that Forum Leaders got it right in 2004 when they endorsed the Pacific Plan as the master strategy to strengthen regional cooperation and integration, with aspiration to see the Pacific as a region of “peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity”. These cannot be just mere aspirations either, for in reality the conditions of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity are substratum to Pacific peoples being able to lead free and worthwhile lives.

4. Pacific Leaders went on to highlight the importance of culture, tradition, and religious beliefs to the region, as well as good governance, sustainable management of resources, and respect for democracy and human rights. They also envisaged that the Pacific Plan would be built on partnerships with Pacific island neighbors and with others beyond the Pacific, including the United Nations.
5. The Pacific vision echoes that of the Millennium Declaration and its focus on the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.

Pacific Plan priorities
6. At their meeting in 2009, Forum Leaders endorsed as targets for three years a set of five key priorities as a way for implementing the Pacific Plan more effectively and as a response to new challenges presented by an ever-globalising world, in particular by the global economic crisis. Expressed broadly the five Pacific Plan priorities are about:

(i) fostering economic development;
(ii) improving livelihoods and well-being of Pacific peoples;
(iii) addressing climate change;
(iv) achieving stronger and better governance; and
(v) ensuring improved social, political and legal conditions for stability, safety and security.

I think the statement of priorities and endorsement of Leaders should be seen as a measure of clarity and efficiency, in the identification of the challenges which call for prioritised responses and in the political guidance and commitment that it provides.

7. These priorities are linked to the four pillars or key strategic objectives of the Pacific Plan: economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security. Fundamentally, the agreed priorities are premised on inherent vulnerabilities and framed around the need to build resilience and coping abilities among Pacific communities.

8. The Pacific Plan, as you know, is aligned with the work of regional organisations and implemented by all regional organizations, which comprise the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific or CROP. Currently, with the folding of SOPAC and the Education Standards Board into SPC, there are nine different regional CROP organisations which meet at least once a year under the permanent chairmanship of the Forum Secretary General and being responsible to Forum Leaders through the Pacific Plan Action Committee where senior officials of all sixteen Forum countries are represented. The determination of the priorities I have just referred to as endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2009 is the work and responsibility of the CROP agencies.

A ‘living’ strategy
9. The Pacific Plan is a “living” strategy and very much alive to review and improvements. Last year CROP Executives agreed on emerging issues which should also be given priority attention, including the provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation services (which is part of Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals), the need to increase literacy and numeracy rates in selected Pacific island countries (as identified by Forum Education Ministers, and part of Goal 2 of the MDGs) and, following recent destructive tsunamis and tragic loss of lives in the sinking of ferry-vessels, a more people-focused approach and expansion of disaster risk management efforts beyond risks posed by climate change – and Forum Leaders have endorsed these emerging issues.

Master strategy for development
10. So, there is already on the ground an established system to put into effect the master strategy of the Pacific Plan for the sustainable development of Pacific countries according to key priorities set at the highest political level by Forum Leaders, and implemented and supported by the network of all CROP agencies. The engagement of Leaders and Forum member countries through their senior officials means that the same key priorities are substantially reflected, if not entirely so, in national development strategies.

Implementing the master strategy
11. In 2009, Forum Leaders went further and were able also to adopt what is sometimes referred to as the Cairns Compact, or to give it its proper name, the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific, which essentially is the machinery for the effective implementation of Pacific Plan priorities.

12. The Compact represents a new determination and commitment at the highest political level to lift the economic and development performance of the region. Its principal objective is to drive more effective coordination of all available development resources, from donor partners and from member countries as well, centered on the aim of achieving real progress against the MDGs.

13. Towards this objective, it was agreed that the development and implementation of the Compact would be based on the following principles:

• broad-based, private sector-led growth;
• improved governance and service delivery;
• greater investment in infrastructure;
• country leadership, mutual accountability and mutual responsibility between Forum island countries and their development partners;
• the need to draw on international best-practice on Aid Effectiveness; and
• a revitalised commitment to the achievement of the MDGs in the Pacific.

14. With the full cooperation and engagement of the CROP agencies, the Forum Secretariat is implementing the Compact to ensure effective coordination on sustainable developments region-wise. I want to take the opportunity of this Workshop to thank you all in the UN family for your much valued support with the Compact, including the peer review exercises undertaken in several Forum countries and which are currently ongoing.

The challenges
15. Essential as both are, having the master strategy in the Pacific Plan, and the Forum Compact as the principal tool for implementation, is just part of the strategic regional structure, and perhaps the easier part. The other part, more crucially, is tracking performance, foremost among the CROP organisations and certainly tracking the effectiveness of the results of development efforts in member countries.

16. We at the Forum Secretariat continue to grapple with some basic questions:

• What is the appropriate balance between regional and national efforts?
• How do you build national ownership of regional frameworks?
• How do you track performance of regional framework when implementation often requires reform at the national level?

17. We do not have ready answers in all cases, but we want to work with the United Nations family as we struggle to find the answers and the right approaches. While the UN and the Forum Secretariat have different lines of accountability, our constituencies are the same. I should think we share the same interest in determining the most effective way to deliver services that are relevant, timely and of a high quality to member countries.

18. We believe completely in effective coordination – coordination because given the spread of the region no other approach is really feasible; and because the Pacific Islands Forum is committed to strengthened regional cooperation and integration.

19. We all know that the diversity of the region presents unique and difficult challenges. Extremes of smallness and isolation in a vast ocean are established conditions; we all know they are compounded by political instability associated with issues of ethnicity, socio-economic disparities, lack of good governance, changing cultural values and pressures of global environment and financial forces. I say these things not because they are new to you or to us in the Forum Secretariat, but more in the effort to continue to find deeper and proper understanding of them.

20. The United Nations and the Forum share concerns and responsibilities on major issues in the region, key among them being the achievement of the MDGs, implementation of the Mauritius strategy and the response to climate change.

21. We learnt from the Human Face conference organised by the UN in Port Vila last year how the global economic crises exposed the sheer vulnerability of Pacific island countries to economic forces and to so many others. Poverty and the complications around poverty remain a central concern, in part because significant data gaps to monitor the poverty situation remains problematic for the region. All indications however suggest that poverty is most probably on the increase. This is likely a result of low economic growth, lack of employment opportunities and rising inflation across the region, made worse by the recent global financial crisis, as well as the food and fuel crises before that. Our reading is that addressing poverty towards the 2015 deadline will remain an uphill battle.

22. But there are other problems. The special case for smaller island developing States acknowledged at the UN Conference on the Environment and Development and in the Barbados Programme and the MSI is no longer so special, and we will need to return to this at Rio+20.

23. With respect to climate change, I think the Pacific would need to be much more strategic in its approach. Understandably, adaptation funding has always been the priority for the region. Yet, some 80% of globally available climate change funding so far has been allocated to mitigation, with 20% to adaptation needs. Quite clearly, in my view, the Pacific needs to consider co-benefits that can come with accessing mitigation also, including shifting towards lower carbon economies. Certainly, these will be large infrastructural costs but ultimately, so will be the rewards.

Time for reflection
24. The occasion of this 40th Anniversary year for the Forum is one for reflection on the range of regional endeavours and the directions traversed. Much of moment has been attempted, some with notable results as in education and in a general way with health standards, others, like the environment and the oceans, involve many outstanding issues which are still being worked on.

25. Political leadership and political stability provide essential direction for sustainable development efforts. I would have to say that the general situation in the region, in the past and as currently the case, has failed to provide the required environment for stability.

UN – PIFS relations
26. In closing I want to acknowledge the important collaboration that is already in place and underway in multiple areas between the UN, the Forum Secretariat and other CROP Agencies. I believe we can improve our collective efforts and we should take practical steps to do so. Implementation of the Pacific Plan relies on a range of stakeholders across the region, as does implementation of the UNDAF.

27. We could also consider how the development of a performance framework for the Pacific Plan provides greater opportunities to align our Monitoring and Evaluation efforts. There may be scope for more regular and structured UN-CROP Agency high-level meetings to facilitate greater alignment of our work. There could also be an opportunity to explore further how the UN system could engage with the CROP Joint Country Strategies for Forum Island Countries. I think we need to consider these approaches and find the best and most effective ways to strengthen our engagement.

28. I wish you well with your discussions and thinking over the next few days. I look forward to working closer with the UN system in the Pacific region, recognising that a robust UNDAF that reflects the high level aspirations of the Leaders and people of the Pacific should be a first step in the process.

Thank you.

(Ends)

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