Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at SIS Leaders' meeting

[Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 27th August, 2012]


Prime Minister of the Cook Islands; Hon Henry Puna
Distinguished Leaders of the Smaller Island States of the Pacific Islands Forum
Honorable Ministers,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers
CROP Executives and their representatives

First, may I warmly welcome your Excellencies to this series of meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders.

2. It is a particular pleasure to do so in the Cook Islands, a key member of the SIS grouping, the land of the beautiful people, as famed for its natural attractions as it is for its commitment to the principles and values of the Forum. So, in your name, let me say that we are all most honoured and delighted to be here, and to offer to the Prime Minister and Government of the Cook Islands our collective appreciation for hosting this meeting.

3. Your meeting today is a coming-of-age, for this is the 21st occasion you have met as Leaders of the Smaller Islands States of the Forum. It would be fitting to mark the occasion with outcomes to set clear directions and to strengthen the Secretariat’s services to the SIS and your communities.
4. For good reason, your meetings have become a special feature of the annual gathering of Forum Leaders, for it is the occasion to give attention to the issues which are unique to the smallest among the Forum island countries. It is the opportunity dedicated in the Forum calendar to look more closely at the factors which underscore the particular exposure and vulnerability of the Smaller Island States, especially in the face of global forces affecting the environment and sustainable economic development.
5. The scheduling of your meeting is significant, for as the first in the series of meetings of Forum Leaders this week it provides the opportunity ahead of other meetings for you strategically to caucus and reflect on the issues of particular importance to the Smaller Island States. It serves also to reinforce and to highlight the recognition of your countries as the most vulnerable among Forum members.

6. SIS Officials in their preparations for your meeting today, were very mindful of the need for your deliberations to be strategic in practical ways, so that the outcomes and your decisions are not simply ‘noted’ in the Forum Leaders Communique, but that they do become effective and meaningful as part of the Forum Leaders decisions. In that respect, the agenda before you as developed by the Officials is designed to provide that strategic focus.

7. The Officials report on their preparatory work and recommendations to Leaders is contained in the letter dated 30 July 2012 from the Chair of the SIS Officials Committee, to the incoming Chair of the SIS Leaders meeting.

8. The report will be the main working document for your meeting. It contains a selection of issues for your consideration and guidance, including:
• the potential for a more strategic positioning of the SIS interests within the Pacific Plan in the proposed review of the Pacific Plan;
• SIS special requirements in climate change financing;
• sub regional transport services, including shipping and air services;
• the importance of trade policy frameworks in guiding trade negotiations and agreements;
• tourism potential in the SIS; and
• the centrality of gender empowerment and equality in the achievement of national and regional outcomes.

9. It will be appreciated that these are issues which cannot be considered in isolation or as SIS issues per se, in part because they fall within the scope of the other Forum-related meetings this week. Furthermore, they are issues which must be considered within the broader context of recent global processes on pursuing more integrated sustainable development and effective development cooperation.

10. One such global process was the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, held in Busan Korea, which adopted the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation calling for a more inclusive and transparent global partnership in the delivery, management and monitoring of development efforts. All this reaffirms the catalytic role of development cooperation in supporting development outcomes.

11. The other global process is the RIO+20 Conference in which many of your Excellencies participated. The outcomes of Rio+20 bring sustainable development goals once again to the forefront of global attention and calls for a more balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
12. A key part of the Rio+20 outcomes is to ascertain the path for international aspirations beyond the 2015 time-frame set for the Millennium Development Goals. The international consultative process under UN auspices is now gathering global momentum to determine development sustainable goals (DSGs) for the post-2015 era; and we in the Pacific must respond and participate to ensure that the global development agenda after 2015 fairly and correctly reflects our regional aspirations and, more importantly, that these be aligned with the Pacific Plan objectives.

13. The Pacific Plan remains the master strategy for regional cooperation and integration. The modalities for the review of the Pacific Plan to commence next year will be determined by all Forum Leaders later this week. For your agenda today, you are being asked to consider how the review of the Pacific Plan might provide for ways to better address the specific needs of the Smaller Island States.

14. We, at the Secretariat, believe this is timely, in light of the outcomes of RIO+20 and Busan and our own efforts in the Forum region to shape the global debate on the post-2015 development agenda and the necessary alignment with the Pacific Plan.

15. With respect to the Secretariat’s dedicated programme of support to the SIS, my report to Leaders is that we are receiving from your countries positive assessments of the work of the SIS Unit within the Forum Secretariat. In particular, I can say that overall there is compliment and appreciation for the assistance being provided by the SIS Pacific Plan desk officers placed at your capitals, and that there seems to be promising prospect in developing and strengthening their role.

16. My understanding is that a desk officer has now been assigned to every SIS. I am told that these officers have been instrumental in facilitating regular reporting on the activities that SIS contribute to the implementation the Pacific Plan and other Forum regional frameworks. The Secretariat will continue to support these placements and ensure that Desk Officers are properly resourced.

17. I cannot conclude these remarks without acknowledging the work and contribution of all CROP organisations to the development of the Smaller Island States and the much valued cooperation and assistance of CROP colleagues in our own efforts in the Forum Secretariat to support the development aspirations and special needs of the SIS.

18. May I wish the SIS Leaders a fruitful meeting and a productive week of deliberations.

Thank you.


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