SG Slade's Opening Remarks, PPAC 2012

Opening Remarks by Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade

Pacific Plan Action Committee Meeting
Forum Secretariat, Suva
31 July 2012

Your Excellencies
Senior Officials
Fellow CROP Executives
Members of PPAC

I wish you all a warm welcome to your Secretariat Headquarters and to this annual gathering of the Pacific Plan Action Committee meeting (or P PAC).

2. I would like to thank Vanuatu for their excellent chairing of last year’s PPAC meeting, and I welcome New Zealand as the PPAC Chair for this year. We do have a heavy agenda but I am sure that Mr Hawke will keep us on track over the next 2 days.

3. This is an important time for the Pacific Plan. It is seven years since the Leaders at their meeting in Madang in 2005 endorsed the Pacific Plan for strengthening regional cooperation and integration.

4. It is three years since a medium-term framework of priorities was endorsed to guide implementation of the Plan and they are due for an update. We have an ideal opportunity to take stock of changes to the regional and international development agenda and ensure that the Pacific Plan continues to represent our highest aspirations for regionalism.

5. Since our meeting last year, there have been a number of significant developments in the global development agenda. Discussions on what will follow the Millennium Development Goals have been at the forefront of international thinking. In the Pacific, we have learnt much about the MDGs and their application in the context of Smaller Island Developing States.

6. My view is that the Pacific region was unable to sufficiently influence the process of developing the MDGs in 2000. The MDG targets may have made total sense to other parts of the world, but in our case they had to be localised in many instances to reflect particular Pacific contexts.

7. Today we can contribute to the global debate on what will exist after the MDGs in 2015. The evidence generated by the Forum Compact has expanded our understanding and strengthened our arguments. It has shown what the Pacific experience of achieving the MDGs looks like, from the perspective of a country like Papua New Guinea, with a population of some 7 million people, to the perspective of Niue with around 1,500.

8. We can contribute to the global debate on Sustainable Development Goals. I was fortunate enough to travel to Brazil last month to attend the Rio+20 Conference – along with some 49,000 other participants. Although there has been some criticism of the lack of ambition in the Rio outcome document, I believe there were largely positive outcomes from the Conference for our region.

9. A number of issues of importance to the Pacific were reflected in the outcomes document for Rio+20 – ‘The Future We Want’. These included the re-affirmation of the special case for Small Island Developing States. The outcomes included a significant number of paragraphs on the importance of Oceans and seas for global sustainable development – a good result for our sea of islands. It also announced the convening of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States − or Barbados+20 − which could be convened in the Pacific region. These outcomes were a result of Pacific efforts to ensure that our issues were heard by the international community. The challenge, as always, will be translating statements and high-level outcomes into tangible actions and benefits on the ground.

10. We can also contribute to the global debate on development effectiveness. As I mentioned earlier, the evidence generated by the Forum Compact has galvanised our thinking on what development effectiveness means for our region. The peer review process has been a central element of that work. It has enabled Forum countries to learn from each other’s experiences, and to identify practical and concrete steps that will make a difference at the country level.

11. This innovative approach to reviewing country systems was acknowledged at the 4th High Level Forum on Development Effectiveness, held in Busan late last year. Delegates were very interested in what our region is doing around peer reviews. The representatives of Forum island governments sitting around this table can be justifiably proud of their willingness to work together and share experiences. This cooperative spirit is also reflected in our work on public financial management, and the willingness of countries to open their systems to scrutiny.

12. Our engagement with the global development agenda and our regional experience has been shaped by the Pacific Plan, our master strategy for regional integration and cooperation. The Plan has provided a high-level framework to articulate the priorities for the Pacific region to the global community. It has encouraged a collaborative approach amongst Forum island countries, CROP agencies, development partners and non state actors to the common challenges facing us today – challenges which individual countries on their own cannot tackle, but only through collective effort.

13. This is the time to review the Pacific Plan. The global and regional agenda is beginning to shift, and the Pacific Plan must remain relevant and contemporary to our situation of development. In any review of the Plan, we must ensure that Forum island countries and their experience of regionalism are at the heart of the debate. This is a Plan that must be owned by the region, and that speaks on behalf of and for the region to express our unique challenges.

14. I look forward to our discussions over the next two days. This is an important moment for regionalism and for defining the Future We Want.

Thank you.

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