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Address by Forum Chair and President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands at the Pacific Conference on the Future of the ACP Group, Apia, Samoa

THE PACIFIC CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE ACP GROUP

17-19 October 2013
Apia, Samoa

Address by

H.E. Christopher J Loeak
President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands,
Chair of the Pacific ACP Leaders

 

The Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Lupesoli’ai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi

His Excellency, the ACP Secretary General, Mr Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni;

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade;

Honourable Ministers;

Ambassadors;

Representatives of regional organisations;

Distinguished colleagues from the private sector and civil society;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

1. I am pleased to join his Excellency the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuiplaepa Lupesoli’ai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in welcoming you this morning, to the Pacific Conference to discuss the future of the ACP Group.

 2. May I, firstly, acknowledge with much appreciation the excellent arrangements made by our host, the Government and the people of Samoa, and for their warm hospitality. Let me also thank the ACP Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for organising the event, and to the European Union for their funding. Our consultation during the next three days is a very important step in contributing to the discussion on the future of the ACP group.  Your views and perspectives, as representatives of the Pacific region, are needed on the future of the ACP Group beyond 2020.

 3. The ACP Group has changed considerably since its formal establishment in 1975 by the Georgetown Agreement. The ACP Group was formed with a vision of international cooperation emanating from the need to strengthen the former colonies and help establish these countries as independent economic and political regions.  Over the past four decades or so, many of the ACP Countries have matured as independent nations. We have seen the emergence of a new generation of leaders and representatives who are more than ever conscious of the potential their countries have in contributing to global development. They have made efforts to have their voices heard in the global arena. 

 4. As the ACP Group comes of age and with the expiry of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement as contained in the Cotonou Agreement, it is timely that the ACP countries not only take stock of their past achievements and challenges but more importantly to reflect on its future. 

 5. We, in the Pacific, have benefitted from the workings of the ACP group and the European Union over the past four decades in the areas of human development, strengthening good governance and democracy, efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, participating in the multilateral trading system, fostering principles of sustainable development, building transparency and accountability in managing public finances, and ensuring food security.

 6. Under the ACP grouping and through the Lome Conventions and the Cotonou Agreement, the ACP States have been able to access financial resources from the European Union to undertake development initiatives. The European Development Funds (EDFs) have been the cornerstone of many national and regional development initiatives. The 11th EDF covering the period 2014 to 2020 is currently being programmed. Reflecting on the experiences of previous EDFs, the importance of the ACP group in channeling the funds for its effective usage is crucial. Whether it takes the form of an intra-ACP facility, a Regional indicative programme, a national indicative programme or a new arrangement, it is vital to ensure optimal usage of the resources.

 7. The Pacific ACP Leaders at their meeting in 2012 affirmed that the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat continue in the role of Regional Authorising Officer and that the Forum Secretariat be duly mandated to coordinate the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme programming exercise for the 11th EDF. I would like to thank the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for fulfilling this role.

 8. The SWOT analysis, as outlined in the Van Reisen Report, provides a good basis for our discussions on the ACP group.  I urge everyone to use the opportunity to share their experiences and expectations in a candid and constructive manner.

 9. A particular challenge that we, the Pacific Islanders, are faced with is Climate Change. Climate Change is the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific and one of the greatest challenges for the entire world. It is for this reason that we chose the theme of this year’s Pacific Islands’ Forum Leaders meeting to be “Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge".

 Allow me to spend a few moments to dwell on this important issue.  

 10. Recognizing our unique vulnerability to climate change, the predicted catastrophic impacts on the security and livelihoods of our people, and the significant benefits that come with our transition to renewable, clean and sustainable energy sources, the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum confirmed their climate leadership in the form of the commitments listed in the ‘Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership’, which provides a major platform to garner much needed actions to tackle climate change.

 11. As you are aware, apart from the Pacific Island Forum member countries, which include Australia and New Zealand, the Declaration has been signed by the European Union, UK, US, the State of Hawaii and more recently Costa Rica has indicated its willingness to come on board.

 12. This is where the Leadership of the ACP Group is important not only to demonstrate our solidarity but also to take the much needed actions on climate change.  Notwithstanding our differences in terms of geography, circumstances, sizes etc, the impact of climate change on our development is undisputed. Moreover, I know, that like our small Pacific states, you have all made great strides in investing in actions such as cleaner renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and are taking actions to ensure security to your lands and livelihoods. May I urge my ACP colleagues to sign up to the Majuro Declaration. This does not replace the other processes such as UNFCCC but, as I said during my presentation to the UN Secretary-General, this would help him catalyse further action and leadership, for his proposed summit next year.

 13. This brings me to the issue of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), which is key to addressing not just climate change and natural disasters, but other important economic issues such as structural reforms, trade, capacity building, and sectoral developments.  Here, please allow me to underscore the importance of our marine and ocean resources that are central to the economies of our small island nations. Our so called ‘blue economy’ is really our future and we need urgent attention in dealing with issues of increasing pollution, illegal fishing and sustainability.

 14. We would like to urge the OECD countries to live up to their responsibilities under the Paris, Accra and Busan Declarations on Aid Effectiveness, and meet their commitments as per the international benchmark of delivering ODA of no less than 0.7% of their Gross National Product (GNP).

 15. These discussions come at an opportune time as far as the Pacific is concerned. The review of the Pacific Plan and its recommendations should provide us further opportunity to examine the linkages, and the modality of the ACP operations in this region.

 16. We are aware of the continuing desire of members to ensure that their national interests and circumstances are better reflected, obviously there is no ‘one size that fits all’. Whilst there are major advantages in the positions of strengths which come from groupings such as these, our experiences also suggest that we need to untangle the heavy bureaucracy that may hinder our ability to make a real difference on the ground.

17. To this end, as Chair of the PIFS, may I suggest that we consider a small representative group, and supported by the Secretariat, be tasked to provide us with clearer recommendations about the future, based on our experiences and taking into account the findings of the Pacific Plan review, and  other regional and international developments.

18. Finally, I encourage your active engagement and participation. Your candid exchanges and views will be important for the Pacific position on the future of the ACP Group and will also assist in determining the continued relations and engagement with the European Union.

 Thank you and best wishes with the deliberations over the next three days.

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