22nd SMALLER ISLAND STATES LEADERS’ MEETING,
[Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands]
3 September 2013
OPENING REMARKS BY TUILOMA NERONI SLADE,
PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARY GENERAL
President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, H.E Christopher J Loeak,
Distinguished Leaders of the Smaller Island States of the Pacific Islands Forum,
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 held on this beautiful island atoll of Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
2. Mr President, may I say that we are all most honoured and delighted to be here, and to offer to you, your Government and the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands our collective appreciation for hosting this meeting and in particular for the warm welcome and courtesies extended to us all since our arrival.
3. Excellencies, this is the 22nd of your meetings as Leaders of the Smaller Islands States of the Forum. These meetings have become a special feature of the annual gathering of Forum Leaders, and essential to focus attention to the issues which are unique to the smallest among the Forum island countries.
4. We need to look more closely at the factors underscoring and which exacerbate the exposure and vulnerability of the Smaller Island States, and with a view to finding adequate responses, especially in the face of global forces affecting the environment and the sustainability of economic and social development.
5. As the first in the series of meetings of Forum Leaders this week, it is also the opportunity to be clear and specific on the needs and requirements of the Smaller Island States and how effectively these might be presented in other meetings in the course of the week, before all Forum member countries and also before the participating development partners.
6. SIS Officials in their preparations for your meeting today, were very mindful of the need for your deliberations to be strategic and practical in focus, so that the outcomes and your decisions are not simply ‘noted’ in the Forum Leaders Communiqué, but more usefully to be incorporated as decisive actions as part of the Forum Leaders decisions. In that respect, your meeting agenda as developed by the Officials is designed to provide such a strategic focus.
7. As the custom is, the Officials’ report on their preparatory work and recommendations to Leaders is contained in the letter dated 05 August 2013 from the Chairperson of the SIS Officials Committee, to the incoming Chair of the SIS Leaders meeting.
8. And thus the Officials’ report will be the main working document for your meeting. It contains a selection of issues for your consideration and guidance, the main elements being:
- the resourcing of the SIS Development Fund Programme;
- the potential for an SIS strategy within the new Framework for Pacific Integration being proposed by the Pacific Plan Review;
- SIS special requirements in climate change financing;
- the role of tourism in development within the SIS;
- addressing youth unemployment through collaboration at both the national and regional levels; and
- the strategic participation of SIS in the 2014 SIDS Conference in Samoa.
9. The independent review of the Pacific Plan highlights the fact that we are reaching a critical phase in our journey with the Pacific Plan. Your agenda today provides you the space to deliberate on the implications of the Pacific Plan review in addressing in more specific and strategic terms the issues and priorities relating to the SIS.
10. As proposed in the new Framework for Pacific Integration there are provisions which could better shape and develop a strategy to address the specific needs of the Smaller Island States. This would be a significant opportunity for the SIS and undoubtedly one firmly to be seized; and the Secretariat stands ready to facilitate and to carry out your directions on the matter, as an outcome of this meeting or of the collective deliberations of all Forum Leaders.
11. As the Officials have suggested, there is also need to be strategic about the participation of SIS in the International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa next year. For our region, the International Conference on SIDS presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute substantively and to influence the global development agenda on island communities. There is scope to draw clearer alignment across all international commitments on sustainable development, particularly as the region is also heavily involved in constructing a new global development agenda post-2015.
12. Among the SIDS regions, the Pacific has one of the most distinctive and extensive arrangements in regionalism. Between the lifetime of the SPC and the Forum, Pacific regionalism has been an experience of well over half-a-century. These regional arrangements, of the CROP agencies and their collaborative efforts with the UN, the EU and other development partners and stakeholders, and regional mechanisms like the Pacific Plan and the Forum Compact, all need to be employed to put the best case – the special case – for Pacific small island communities, in the conference in Samoa next year. In all this work, in all aspects, it is essential, simply essential, that the CROP agencies are included, not excluded.
13. Climate change will remain a long-term challenge, and unquestionably a priority of the highest concern for SIS countries and this is rightly reflected in the theme Marshalling Pacific Leadership in tackling Climate Change set for this year’s Forum Leaders’ meeting – and we thank our Chairman, Mr President, for the excellent initiative of this theme. The opportunity for your Excellencies to hear from the European Union Commissioner on Climate Action, Madame Hedegaard, is thus most appropriate and to be welcomed.
14. 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 and CROP agencies positive assessments of the work of the SIS Unit within the Forum Secretariat. In particular, I can say that there is overall appreciation and recognition of the assistance being provided by the SIS officers placed in your capitals. I wish to thank Honourable Leaders for your support and encouragement in our efforts to further develop and strengthen the roles the SIS Officers.
15. The value of the SIS Officers in-country has extended to supporting other CROP agencies in their respective programmes and activities. We recognise this as a maturing of the role of the SIS Officers, and also as clear evidence of CROP agencies coordinating and working together on country-programmes.
16. As I conclude, allow me to acknowledge the presence of fellow-CROP Executives and their representatives, and to thank all CROP organisations for their important contributions to the development of the Smaller Island States and their much valued cooperation in our own efforts in the Forum Secretariat to support the development aspirations and special needs of the SIS.
17. And so, Hon Chairman, may I wish you and the SIS Leaders a successful meeting and a productive week of deliberations.