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SG Slade's Remarks at the Forum Regional Security Committee Meeting, Suva, Fiji

OPENING ADDRESS BY

SECRETARY GENERAL TUILOMA NERONI SLADE

FORUM REGIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE MEETING

Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji

5 June 2013

Madame Chairperson,

Excellencies,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished representatives of Forum member countries,

Distinguished representatives of CROP agencies, regional law enforcement agencies and development partners

Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Warm greetings to you all; welcome to this year’s meeting of the Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC).

To you, Madame Chair, warmest felicitations; we are here to support you and we look forward to your leadership and guidance in our work.  Through you, may I also express our collective appreciation to the Republic of Marshall Islands, the past Chair of the Committee.

 2.       Colleagues: since your last meeting, there have been several key developments relevant to the work of this Committee.

 Arms Trade Treaty

 3.       Last year, the Committee endorsed a common Forum position for the international negotiations to develop an Arms Trade Treaty to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms.  Member countries advocated that common position in the two United Nations negotiating conferences held in July 2012, and in March of this year. 

 4.       The final treaty text adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 2 April 2013, reflects in large part key aspects advocated in the common Forum position.  These includesmall arms and light weapons being covered in the scope of the treaty, a clear statement about State Parties’ obligation to prevent the diversion of weapons and the establishment of a framework for international assistance to support State Parties with implementation.

5.       The Arms Trade Treaty, which opened for signature two days ago, will come into force following its ratification by the 50th State Party.  I would therefore encourage Forum members to consider signing and ratifying the Treaty to expedite its coming into effect.

 Regional UXO strategy

 6.       Unexploded ordnance and remnants from World War II continue to pose serious security and environmental threats in affected countries in the region. This was recognised by Forum Leaders at their meeting in 2011.  The dangers of UXOs include their effect on land-use, personal physical safety risks to individuals and communities as well as the potential for reuse of live ammunition and explosives for criminal enterprise.

 7.       I congratulate the Committee for endorsing, at your meeting last year, a Regional UXO Strategy to assist member countries manage the negative effects of UXOs.  The first implementation meeting of the Strategy was convened and hosted by Palau in October 2012, and a follow-up workshop will be held in Brisbane later this month.  The Brisbane meeting will seek, amongst other things, to support the development of domestic UXO policies and national Plans of Action.  I take this opportunity to reiterate the Secretariat’s commitment to support member countries implement the UXO Strategy.

 Transnational crime and counter terrorism

 8.       For a number of years now the Committee has considered transnational crime assessment reports – a joint collaboration between regional law enforcement agencies and relevant CROP organisations.  These assessments enable and enhance information sharing among law enforcement practitioners and their policy development colleagues, and also provide an analysis of current and emerging transnational organised crime issues affecting Pacific island countries.  There is significant concern over reports from a number of countries of instances of law enforcement officials and politicians cooperating with organised crime groups to perpetrate serious criminal offences.  These are the actions that will corrode and destabilise communities and national and regional development efforts.

9.       These assessment reports have helped support ongoing efforts by law enforcement authorities to address transnational crimes, for example, human trafficking and of drugs, people smuggling and money laundering.  A recurring feature of Pacific annual transnational crime reports has been the need to build capacities of national law enforcement agencies to enable them to effectively combat transnational crimes.  Let me reiterate the Forum Secretariat’s ongoing commitment to assist member countries in addressing transnational crime issues and in supporting national capacity building.

Security sector governance

 10.     It is self evident that the effective governance of a nation’s security institutions is essential for national stability.  Ensuring that these institutions are accountable and aware of their roles and responsibilities will provide the necessary enabling environment for development based on the rule of law and full observance of human rights.  

 11.     Over the past several years, the Forum Secretariat has worked closely with the UNDP Pacific Centre to enhance security sector governance, focussing on the promotion and development of effective and accountable state security institutions with robust governance and civilian oversight mechanisms.  Just a few weeks ago, the Secretariat hosted a regional security sector governance Workshop to discuss and explore the development of national security policies, as well as national priorities to guide national and regional initiatives.  I was pleased to note the inclusion of regional civil society organisations in the Workshop, and express the hope that the development of national security policies will take into account the views of our communities.

 Human rights

 12.     With respect to human rights, I note that the first cycle of reporting under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process will soon conclude.  I understand that most Forum member countries have undertaken their reporting and I take this opportunity to reaffirm the Secretariat’s fullest support, not only with preparations for their respective reporting, but also and where appropriate, the implementation of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review Committee.

 13.     I wish to advise the Committee of the establishment of a Forum Working Group to assist the Secretariat scope the possible establishment of regional human rights mechanisms in the Pacific.  The Group first met last month here at the Secretariat.

 14.     I am also pleased to inform you of a partnership agreement the Secretariat has established with the SPC Regional Rights Resource Team to deliver several identified human rights activities under European Union project funding for the ratification of core human rights conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  These activities include the development of a statistical guide to treaty reporting, mentoring and the training of officers from the Smaller Islands States to undertake human rights activities, and capacity building for relevant Government Departments and NGOs on data collection for treaty reporting.

 Conflict prevention and human security

 15.     With respect to conflict prevention and human security issues, the Secretariat has a wide ranging work programme covering, amongst others, scoping the circumstances surrounding climate change induced migration and addressing sexual and gender based violence.

 16.     The Secretariat also convenes a dialogue to strengthen engagement with civil society on conflict, peace, and security issues.  This year the Secretariat collaborated with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to co-host a regional CSO dialogue, the outcomes of which have been conveyed to this Committee for its consideration.  I offer warm congratulations to the organisations that participated in this regional CSO dialogue, each of which worked tirelessly to advocate for the human rights of their diverse constituent communities, and I also commend this Committee for its initiative to strengthen engagement with civil society.

Activities under the Biketawa Declaration

17.     This is an historic year for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which will celebrate its tenth anniversary next month.  This year will also mark the transition of RAMSI’s development assistance programmes to bilateral arrangements with Australia, New Zealand and other donor partners.  However, as I think the Committee is aware, the regional policing component, the RAMSI Participating Police Force, will continue until 2017, and I am pleased to confirm that.

18.     On behalf of this Committee, allow me to offer warm congratulations to the people and Government of the Solomon Islands on very significant progress achieved with respect to the restoration of law and order, economic and public sector governance, law and justice, and the effective government machinery that is now functioning.  I want also to thank you all, and the Governments you represent as RAMSI participating countries, in particular Australia and New Zealand, for supporting the people and Government of the Solomon Islands in achieving these milestones.  Let me also on behalf of the Committee express to the Special Coordinator of RAMSI, Nicholas Coppell, warmest congratulations and our grateful appreciation for his outstanding work and leadership role in RAMSI.

 19.     As the focus shifts from RAMSI to bilateral arrangements with Australia, New Zealand and other donor partners from 1 July 2013, it is important to keep in mind the underlying causes that resulted in the request for regional intervention in the first place, and that RAMSI’s transition be task-bound, and not time-bound.

20.     With regard to the situation in Fiji, I advise that the Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) on Fiji visited Suva on 12 April 2013, during which it noted progress made by the interim government toward elections.  However, Ministers expressed concerns about departures from Fiji’s previously announced Roadmap arrangements and emphasised the need for a constitution building process that will receive the wide support of the people of Fiji and the respect of the international community.

 21.     The MCG will provide a report of its visit for Leaders’ consideration in Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands in September.

 Conclusion

 22.     Excellencies/colleagues, thank you for your presence here today and your continued support in the work of the Secretariat.  I take this opportunity to reiterate and reaffirm our commitment to assisting and supporting you and your respective countries in the maintenance of regional and national security.  

 23.     Under your leadership, Madam Chairperson, we have every reason to look forward to firm and positive results.

 Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

           

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