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SG Slade's Remarks at the Special Pacific Plan Action Committee Meeting, Suva, Fiji

Caption: Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade delivering his opening remarks to members of the Special Pacific Plan Action Committee held at the Forum Secretariat, Suva.

Special Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) Meeting
Forum Secretariat, Suva
28 May 2013

Opening Remarks by Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade,

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

 Right Honourable Sir Mekere Morauta

and esteemed Pacific Plan Review team members,

Senior Officials,

Fellow CROP Executives,

Members of PPAC

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

  1. I would like to thank New Zealand for their excellent chairing of our last PPAC meeting in July 2012, and I welcome the Cook Islands as the PPAC Chair for 2013. The Chairing role is particularly significant this year with not one but two PPAC meetings scheduled – this special meeting to discuss the Pacific Plan Review, and the annual PPAC meeting in early August to address a broader agenda. We look forward to supporting and assisting the Cook Islands in their role to guide our discussions during these important events.
  2. PPAC members will recall that at their annual meeting last year, the Terms of Reference for a comprehensive review of the Pacific Plan were agreed on, and were subsequently endorsed by Leaders at their meeting in the Cook Islands in September. Leaders nominated the Right Honourable Sir Mekere Morauta to undertake the challenging task of leading and chairing the Review.
  3. May I say that we are very fortunate that Sir Mekere agreed to take on this role as Eminent Person. With the assistance of a very capable team of officials and consultants, Sir Mekere has invested considerable time and energy into understanding the Pacific Plan’s role in the region, and into exploring both its strengths and areas of potential improvement. This on top of his other important and heavy schedule of commitments.
  4. Since commencing their work in December last year, the Review team has undertaken extensive travels across the region, visiting every Forum Member country, and also our Associate Members: New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Many of you here will have been engaged in the consultations the Review team undertook in your countries. Your contributions to the Review have undoubtedly been of great value to the team, and we thank you for the time you have given to this important exercise.
  5. In accordance with Leaders’ wishes, Forum Secretariat staff have also given significant time to the Review, providing administrative support to Sir Mekere and his team, and facilitating their consultations. At all times, however, we have been mindful that this is an independent Review process: the Secretariat plays an important supporting role, but is just one of many key stakeholders that the Review team has been listening to and working with. PPAC is the steering committee to the Review, and thus all of you here have an important role to play in guiding the Review team’s ongoing work.
  6. We have seen from the team’s Review Notes some of their initial thoughts on issues such as:
  7. the importance of the Plan evolving to reflect the changing regional and international context;
  8. the often complex relationships between the Pacific Plan and the various agencies that implement it;
  9. the impact of strengthening sub-regional groupings on regional initiatives under the Plan;
  10. the role of the Plan in reflecting and projecting norms and values; the scope and potential resourcing of the Plan; and
  11. the contrasting requirements of developing the Pacific Plan as a regional development strategy versus a regional cooperation framework.
  12. The team has taken steps to sharpen definitions of what regionalism means, and has commissioned expert work to help guide thinking on complex governance issues. All of this work has been widely shared, and made available to the public on the Pacific Plan Review website. As envisaged in the Terms of Reference that PPAC endorsed last year, this has truly been an open, transparent, and widely consultative Review process.
  13. However, until this week we have not had the opportunity to hear directly from the team on their thoughts and proposals for the future of the Pacific Plan. These thoughts were presented for the first time at the Regional Consultative Meeting the Review team hosted yesterday. Today, there will be an opportunity for further explanations from the team, and time for reflection and discussion. Importantly, today PPAC will also have a role in endorsing the Review team’s next steps, and making suggestions on the shape of the final Review product to be presented to Leaders at their meeting in September.
  14. In playing this important role, I encourage you all to be open to the prospect and opportunities of changes to the Pacific Plan that will improve its usefulness and value to our region. At its foundation, the Plan is focused on achieving the Leaders’ vision for the Pacific – a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free and worthwhile lives – and we should keep this aspirational goal in mind. If our current processes for regional priority setting can be improved, most certainly we should do so. If this requires substantial change let there be no hesitation in altering the status quo.
  15. I know that Sir Mekere Morauta has brought his considerable experience and wisdom to bear in leading and guiding the Review team to the initial recommendations that they will present today, and I look forward to engaging with you all in an open discussion of their findings and proposals.
  16.  Thank you – let us proceed with the important task ahead.
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