Opening Statement at the Smaller Island States Officials Meeting by Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade

Smaller Island States Officials Meeting

Forum Secretariat, Suva

01 July 2014


Opening Statement by Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade



Distinguished Senior Officials of Smaller Island States,

Representative from Tokelau attending as an Observer

Representatives of CROP agencies

          On behalf of the Executive and Staff of the Secretariat, I extend to you all a very warm welcome to your Secretariat headquarters.  This meeting is, of course, the first of two meetings of senior officials this week, in preparation for the upcoming meetings of SIS and Forum Leaders at the end of this month in the Republic of Palau.  I also extend warm congratulations to Palau on assuming the role of Chair for your meeting today.

2.       Colleagues, I would like to take the opportunity of this, my final SIS Officials meeting, to provide some reflections of the SIS grouping and its relationship to the Forum Secretariat.

3.       Let me start by reminding this meeting that the SIS grouping was established in recognition of the particular vulnerabilities and challenges faced by your States, above and beyond those of other member countries of the Forum.

4.       Your small population sizes, limited natural resources base and constraints on administrative capacity make your counties particularly vulnerable to all forms of external pressures and shocks. Your situation of vulnerability allots to the Pacific Island Forum special responsibility to respond to SIS needs – a responsibility which I know Forum Leaders accept with care and seriousness.

5.       The vulnerability of SIS to the impacts of climate change is internationally acknowledged, as acutely experienced by low-lying atoll States with exposure to the dangers of the rising seas, to damage from storm surge inundation as well to droughts – a result of extreme weather changes and climate events - very real and present phenomena for all SIS communities.

6.       Your countries are buffeted by globalisation too, and by the myriad of global economic and environmental forces in an ever globalising world and the demands they make on all states, irrespective of size.  These are real challenges that require real and realistic solutions.

7.       As colleagues will recall, the Review of the Pacific Plan by Sir Mekere Morauta and his team highlighted the acute vulnerabilities and dependencies of SIS, and I quote, “it is here (in SIS countries) that we are seeing new – and wholly unacceptable – forms of Pacific poverty”.  Sir Mekere argued that real benefits to SIS would come through, and again I quote from the Report, “political dialogue and new political settlements about their dependencies on others, and their practical – tangible – integration with bigger economies.”

8.       The findings of the Morauta report are a challenge to us all.  It reminds us that we have to find ‘game changing’ strategies and approaches if we are able effectively to address the challenges of the smaller states in the Pacific.

9.       I believe that our collective and informed response to the Review recommendations, and in particular the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, will begin to open up prospect and real opportunities for changing how we do business.

10.     I was very pleased that the Forum Secretariat had an opportunity to consult in-country with each and every SIS member country on the draft Framework.  These were extremely valuable discussions and have ensured that SIS issues are on the main agenda.  Again, the Framework and its priority setting mechanisms are a major policy shift for the Pacific Islands Forum, and SIS member countries need to be part of the process if they are to fully benefit from the fruits of a more effective process in pursuit of advancing Pacific regionalism.

11.     While the Framework offers a new way and approach to achieving regionalism – through strategic partnership and prioritisation– the agenda and associated papers highlights how your Secretariat, in partnership with others, has been supporting your interests and working to address some of those constraints of SIS member countries.

12.     This includes our work under the Forum Compact, which has funded peer reviews in all your countries, providing practical and concrete steps to improve national systems and related processes.

13.     In the area of climate financing, the Forum Secretariat – along with a number of other partners, including the United Nations– has been assessing the prospects and capacity of SIS member countries to access and use climate funds.  So far, this work has supported a case study in Nauru and a second national climate change finance assessment – this year - in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

14.     In the renewable energy and water sectors, the Forum Secretariat has delivered tangible benefits through the PEC Fund – with these making real contributions to building disaster and climate risk resilience toward some of your development efforts.

15.     Under the Secretariat’s trade programme, assistance is being provided to Niue, Tuvalu, and the Cook Islands for trade policy frameworks, with plans to also support Palau and Kiribati. The Forum network of Pacific Trade and Investment Offices has provided advice on export and marketing opportunities, especially of SIS niche products.

16.     The Forum Secretariat has also been supporting supplementation of capacity at the national level through the SIS officers.  I understand that these positions have been an important if not an invaluable resource to coordinate regional activities at the national level and that many of your Governments have expressed their appreciation for this initiative.  There is mutual benefit for the SIS countries and for the Secretariat, as amply demonstrated by the support and capacity of SIS Officers to coordinate country consultations on the Framework for Pacific Regionalism at relatively short notice.  I take this opportunity to thank all SIS country officers for their committed and outstanding performance and member countries for their much appreciated assistance and cooperation with these Framework consultations.

17.     As I have just outlined, the endeavour of the Secretariat is much broader and deeper than just the SIS Development Fund and the SIS Unit.  There is more work to be done by the Secretariat to better integrate and report on those efforts, but clearly we are coordinating and providing substantial programme support across a range of areas covered under the Secretariat’s mandate. With your direction and support I have no doubt of the mutuality of gains and benefits for your SIS communities and for the Secretariat in its efforts.

18.     To a certain extent there has been a fixation on the SIS Development Fund. I would like to suggest to you today that we need to begin thinking about an SIS Programme in the Secretariat, not just a Fund.  This would involve increasing our policy and technical capacity to assist your SIS countries, to provide high-quality support and relevant strategic advice - to help shape the initiatives developed under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.  It would also support better reporting on the full range of assistance facilitated by the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies to SIS members.

19.     Colleagues, the experience gained provides to the Secretariat natural empathy and awareness of the difficulties faced by SIS member countries.  We need to understand fully the issues and to find new and innovative ways to address SIS vulnerabilities and dependencies. As highlighted by the Morauta Report, additional funding is only one part of the challenges and complexities confronting SIS communities. There needs to be a political conversation about the prospects for more accurate responses and for greater integration both amongst SIS countries, and within the regional Framework for Pacific Regionalism. Necessarily, this would need to be an on-going discussion that must occur if we are to realise the full benefits of development for SIS member countries.


Thank you.


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