aspect-cliched
aspect-cliched
aspect-cliched
aspect-cliched
SG FOC speech, 26 September 2007
FORUM OFFICIALS COMMITTEE PRE-FORUM AND BUDGET & WORK PROGRAMME SESSION
Nuku’alofa, Tonga

26 - 27 September 2007

STATEMENT BY FORUM SECRETARIAT SECRETARY GENERAL, GREG URWIN



Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to Nuku’alofa. At the outset let me thank the government and people of the Kingdom of Tonga for their splendid arrangements for this meeting including the great hospitality accorded us on arrival. We congratulate them too, on these wonderful conference facilities.

2. I was recently asked by a media representative how the year has gone for the Forum Secretariat and my reply was simply….. very busy. That is exactly how it has been at the Secretariat since we last met in Suva in October last year. We have completed the second year of the implementation of the Pacific Plan since its adoption by Leaders in 2005. The situations in Fiji and Solomon Islands have, following decisions taken by our Leaders and Ministers engaged the Secretariat very extensively, and we have continued to coordinate regional assistance to Nauru. The trade agenda has been similarly time and resource intensive especially as negotiations with the EU have intensified and become more complex, and some of those who might otherwise have been with us for this meeting are currently in Brussels for a series of meetings which may go a long way to determine whether an EPA with the EU is achievable, and in what time frame. Preparations are underway for preliminary discussions on PACER plus, scheduled for early next year. The FEMM agenda has grown, as has our work on infrastructure policy, our social policy advice activities and our policy work on sustainable development and governance and security issues. The expansion of work in these areas largely but not solely reflects the Secretariat’s responsibility for implementation of a significant number of the specific initiatives contained in the Pacific Plan, a responsibility we of course share with our CROP partners.

3. As we proposed to you some months ago, we have this year divided issues to be discussed by PPAC and FOC, with PPAC concentrating on those policy issues pertaining to the development and implementation of the Plan and FOC concentrating on governing body matters. I will not, therefore have much to say on the Pacific Plan overall, except as it connects to the Work Programme. Similarly, I will not address the RIF exercise. By this means, we hope to avoid unnecessary duplication and present more coherent proposals to Leaders.

4. I would now like to say something about some specific activities since we last met in Suva last October. The time I have does not allow me to go through every single activity. Having said that, there is rather a lot of this; I suggest you get comfortable. I hope that what I say will show that the Secretariat with your indispensable support, has made significant inroads during the year in implementing our Leaders’ decisions.

Security

5. The security pillar of the Pacific Plan is one for which the Secretariat has significant responsibilities. There have been a number of significant security-related developments in the region since I last reported to this Committee.

6. In respect of the situation in Fiji, the Forum has again demonstrated that it can play a strong and constructive leadership role in efforts to resolve crises within our region. Prior to the events of 5 December 2006, the Forum convened a meeting of Forum Ministers, at Fiji’s request, to help address the impasse then existing between the Government and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. In January, with the agreement of all parties, an Eminent Persons Group visited Fiji. The EPG’s Report was endorsed by Forum Foreign Ministers in March and significantly, is also being used by members of the wider international community as a reference point in formulating their own policy approaches.

7. We are continuing to promote dialogue between Fiji and other Forum members aimed at an early return to parliamentary democracy, through the Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group, a grouping created at the direction of the Foreign Ministers. Practical outcomes of that Working Group, which has met on sixteen occasions, have been an independent technical assessment of an election timetable for Fiji and the identification of the resources needed by Fiji to meet that timetable. The interim Fiji Government has agreed in principle to hold an election in Fiji by March 2009, in accordance with the timetable proposed by the Working Group.

8. I am pleased to report to the Committee that our deep involvement in one of our most important regional endeavours – the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) - continues. At the direction of Leaders in 2006, we coordinated the RAMSI Review Task Force which in June completed the second phase of its in country consultations. Overall the Task Force confirmed once again overwhelming support for RAMSI. It recognised also that some of the issues involved in the presence, in a sovereign nation, of a foreign assistance mission are bound to be complex.

9. The recommendations of the RAMSI Review Report have now been accepted by Foreign Ministers and Leaders’ formal endorsement will be sought at their meeting in a few weeks. The recommendations include, among other things, a proposal for a new regional governance structure for RAMSI which contains a number of new mechanisms that will enhance coordination and communication among all stakeholders. These include a new so-called Triumvirate arrangement in which the Solomon Islands Government’s Special Envoy to RAMSI, the new Forum Secretariat Representative to Solomon Islands, and the RAMSI Special Coordinator take part. The Triumvirate has been operating on the ground on an almost day-to-day basis to resolve matters arising in the context of the Solomon Islands Government/RAMSI partnership. At the top of the governance structure, as recommended in the Review Report, will be a Forum Ministerial Standing Committee established to guide RAMSI’s strategic direction. In between the Triumvirate and Ministerial Standing Committee, as it were, is an officials’ level Enhanced Consultative Mechanism which was established as an interim measure by Leaders last year but whose continued existence has been supported by the Review Report. I would particularly like to thank those Forum Member Country officials who have taken part in this mechanism which has, I think, shown itself to be constructive and useful.

10. Partly against the background of our activities in Solomon Islands, and in partnership with UNDP, work is progressing towards a human security framework for the Pacific region, alongside the building up of track II processes in conflict prevention, which aims to take into account existing practices and arrangements at the community, national and regional levels. In the medium term, a human security framework for the region should provide insights into the broader security issues underlying crises and conflicts, and provide us with a set of tools to address these issues.

11. Another area directly relevant to Conflict Prevention is land ownership, a singularly sensitive and charged cultural issue. Land based resource management has been at the core of many disputes and conflicts in the region. Phase 1 of the Land Management and Conflict Minimisation Project, endorsed by last year’s Forum Regional Security Committee Meeting, which comprises desk and country case studies will provide proposals for guiding principles for effective land management and conflict minimisation in the region; and recommend elements for inclusion in a proposed Regional Land Management and Conflict Minimisation Framework of Action. The project is sensitive to the need to balance indigenous values associated with land with the need to strengthen the land tenure systems of Forum Island Countries in ways that facilitate the prospects for economic development and minimise the risks of conflict. You may also be aware that, in addition to our own work, the Australian Agency for Aid Development (AusAID) has developed a Pacific Land Programme as part of its Pacific 2020 Initiative. Recognising the critical importance of land issues to Pacific Island countries, AusAID and the Forum Secretariat have undertaken to work in close collaboration on their respective projects.

12. The annual meeting of the Forum Regional Security Committee continues to be the major regional security mechanism, and benefits from strong support from key law and order agencies and other regional and international stakeholders.

13. This year’s FRSC highlighted the diverse security environment we are now engaged in. Issues such as facilitating effective collection and dissemination of law enforcement information, criminal deportees, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, transnational organized crime, and terrorism require a multi-faceted approach and emphasise the need to support cooperative processes.

14. The Secretariat has commenced researching the issues surrounding criminal deportees and counterfeit pharmaceuticals and is continuing support for counter terrorism with a strategic review aimed at developing a regional counter terrorism strategy.

15. To combat transnational organised criminal groups in the Pacific, the Secretariat is advancing national and regional information management and exchange strategies through which agencies will enjoy an enhanced capacity to record, analyse and act on national criminal intelligence reports. Further benefits arise from performance reporting, data collection to generate strategic assessments in support of government and regional decision making, and the introduction of a secure communication system, all of which will augment a regional response to transnational crime. It is hoped that through these activities we can develop an environment that fosters close cooperation and effective operational linkages among all border agencies and we ask Members to encourage national agencies in this process.

16. A Regional Model Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime Bill has been completed and the Secretariat is now working with each Forum Island Country Attorney General to adapt the model law to ensure compliance with the legislative priorities of the Nasonini Declaration. Assistance is also being provided to members to further refine the Honiara suite of model laws to meet both the needs of Forum Island Countries and international standards.

17. The Pacific Anti-money Laundering Project (PALP) which was launched in September 2006 is making good progress. Its portfolio of activities now extends to 11 Forum Island Countries. PALP is currently providing assistance to investigations in three Forum Island Countries, and is making arrangements to provide similar assistance to other members. In June of this year Fiji recorded its first money laundering conviction. The presiding judge in that hearing had attended a sub-regional judicial workshop on money laundering and proceeds of crime a few weeks earlier and was very complimentary of the benefits of attending the workshop.

18. The Secretariat strongly supports efforts by the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network, PILON, to strengthen its role as a focal point for regional cooperation among government legal officers. The Secretariat-coordinated review of PILON was presented and well received at the 25th PILON meeting in February 2007, and important decisions were made about the future role and structure of PILON. The Secretariat will continue to support PILON as it implements a range of reforms agreed at that meeting.

19. Most Forum Island Countries lack specialist legal drafting capacity. In conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the University of the South Pacific Law School, the Secretariat is assisting in the implementation of a 14 part Action Plan to build sustainable legislative drafting capacity for all 14 Forum Islands Countries.

20. At last year’s Leaders’ Meeting, it was agreed in the Nadi Decisions that greater attention be given to implementing Initiatives 12.5 and 12.6 of the Pacific Plan pertaining to human rights and good governance issues. Developments in the last twelve months have included a Pacific regional workshop in March which identified strategies to address some of the issues impeding ratification of core international human rights treaties. In addition the Secretariat’s collaboration with the New Zealand Law Reform Commission, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights saw the completion of three important research papers on the interface between custom and human rights in the Pacific, forms of national human rights institutions for Pacific states, and the added value of ratification of those human right treaties for those states. These three important pieces of work, all of which are the result of regional consultations, will provide some responses to the issues and obstacles that Forum Island Countries face in meeting the requirements of ratification of core international human rights treaties and the establishment of national human rights institutions. In the meantime, the Secretariat and its partners are facilitating more in-country dialogue on these issues. Resources permitting, we are looking at the establishment of a Human Rights Adviser position to consolidate and elevate human rights work in the region.

21. Assistance continues to be available to Forum Island Countries interested in adopting leadership codes. Members who have yet to do so are encouraged to adopt leadership codes as a means of implementing the Leaders’ commitment to the principles in the Biketawa Declaration and the Forum Principles of Good Leadership adopted by them in 2003.

22. The Forum’s election observation activities have continued in 2007, with missions deployed to national elections in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Our election observation activities are increasingly welcomed by member countries as contributing to their shared commitment to peaceful and democratic governance, and their individual efforts to strengthen the integrity of their electoral processes.

Good Governance

23. The Secretariat is working with the UNDP Pacific Centre, AusAID and the Australian Ombudsman to undertake investigations into options to support the concept of a regional ombudsman. Funding to progress the initiative became available recently. A Steering Committee meeting will be held next month to review progress to date and to discuss and confirm the future work programme. A meeting of regional ombudsmen is being considered. The Secretariat is also reviewing with the UNDP Pacific Centre further work on sub-regional anti-corruption plans, in the context of the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

24. On the Forum Principles of Good Leadership and Accountability, the Secretariat is working closely with partners on raising awareness of ethics and accountability issues. Further impetus for this work is expected through the Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP). This is a major initiative arising from the White Paper on the Australian Government aid programme. PLP seeks to: to contribute to improving governance in the region through improving leadership practices emerging at national, local and regional levels. It will be implemented through four focus areas: policy engagement; support for innovative leadership practice at national levels; development of a strategic research and analysis agenda; and partnerships with regional institutions. It will engage with a broad cross-section of stakeholders across the region, including the private sector, women, youth, the media, academics, parliamentarians and the public sector.

25. The Programme will be overseen by a Pacific Leadership Panel comprised of eminent Pacific Islanders, with AusAID and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Upon its establishment PLP through a range of delivery organisations in different countries will implement the Programme across the Pacific. The Programme will have a strategic engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, AusAID Country Programmes and regional institutions, as well as provide grant funding to individual government, civil society and other organizations in each country. The initial phase of the Programme will cover Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and East Timor. It carries an initial two-year funding commitment of $10.1 million 2007-2009, for an initial pilot phase, in order to lay the foundations for a longer-term programme.

26. Similarly, progress has been made by the Commonwealth Secretariat towards supporting the good governance initiatives under the Pacific Plan through its proposed Commonwealth Pacific Governance Project (CPGP) which is expected to commence work in 2008. The Secretariat is working with the Commonwealth Secretariat on details of this project.

27. On enhancing governance mechanisms, the Forum Secretariat has been working with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the UNDP Pacific Centre and relevant regional programmes in the areas of freedom of information, right to information and information disclosure policy, parliamentary effectiveness, and indigenous governance systems. Terms of Reference are being finalised for a study on Indigenous governance systems in Pacific countries, which is proposed to cover Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Samoa and Tonga. The study is expected to commence in 2008.

28. On developing a strategy to support participatory democracy and consultative decision-making, the Forum Secretariat is collaborating with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in ways to involve youth in governance. Further consultations are ongoing with the Commonwealth Youth Project and other actors to develop a range of activities to engage with young people on issues affecting them, including supporting youth parliaments and a Pacific Youth Forum, to coincide with the Leaders’ Meeting in 2008. The Secretariat has also been consulting with FICs on the implementation of the outcomes of the Pacific Regional Workshop on Advancing Women’s Representation in Parliaments held in the Cook Islands in May 2006. The Secretariat is collaborating with UNIFEM, the UNDP Pacific Centre, SPC and national women’s organisations on a range of enabling mechanisms to promote the role of women in political governance.

Economic Growth

29. The 11th Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) was held in Koror, Republic of Palau in July this year. During the meeting Ministers reaffirmed their support for the implementation of previous FEMM reform commitments, particularly in areas pertaining to economic growth and good governance. They agreed that further examination of regional and sub-regional approaches to lift FICs’ economic growth performances should be pursued.

30. A number of priority issues were considered during the meeting, most of which relate to regional economic integration initiatives under the Pacific Plan.

31. An analysis of the FICs’ customs administration prepared for the Ministers has revealed significant gaps in their capacity to fulfil their functions relating to revenue collection, trade facilitation and border security. To take the issues related to that forward, Ministers directed the Secretariat to undertake a feasibility study to determine the viability of providing targeted customs services at sub-regional levels.

32. The potential for improvement and broadening of Technical Assistance (TA) delivery to meet FICs’ requirements was also considered. The Ministers emphasized the need for strengthening regional capacity in areas of microeconomic policy advice, and agreed to take forward a pilot arrangement to expand PFTAC’s capacity by drawing in staff from other International Financial Institutions, Forum Island Countries and development partners. This will now be taken forward in consultations with members, donors and the international financial institutions.

33. FEMM has also prioritised work on labour mobility and reiterated the potential benefits to be derived from it, while recognising the importance of domestic policies in promoting sustainable growth. They noted the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer policy, and the World Bank facilitated pilot seasonal worker scheme. The Ministers agreed that further examination of these would provide guidance to both the sending and recipient countries on ways of continuously improving the benefits, and addressing the risks associated with such schemes. That work is also ongoing.

34. And in the area of economic regulation, Economic Ministers asked the Secretariat to convene a workshop to facilitate the exchange of regulatory knowledge and experience in FICs and to agree on the scope and design of further regional regulatory initiatives, including consideration for the phased establishment of a regional or sub-regional Competition, Fair Trading and Pricing and Access Regulatory Authority.

35. On private sector development, one of the most innovative programmes that the Secretariat has been involved with is the assessment of business capability in the FICs through the use of diagnostic toolkits. To date training of trainers in the use of the toolkits has been completed in seven FICs, namely Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, FSM, Palau, PNG and the Cook Islands. Plans are underway to complete work in the remaining seven FICs in 2008. The objective of this project is to create a database of FICs’ business capability, which identifies the issues that hinder the growth and competitiveness of Pacific businesses. This information should enable Governments and development partners to provide direct assistance to the private sector more accurately and efficiently.

36. Another step in private sector development is the establishment of the secretariat for the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) currently housed at the Forum Secretariat in Suva. The Secretariat collaborated with UNDP on this, on the understanding that PIPSO will be relocating to more permanent facilities in the near future. PIPSO achieved an early milestone with its inaugural Pacific Business Forum, held in Nadi in August. It brought together over 200 delegates from the 14 FICs comprising private sector representatives of major business leaders, Government ministers and senior officials. Key outcomes of the Business Forum have been included in the Secretariat’s submission to PPAC.

37. On the implementation of PICTA, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Vanuatu have announced their readiness to trade under PICTA while five parties which have completed notification requirements should be ready to trade once they have completed domestic legislative requirements. The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers in their meeting in August this year endorsed the schedule for the extension of PICTA to include trade in Services, this to be ready by end of 2008. It is envisaged that the PICTA Trade in Services legal text will be in place soon with negotiations to begin before the end of this year.

38. A joint study to investigate the potential impact of a move towards a framework for trade and economic cooperation among Australia, New Zealand and the FICs, as provided for in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) and the Pacific Plan, as well as a gap analysis of FIC needs in respect of capacity-building, trade promotion and structural reform was presented to Forum Trade Ministers Meeting this year. The Trade Ministers have tasked PIFS to develop proposals on the way forward based on the issues raised in the joint study report and comments from members.

39. Our trade development strategy remains an important element of our regional economic integration efforts. This strategy consists of a specific programme of work in the areas of trade facilitation, infrastructure development, trade promotion and trade relations management. Trade relations management involves developing productive trade relations with a range of countries as a means of developing mutual interests and to ensure market access for products and services.

40. Over the last year the Forum Secretariat has facilitated discussions on the SPARTECA agreement. This involved the convening of a Rules of Origin Workshop and the undertaking of a further analysis of the Rules. Forum Trade Ministers at their meeting in August noted the view of the FICs that the review of SPARTECA Rules of Origin should be expedited independently of consultations on new trade arrangements while at the same time noting that Australia and New Zealand were ready to negotiate improved market access – on the basis of the need to move beyond SPARTECA towards a new framework for trade and economic cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and the FICs, as provided for under PACER. Over the next few months FIC Trade Officials, with the assistance of the Secretariat as appropriate, will undertake national consultations on the review of the current Rules of Origin, the outcomes to be looked at during the informal meeting of Forum Trade Officials to be held in early 2008.

41. The Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP) which commenced in 2005 is being implemented satisfactorily. This programme was initially planned for completion by December 2008 but will now end in December 2010. The Programme seeks improvements in Quarantine, Customs and Standards & Conformance laws, processes and procedures which facilitate the movement of trade in goods. Capacity building and reforms in trade related agencies are the key aims of the programme. In 2006 and in the first six months of this year, programme delivery was consolidated and oversight arrangements improved. The Customs component has been well supported by the World Customs Organisation, of the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO), and other partners. The Quarantine component has likewise progressed over the last year, with a programme of internship successfully completed in 2006 and early 2007. The Standards & Conformance (S&C) component, an important element of the programme has not gone beyond the studies and technical recommendations stage and will be addressed in the impending RTFP review. I am also pleased to advise that in May 2007, the World Health Organisation, a partner in the programme, commenced the endorsed Food Standards Programme. The review of the programme to be completed by December this year will assist Members to determine its future course.

42. Negotiations on the Pacific ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement are now at a critical stage with the deadline of 31 December only a couple of months away. The meeting of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers in Port Vila early August decided that the region should intensify negotiations with the EC, both at the officials’ and Ministerial levels, to ensure the interests of the PACPS are properly met. A series of joint meetings in Brussels with the EC is currently underway to discuss among other things the Goods and Services offers, and to review the EPA draft legal text.

43. While it may be premature at this point to say whether or not our region will be ready to sign up to an EPA come 31 December, what is certain, is that there are still marked differences in our region’s positions and those of the EC on many of the issues under negotiation, although some progress has been reported in recent days.

44. As the Regional Authorising Officer, the Secretariat continues to coordinate and administer the implementation of the EDF Regional Indicative Programme. We are pleased to report that the 8th and 9th EDF are fully committed, with the 8th EDF projects nearing completion and the 9th EDF projects more of less mid-way through implementation. We have a portfolio of 17 projects currently active worth a total of approximately 76 million Euros. The RAO also administers a renewable energy project, on behalf of National Authorising Officers of six of the Pacific ACP states, with a budget of 11.2 million Euros. The European Commission is moving into Multi-Country Programming under the 10th EDF in their efforts to reduce the delivery cost of aid. While this has some advantages it will further draw upon the resources of the RAO and we therefore need to manage that process carefully. The current renewable energy project has demonstrated some of the challenges involved in this approach.

45. Tenth EDF programming has been the main feature of our work programme in this area over the last 12 months. Despite delays, we have made some progress and hope that we can move forward, to finalise the draft 10th EDF Regional Strategy Paper by the end of this year, then launch into the process of developing the programmes. The issue, as you will be aware, is that programming of the 10th EDF has been linked by the EU to the EPA negotiations with, to a significant extent, progress in one dependent on progress in the other. We hope we can move the process forward after the round of EPA negotiations with the European Union, which as I said earlier is underway in Brussels. I would like to assure you all that programming of the 10th EDF will continue to be a consultative process involving the NAOs, CROP organizations, European Commission, Non-State Actors and other key stakeholders.

46. On regional aviation matters, I am happy to be able to report positive developments particularly in the areas of aviation safety and security. The Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) based in Port Vila, has increased it membership from 8 to 12, with Tuvalu indicating that it will join by the end of November this year. The increase in members shows a willingness to approach safety oversight issues cooperatively and to ensure that our International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and international obligations are met in a collaborative and cost effective way. PASO will have a full complement of staff by the end of the year and PASO inspectors have already started to work in some of the member countries. I would encourage the remaining Forum members to join PASO, to ensure that your aviation safety requirements are met, and met in a regionally cooperative manner.

47. With regard to the Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement (PIASA), I am also happy to report that significant progress has been made, with the final ratification instrument needed to bring it into effect having been deposited, by Niue. May I thank Niue and all the member states that have signed and ratified PIASA, which will now be progressively implemented. The Agreement is designed to gradually replace the existing system of bilateral air services agreements among FICs with one agreement, aimed at cooperatively liberalising air services. In doing so, it sets out an ambitious but achievable programme that will deliver long term benefits to island country economies. It will do so by creating a regulatory framework that should equip FIC airlines to operate in an increasingly competitive global and regional commercial environment. The realisation of a full single aviation market in the Pacific, which PIASA enables, would represent a very significant regional achievement.

48. In terms of the Forum Principles on Regional Transport Services (FPRTS), work is ongoing with a number of workshops being planned for 2008 following on from the apparent success of the workshop held in 2007. Individual states are implementing the principles as they suit their own needs. We encourage members to engage the Forum Secretariat if they need assistance in this.

49. On the Regional ICT Strategy, there have been significant developments in proposals for the expansion of cable and satellite capacity in the region. These initiatives are being led by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with our active support. Negotiations with countries on the path between New Caledonia and French Polynesia to extend the optical fiber cable to their shores is proceeding. A project to provide a similar undersea optical fiber link among the Melanesian states is being formulated and discussions on the route and its technical, commercial and legal feasibility are being investigated. Agreements are expected to be in place by the end of the year with cable installation taking place in 2008.

50. With AusAID funding, work has begun to provide telecommunications connectivity to rural and remote sites around the region using current satellite services. It is expected that arrangements will be in place to permit a demonstration of the technology at the Forum Leaders’ meeting here next month with a roll out to 15 pilot sites taking place in the ensuing months. The capacity of the network is for hundreds of sites and the objective of the pilots is to demonstrate the applications around the region and provide an opportunity for application of the access technology to be made in education, health, broadcasting and emergency communications. It is expected that commercial development of the technology will follow, which in turn may precipitate the need for appropriate regional institutional arrangements. Work is continuing on the governance details of the project, in order to provide Technical Assistance to countries in telecommunications sector policy and regulation. Discussions are being held with the World Bank on funding. A final proposal will be ready for a proposed Ministerial Meeting in the first quarter of 2008. On the basis of progress in telecommunications access and connectivity and proposed support for regulatory capacity development, it is expected that the Ministerial meeting will be requested to endorse a shift in emphasis towards ICT platforms, applications and content in following years.

51. On the issue of petroleum, the Forum Energy Ministers, at their meeting earlier this year in Cook Islands, endorsed a regional bulk fuel procurement initiative and a Framework Agreement and directed the Secretariat to assume the role of project manager of the initiative, and to convene urgently a Project Working Group (PWG) of national and regional officials and other stakeholders. In response, we have engaged those key stakeholders who have expressed interest in the development of regional procurement solutions. We are expecting to formalize working relationships among these interested parties once project funding has been secured, and technical support confirmed.

52. The Secretariat has maintained an in-house capacity to assist members with regulation of multinational oil companies and monopoly/oligopoly suppliers of key imported products. Such regulatory process and implementation services have been extensively used by majority of the FICs. The Secretariat also tracks and maintains key import parity indicators and regional benchmark prices, which are disseminated to the members on a regular basis.

Sustainable Development

53. The Sustainable Development Program in 2007 has produced some significant tangible outcomes for member countries under the sustainable development pillar of the Pacific Plan. Included are the strengthening of National Sustainable Development Strategies to improve the effectiveness of national and development partner resource allocation and improving, at national leve,l coordination and effectiveness of services provided by CROP agencies and development partners. This initiative is aimed at assisting member countries to increase the effectiveness of their planning and budgetary and related decision-making processes, as well as improve aid effectiveness. Such assistance is provided and coordinated, at the national, sectoral and thematic levels.

54. At the national level, the Cook Islands Government, with the support of the Secretariat, completed and launched its national sustainable development plan (NSDP) in January 2007. This Plan is now the platform for Cook Islands’ national resource allocation as well for its engagement and negotiation with development partners. A successful example of this is the launching of an ADB funded major infrastructure development project consistent with the key priorities outlined in the NSDP. The Government is now working on linking its sector level plans to the NSDP in an effort to better coordinate the use of limited resources.

55. For two years in a row, the Secretariat has assisted Tuvalu prepare for its annual donor roundtable discussions. This year these efforts have particularly paid off for the Education and Health Sectors. For these two sectors, the Secretariat assisted Tuvalu develop priorities for a three year period linked to their medium term national budget process, and helped facilitate discussions with development partners. Such support, the value of which was publicly acknowledged by two of the major donors Australia and New Zealand, resulted in these two partners announcing in principle commitments during the roundtable discussion; something they are not always prone to do, and a rewarding outcome for Tuvalu.

56. The Secretariat has been a key member of a regional partnership addressing disaster risk management. This is assisting member countries develop and implement their national action plans for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster management (DM). The partnership, comprising SOPAC, the Secretariat and UNDP, in 2007 helped the Government of Vanuatu to develop a supplementary NSDS focusing on DRR & DM priorities, and to finalise its prioritised National Action Plan (NAP) for Disaster Risk Management (DRM).

57. The Vanuatu Government is now implementing the Cabinet approved NAP, initially focusing on establishing appropriate institutional arrangements for DRM. The prioritised NAP is also used as a platform for donor engagement and the coordination of their support. Similar work is currently underway with the Republic of Marshall Islands, with future plans in 2008 for work with the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.

58. Similarly the Secretariat is also encouraging joint programming in the areas of climate change, energy security and urban management. The paper put to PPAC for Leaders’ consideration on climate change has collectively been produced by the CROP agencies and seeks endorsement for joint programming by CROP agencies. The Pacific Energy Ministers Meeting outcomes were facilitated through the joint efforts of the Energy Working Group, which too has called for joint programming by CROP agencies.

59. Recently the Secretariat collaborated with partners - SPC, UNESCAP, UN-Habitat, and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, to develop the Second Pacific Urban Agenda (PUA2). In order to address the housing, community development and physical planning issues associated with urbanisation, PUA2 identified a set of public sector interventions that require urgent attention. PIFS continues to work with SPC and other development partners to jointly develop a regional action plan to address growing urbanisation problems.

60. In respect of the social policy issues, the Secretariat continues to ensure the implementation of the Forum Basic Education Action Plan, which was endorsed by Education Ministers and is regularly updated. The main vehicle for implementation is the regional education project PRIDE, which is implemented by USP. Other key activities that have taken place this year include the successful completion of the first phase of the Regional Qualifications Register, undertaken by SPBEA, and the completion of the ADB funded Regional Skills Development Study, executed by the Forum Secretariat.

61. The next meeting of Forum Education Ministers is planned for November this year in Auckland, New Zealand.

62. The Secretariat has expanded its work on disability issues during the past year and is now well recognised by partner organisations as taking a regional lead in this area. We have developed a network of official contact points for disability matters in all member countries and provide technical assistance especially in the area of strategic planning. We work closely with relevant partners on the disability aspects of the Pacific Plan.

63. The Secretariat continues its involvement with the Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS as endorsed by Leaders in 2004, while SPC takes the lead in implementation and overall coordination of the Strategy. We must ensure at all costs that the prediction that the Pacific is heading for a high prevalence HIV epidemic does not eventuate. Using leadership at all levels for advocacy purposes is a key component in this struggle.

64. The Forum Secretariat has undertaken discussions with key nursing stakeholders in the region who have supported in principle and have provided expert views on a proposal for enhancing and standardizing regional training programmes in nursing. In partnership with WHO and the South Pacific Chief Nursing Officers Association, the Secretariat contracted consultants to undertake an exercise in mapping current nursing educational provision and standards required for registration in member countries. This exercise provides the necessary information from which to move forward to further consideration of harmonization of nursing educational standards across the region.

65. We continue to work with member countries in assessing the social impacts of trade agreements such as PICTA and EPA. We encourage countries to establish the appropriate monitoring mechanisms. The Secretariat can assist with their establishment and functioning.

66. As in other developing country regions, effective aid coordination is a priority for many of the Pacific Island countries. Working together with our development partners, some FICs have made some progress in developing systems and mechanisms for effective aid coordination.

67. Following the 2004 PIC/Partners meeting in Rotorua, New Zealand, a study on Aid Effectiveness in the Pacific was commissioned by the Secretariat which proposed a number of key principles that would enable effective planning and delivery of development assistance to the Pacific. At the recent 2007 PIC-Partners meeting in Koror, Palau, a set of Pacific Principles on Aid Effectiveness was presented to and endorsed. The principles are derived from the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005). They have been work-shopped and consulted upon widely across the Pacific region, and are designed to fit the Pacific context. The Pacific Aid Effectiveness Principles, like the original Paris declaration, include actions and approaches for both countries and development partners. The Secretariat in collaboration with development partners such as UNDP will be working with FICs to implement the principles as well as provide assistance to incorporate them into national strategies

68. In recognition of the special needs of the Smaller Island States (SIS) within its membership, the Secretariat has, with New Zealand’s help, established an SIS unit. This includes the placement of desk officers in each of the SIS countries to provide the essential connection between the Secretariat and the SIS countries to support the implementation of Pacific Plan initiatives. Since its creation, a number of activities specific to the SIS have been progressed. These have included studies on a sub-regional airline and the feeder shipping services; work on labour mobility issues and fuel bulk purchasing schemes, and exploring the potential of establishing an alternative financing facility for the SIS.

69. The unit has also been engaged in conducting national consultations on the Pacific Plan in Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu, and will soon be conducting similar consultations in Niue and Palau. These consultations are conducted to increase government and public awareness of the Pacific Plan and to obtain feedback on initiatives that might be pursued through regionalism or sub-regionalism. Outcomes from these national consultations are part of the basis of the SIS unit work programme for the next year.

70. Finally, the Corporate Services Team continues to provide the support, service and infrastructure necessary for the Secretariat to pursue its goals, while at the same time, improve on what we do and how we do it. Although often constrained by time and resources, we are committed to developing a healthy work environment that stimulates productivity, strengthens communication and supports teamwork.

71. The last year has seen the first comprehensive use of the new Performance Management System. While fine-tuning of the system will continue, the new system has highlighted the need for more focus on people development and organisational culture. Training will continue to be a priority, to ensure optimal use of the opportunities presented by improving technology and an ever changing work environment. Introducing new ideas and ways of doing business to the Secretariat is a key to developing best practice. While training is one way of achieving this, other initiatives have included the establishment of a Business Improvement Coordinator to review our current ways of doing things, research best practice and marry the two to bring about better process. A Budget and Planning Committee has been established to manage the allocation of funding against competing priorities, and to refine our budgeting and budget management processes.

72. The outcomes of the 2006 triennial remuneration reviews for both the professional staff and the support staff, were presented to and approved by yourselves -the Forum Officials Committee. In conjunction with our new Performance Management System, this has paved the way for improved remuneration practices as well as increasing our ability to attract suitable staff from within our member countries. However, movements in our comparator markets continue to make it difficult for us to maintain remuneration parity and we still struggle to attract good quality fields of candidates to fill our vacancies. The difficulties of recruiting suitable accountants from the local market were resolved with the upgrading, and subsequent harmonising (with CROP), of the Team Leader Finance position from the support staff to the professional category.

73. We have had a new telephone system installed which has gone some way to improving our communications, both internally and with the rest of the world. Generally our IT systems provide the basic framework required for us to do business but planned improvements have been constrained by funding. We hope to move forward on this next year.

74. While outstanding membership contributions continue to be a concern for our on-going financial viability, we will continue to fine-tune our operations further through the refinement of our financial reporting, work-program formats, and the development of a framework for internal audits.

75. Finally, I would note that we have entered into a regular programme of consultations with SPC designed both to rationalise and where possible combine some of our administrative process and to eliminate, as far as possible any functional overlap between the two organisations. This work is clearly related to the aims of the RIF exercise which, as you know, the Secretariat has been supporting, and will continue irrespective of where that exercise might take us.

76. As I said at the outset, it has been a very busy year. Later in the meeting you will be discussing our Work Programme and Budget. You will see that we are getting to a position where, to put it colloquially, something will have to give. We have reached a pitch of activity which – assuming our resource base remains unchanged (and we would note that there has been no adjustment in membership contributions for ten years) – cannot be fully sustained. That being said, we are really going to need the active participation of members in identifying the key priorities you wish us to pursue in 2008 and new ways of doing business for the future that allows for greater flexibility to meet member requirements. I don’t believe that is an exercise we will be able to complete at this FOC, although we can certainly make a good start. Indeed, I think we did so in the PPAC meeting earlier this week, and the decisions made there need to be kept firmly in mind when we finalise the work programme. As I say, we will need your concerted assistance with this, bearing in mind, of course, that we have yet to hear from Leaders as to their wishes for the coming year.

77. Distinguished delegates, I have now taken up a great deal of your time but, I hope, to some purpose. I believe it is important that you, the governing council for the Forum Secretariat, receive an extensive report of the activities we have been engaged in to deliver on the decisions endorsed by our Leaders and members generally. An even more detailed report of the Secretariat’s activities will be contained in the 2007 Forum Secretariat Annual Report which is expected to be available in the first quarter of next year. As I said last year, none of these achievements would have been possible without your support, that of your governments, the development partners and other stakeholders. Once again I salute you all for this. I would also like to thank the entire Secretariat staff for their professionalism and dedication to the service of our members. The dreams and visions of our leaders for strengthened regional cooperation and integration, for a region of peace and unity can continue to be realised if we, the servants of the region, continue to serve to the very best of our abilities.

(Ends)

zoom out zoom in print this page