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SG's message to 2007 PINA Convention
MESSAGE FROM THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM
SECRETARY GENERAL, GREG URWIN

2007 PACIFIC ISLANDS NEWS ASSOCIATION (PINA) CONVENTION

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS
Thursday 24th May 2007

“MEDIA AND THE PACIFIC PLAN”


Excellencies
Distinguished guests and delegates
Friends and colleagues of Pacific media

Peter Forau (Deputy Secretary General) and I regret not being present with you today at our region’s most important biennial gathering of media practitioners, and budding and veteran journalists. Please accept, instead, this message of support and encouragement for the 2007 PINA Convention on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum as indication of our on-going support to this regional media body and its endeavours to develop a vital industry.

1. Representing the Forum Secretariat this week at the pre-Convention workshops and Convention are Forum Secretariat Media Officers, Johnson Honimae and Mue Bentley. Please feel free to pick their brains on pertinent issues related to the work of the Pacific Islands Forum and implementation of the Pacific Plan – they are at your disposal and, I have been assured, in good hands and amongst friends!

2. Before I delve into the crux of my message, I would like to firstly congratulate the Media Association of the Solomon Islands and PINA on the excellent work carried out to pull together this crucial event. Hosting a regional meeting such as the PINA Convention is no small undertaking, and I am certain that your efforts, combined with the warm hospitality of the people of the Solomon Islands, will notably contribute towards a memorable and successful event.

THE PACIFIC PLAN

3. Friends, I would like to provide you today with some insight into the Pacific Plan, the framework for achieving our Leaders’ Vision of a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity. Adopted in 2005, the Plan brings together our current development priorities under four overarching thematic objectives of economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security. It calls for strengthened regional cooperation and integration, recognising that as the change brought about by globalisation intensifies, so should our ability to make our regional cooperation more relevant and effective. 

4. Activities to progress priority development initiatives in the Pacific Plan are now being progressed under management of the Forum Secretariat and political oversight and guidance of the Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC), chaired by the Forum Chair - currently Papua New Guinea – and comprising senior officials of all Forum member countries. Because our partner regional organisations are also playing an active role in the implementation of the Plan, we have committed to strengthening our cooperative abilities by developing a regional institutional framework that is appropriate for these new approaches to regionalism.

5. May I emphasise, at this point, that the Pacific Plan is based on the assumption that regional approaches are only taken if and when they add value at a country level. I make this obvious, but often overlooked point, that regionalism is not intended to replace national policies and programmes, but to support and complement them. Protecting and enhancing national sovereignty is, in fact, a key goal of regionalism.

MEDIA AND THE PACIFIC PLAN

6. You may now be asking yourselves how this all-encompassing Plan is relevant to Pacific media, and what role your industry may have to play in its implementation and on-going development. I can affirm with absolute certainty, friends and colleagues of the media, that your role here is of vital importance.

7. The dissemination of information to the public pertaining to implementation of the Pacific Plan’s initiatives is a priority. In order to tangibly benefit from regionalism at the country-level, the people of our Pacific Island Countries need to be informed of the possible benefits of doing so. Your contribution to this cannot be overemphasised. A strong, free and impartial media industry serves to foster well-informed communities and encourages healthy debate on key issues of public interest. Achieving this in the Pacific will consequently assist with on-going development of the Plan, as a living document, to best reflect the evolving needs and priorities of our region, nations, and ultimately, our peoples. The media also has an important role to play in helping our region achieve principles of good governance, and in promoting accountability across the board.

8. The Pacific Plan also contains provisions for the development of infrastructure to assist the region’s media independently progress. These provisions are primarily contained in the Pacific Regional Digital Strategy, which aims to realise the vast potential of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), seeking social and economic empowerment for Pacific islanders, as well as a solution to the ‘tyranny of distance’. By addressing ICT issues such as connectivity, service costs and skills development, the Digital Strategy endeavours to pave an important platform upon which your industry can actively thrive and develop.

9. On a final note, friends and colleagues, I sincerely wish the 2007 PINA Convention a fruitful outcome. May your deliberations be reflective of ways forward to develop the Pacific’s media industry in a sustainable, practical and inclusive manner.

(Ends)