SG's remarks, Forum Secretariat website launch
Remarks by Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Secretary General, Greg Urwin

Launch of the Forum Secretariat website

Thursday 15 February 2007
Forum Secretariat Fale, Suva, Fiji

Friends, colleagues, invited guests.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here today for the official launch of the redesigned Forum Secretariat website:

2. May I first acknowledge, with much appreciation, the contributions from all Secretariat staff members who provided input for the content of the revamped site, and commend the efforts of the Media and IT departments for spearheading the project. Also, special thanks to our web developers, Jonathan Segal and his team at Oceanic Communications, for an excellent job!

3. As you can all appreciate, there are many stakeholders involved in the work undertaken by the Forum Secretariat and in its diverse work programmes. Key to the success of these programmes is the dissemination and disclosure of accurate information, in a timely manner. Every effort must be made to ensure that proper levels of awareness, understanding and knowledge are achieved, so that objectives may be realistically accomplished and shared.

4. The “right to information” has been recognised as being of vital importance to human rights and good governance, and has been accepted as a priority at many levels. Encapsulated in the Pacific Plan, our Leaders themselves have called for, among other things, “a region respected for its governance, sustainable management of its resources, full observance of democratic values and its defence and promotion of human rights; partnerships with neighbours and beyond… to improve our understanding and communications and ensure a sustainable existence for all.”

5. So we are here today to take a step in the direction of improving communication with our stakeholders, with the launch of this important communications tool.

6. It is important for me to note, I think, that effective communication cannot be achieved by a one-way flow of information. This has been taken into consideration in the design of our website, so that as we disseminate our on-line messages, users can provide feedback in various ways. These will include public and private message boards on a variety of issues, as well as online registration for meetings and workshops.

7. Modes of communication have greatly evolved over the course of my lifetime, and I readily admit that I haven’t kept up with all of this. Gone are the days before the computer, when memory was something you lost with old age, and the web was simply a spider’s home! Because of this rapid evolution of technologies, keeping up with trends is important for understanding our growing, and ever-changing audiences’ needs.

8. As outlined in the Pacific Regional Digital Strategy, an essential component of the Pacific Plan, Information and Communications Technologies, or ICTs, are universally acknowledged as powerful tools for development. They are not only essential to social development and economic growth, but are critical to the development of good governance, can be effective vehicles for the maintenance of security, and are vital for sustainable development.

9. Clearly, however, not all Pacific Island Countries enjoy the benefits of access to ICTs, such as the Internet. For many who do, they may be faced with slower speeds and higher costs of usage. The Digital Strategy seeks to address these sorts of shortfalls, and there are some exciting developments in regards to Internet connectivity that the Pacific can look forward to in the near future.

10. To quote from the Strategy directly: “In the Pacific, ICTs are the key to ending the tyranny of distance.”

11. We often talk of the vast ocean that separates our Pacific islands and peoples. The task of bridging this divide is, in essence, what drives our pursuit for regional cooperation and integration, because regardless of our nations’ diverse and individual circumstances, we share common aspirations and goals for a peaceful and prosperous region.

12. Friends and colleagues, thank you once again for attending our website launch. I hope you enjoy the refreshments provided, and make the most of our Internet Café at the Fale! I’ve heard rumours that staff would like a permanent coffee shop setup somewhere in the vicinity similar to this – but I have my reservations!

13. Tale and his IT team have set up computers for you to browse our new website. Please take a look, and feel free to give us your feedback.

14. Vinaka vakalevu, and take care.
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