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SG's Speech opening of 16th SIS Leaders Summit
SMALLER ISLAND STATES
SIXTEENTH SIS LEADERS’ SUMMIT
Nuku’alofa, Tonga
15 October 2007

OPENING REMARKS BY MR GREG URWIN,
SECRETARY GENERAL, PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT


Honourable Leaders
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

• I take much pleasure in welcoming you to this the 16th Summit meeting of Leaders of the Smaller Island States. I also welcome you to Nuku’alofa. I hope that arrangements made for this meeting meet your approval. If there is anything that you require, do not hesitate to let us know.

• It is my pleasure to congratulate His Excellency Ludwig Scotty on his success in the recent elections in Nauru.

• The SIS Leaders meeting is intended to provide you with an opportunity to review issues of particular concern to you within the context of those matters to be considered by all Forum Leaders over the next two days. It is critical that your particular views be heard and recognised in the wider meetings, as too often in the larger world the voices of the small and vulnerable States are drowned out by others.

• Your provisional agenda tries to capture some of the issues that are of concern to you. It has had the benefit of scrutiny by a preliminary meeting of your officials in early October, in conjunction with the Forum Officials Committee Meeting.

• Your officials, in transmitting their recommendations to you, identified key priority areas that address the long term challenges of the SIS. These areas include health, in particular, non-communicable diseases; transportation; labour mobility in the context of regional economic integration; and energy, with respect to renewable energy and bulk fuel procurement. These will be addressed during the meeting. However, should you wish to highlight other issues of particular concern, we would be more than happy to assist you in addressing them.

• The Pacific Plan Annual Report to Leaders is available for your discussion. You will, I hope be pleased to recognise that much of the traction generated by the Pacific Plan has been recorded by the Smaller Island States. This progress is pleasing to note and it is substantially gratifying for the Secretariat, given its role in facilitating this work through our SIS Desk Officers placed in each of your countries. The performance of the SIS Desk Officers should not go by unnoticed and I commend them for their tireless efforts.

• At the Summit in 2006, there was considerable interest in advancing the concept of a sub-regional air service. The Secretariat with Senior officials of the countries concerned has been advancing this work. A cost benefit study was conducted throughout the year, and a clear directive is sought from you as to how this can be further progressed.

• Similarly, the matter of a sub-regional feeder shipping service was explored through 2007 and your guidance is sought on how best we can advance the initiative.

• The matter of labour mobility is of great interest to our SIS. The introduction of the Regional Seasonal Employer Scheme by the New Zealand and work done by the World Bank have been widely welcomed. We also may want to note that exploration of other schemes could also form a basis of the work of the Secretariat in the coming period.

• The Secretariat will, of course, assist you in any way possible during your discussion.

• May I wish you well for a fruitful meeting.

Thank you.