SSCR Press Conference - 16th Feb, 2016


The eight Members of the Specialist Sub-Committee that participated in the Press Conference included:

- Mr. Leonard Louma (PNG), Melanesia

- Mr. Lopeti Senituli (Tonga), Polynesia

- Mr John Davidson (Australia), Australia/New Zealand

- Ms. Teresa Manarangi-Trott (Cook Islands), Smaller Island States

- Mr. William Kostka (FSM), Civil Society

- Mr. Peter Kiely (NZ), Private Sector

- Dame Meg Taylor, DBE (PIFS), Chair

For bio profiles of the SSCR members: click here

Explain the concept of Pacific Regionalism and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and talk about why it’s important?

Lopeti Senituli: If I may, for me the best illustration of what Pacific Regionalism is, is the creation of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, that is, the creation of the South Pacific Forum. That was an audacious and a bold declaration by the Leaders of the Pacific that they wanted to take and assert their control over the decision making processes relating to their own countries, their own region and their own resources.

So the Pacific Islands Forum today is the prime example of regionalism at work. Of course there are various examples of regionalism, for example, coordination were for example, the establishment of the University of the South Pacific. Remember the time when there were no universities in the Pacific Islands except perhaps Papua New Guinea. So the countries decided that we should set up a university for the region as a whole and with the gift from the New Zealand air force we inherited, the campus which is now the main campus for the University of the South Pacific is another prime example of regionalism at work.

The Framework for Pacific Regionalism has brought us together here, is the result of the review that Sir Morauta has put together. Sir Morauta has reminded us, the Leaders and the region as a whole, that regionalism is not only about governance or officials or Prime Ministers. No. Regionalism must include all the people of the Pacific.

So, this SSCR gives the opportunity to civil society organisations, to churches, to the business houses, the private sector – an opportunity to contribute towards the discussions of all matters relating to the resources, and also their governance in the region.

Teresa Manarangi-Trott: I just like to add to what my colleague has just reiterated. I think that one of the things that this Framework is also trying to do is to bring together the resources of the Pacific so that they become better utilized. We currently had a number of organisations within the Pacific and they seem to be working in isolation of each other and one of the ideas of the Leaders is to ensure there is better coordination of Pacific resources.

Some of those resources are what comes into the Pacific from our donor partners and what we should be doing is saying to the Leaders ‘these are the priorities of the Pacific that the SSCR are putting forward, therefore, we need the resources to actually make these things work for the Pacific and for you as Leaders’.

The idea is that the Leaders take control, they make the decisions and actions should be what is happening on the ground. They are the indicators of what the Leaders should be seeing. They should be seeing actions from both the agencies around the Pacific working in collaboration with each other and resourcing those priorities that the Leaders have actually decided upon.

Peter Kiely: I think it can be put very simply. This process is about listening. This process is about involving as many stakeholders, people, organisations as possible and saying to them you take ownership of the future, what do you think is important?

All we are doing is setting some priorities but what comes to us comes from the people, comes from the grassroots, comes from the people who have most at stake and that’s why it’s making a difference.

John Davidson: If I can just add, this isn’t a process about a lot of talking. This is a process about listening as my colleagues have said. But it is also a process that results in action. That action is about improving the lives of people in the Pacific.

Each of these activities that we have discussed this morning will have monitoring evaluation frameworks around them. We will be reporting back to Leaders on progress. That information will be made public. You could see that action is actually taking place on the ground.

Equally as important, as my colleagues have mentioned, lining up resources on the highest priority issues and we would request that donors look at these issues.

These are the issues that have been identified as the highest priority issues in our region. We need to be lining up the resources behind those to make sure they happen. To make sure that we have a real impact on the lives of people in the Pacific. 

Leonard Louma:I think one of the things that have come out of the process is that because we are putting a few regional priorities in front of the Leaders, they are able to spend more time discussing these issues during their Forum and in the past there were so many issues that come in front of them.

They aren’t able to spend a lot of time discussing those issues. The other thing that has come out of this process is that we’re hoping that it will start to reduce duplication of efforts. As we are reviewing the proposals that are coming in, we are continuing to remind people that if there are efforts that are already on-going, that we are going to send these proposals back to work with those efforts and we are not going to be duplicating any effort.

So that would reduce time and the resources that we’re spending on these things. Also being very careful not to start to infringe on national autonomy. A lot of the proposals that are coming in that should be implemented by the countries or the sub-regions are not going to be forwarded to the Leaders because those should remain at the national or sub-regional level. I think those are the types of the things that are really being good results of this process.


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How has the work of the SSCR impacted on the regional agenda?

Lopeti Senituli: As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the work of the SSCR on the overall agenda of the Pacific region is that primarily it’s about inclusiveness. It’s about bringing in every sector of the population involved in the decision making and also involved in matters that relate to the region’s resources and the region’s values.

So that’s how we are impacting on the regional agenda. We are giving the opportunity to the civil society organisations, faith based organisations, private sector and in other words, those sectors that did not have access to the political decision making process in the region previously. That’s the major impact of the SSCR.

As you can see from the five issues that we have selected, there are some of the issues that people are asking ‘how did that particular issue get on the Leader’s agenda?’ That’s because the SSCR was created as a result of Sir Morauta’s review and it is an opportunity for all the sectors of the population of the region to impact what is happening at the Pacific region well.

Teresa Manarangi-Trott:Interesting question. My colleague has actually highlighted some very good positives about the SSCR. But we’ve also had a large number of challenges. The challenge of ensuring that there’s sufficient resourcing for the implementation of these priorities is a major one.

Bringing together and coordinating the agencies around how these particular priorities will be implemented is the second challenge. So, our impact has been in some ways negative in terms of how these things are going to work themselves through in terms of time and I think it is time. It’s not about things all happening at once.

People need to change the way they do business in the Pacific and our expectation is that hopefully there will be a change in the way we do business in the Pacific. In the way we think about what our Leaders are actually telling us and how we implement those priorities in the Pacific. So not everything’s good but most of it is.

Weblink: Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism

How different do you expect the new proposals that will be coming in to be from what you’ve already seen so far?

Teresa: We don’t know.

So you’ll probably get the same sort of proposals coming forward again or one or two new ones and then we have this situation where we are overloaded with stuff that we’re passing on to the Leaders which then clogs what we’re supposedly trying to clear for them in terms of the priorities. (Dennis Rounds, Islands Business Magazine)

Leonard Louma: Let me just say first that that’s a very important question that you have raised and what we tried to discuss it in our meetings yesterday and the day before is trying to determine what would constitute the threshold to move one of the issues out of the Leaders agenda and that would free up so to speak a space for a new one to be brought in. Perhaps if you ask me that question in the next meeting, when all the updates of all the actions taken on the initiatives that we have proposed for Leaders consideration and they have made certain directives in the Forum communique on what actions to take become clearer to us, then I would be able to say this is how.

But it’s a good question and I am glad that the public are thinking about it in that manner because we don’t want to get back to a situation where we are overloading the Leaders agenda. We have succeeded to instil a sense of discipline in what goes to the Leaders and we intend to maintain that discipline in the next round of calls. We really don’t know what’s going to come up in the next call for proposals. There might be some really, really good proposals that will come in and we would not want to kill those good proposals. But that would become clearer to us when we get all the reports as to what they have done on the five that have been done so far.

There will be one or two which will probably determine after the reports that no longer should stay within the realm of Leaders consideration. They have given it enough emphasis. They will move it to the Ministers. The Ministers can consider it and then we bring new ones in. For me, that’s how I will respond to your query. On the issue of the changes in the agenda in the region, my response to this would be if you look at the way the agenda is drawn up in the previous Forums, it was really the Officials of the Governments that determine what went to the Leaders for their consideration.

It excluded the civil society and I just want to emphasize what Lopeti said, that the positive change or the fundamental change I saw in last year is that there were one or two issues that would otherwise have not gone to the Leaders for their consideration had we left it to the old way of doing things.

But last year two issues went, in my estimation, went to the Leaders for their consideration because of the new way that we have chosen to determine what goes to the Leaders for their consideration. I will leave the two to your own imagination because I think you know which two.

Willy Kostka: If I can add to what has been said, the committee has agreed and the Secretariat was given a large amount of time between now and the proposals start coming in and when the reviews will be taking place because we are going to be having much more consultations with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat staff and the other CROP agencies as well as other development partners to see the visibility of putting these proposals in front of the Leaders.

So that consultation process will be taken very seriously so that we are not continuing to put up proposals that nobody is going to be able to implement. The other thing that we are also making sure is happening is that the proponents of these initiatives are also going to be involved and have been involved in the development or the implementation of the initiatives. But yes, you are correct. We could easily saturate the programmes that are going to be coming in where we just won’t be able to have the ability to manage.

But the other thing is that as we are going forward with this, hopefully this process will start to allow our Leaders to start directing to our donor partners and say these are our priorities and we need you to help us make sure that these priorities are taken care of instead of coming in with other things that may not be the priorities that the Leaders have put forward.

So those are the kinds of things that this committee has been talking about in the past few days and making sure that we don’t saturate the ability of the organisations who are going to be implementing.

Weblink: Submit a Regional Initiave -

Is the Framework for Pacific regionalism redefining the development agenda for the Pacific?

Dame Meg Taylor: May I just say that shifting the donor mindset is a paramount challenge. Those conversations that need to continue to happen, particularly with those Forum Dialogue partners and donor partners that what the Leaders of the Pacific have identified through this process remains what the development agenda is and what are the key priorities for the Leaders and that’s where the focus should be.

Of course there are some donors who are willing and positive to work very closely to make sure that these initiatives are implemented, but I think that this is something that will need a lot more emphasis and that will take a bit more time to change that mindset. I just wanted to make that comment.

The seventh member of the committee is not here with us, Gustav Aitaro, from Micronesia who’s as solid as the members that you have met now but because of the Micronesian Leaders meeting had to stay back.

Willy Kostka: I just want to add that maybe we wouldn’t be true if we told you that everything was going well. I mean this is a new process.

There are difficulties in the new process and we are working very hard to make sure that and so there are those who are going to complain and we understand that and we take those complaints and those who are the critics – their concerns very seriously. We are learning from that and the last couple of days we have been discussing those and making sure that we respond to those in making this process a better process.

But we are also very positive – this is the first time we have done this and we see that there’s the ability now for non-state actors and I for one, representing the CSOs, I’m very happy that there is this process and for the first time the CSOs were invited to the Forum in PNG and they had their own time with the leadership of the Forum in Papua New Guinea. Everything is not going well but there are positive things that are coming out of this. Thank you.

Where does the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat fit into all of this?

Dame Meg Taylor: If I may again, as a Secretariat, as some of you may be wondering where we fit into all this, the function of convening our CROP agencies partners, other donors or other agencies who are working on this area is very important. The important thing for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is that our work is relevant to the region and it’s relevant to the nations and the states and it’s relevant to the communities. This process has given us a very very important role.

Over the years I hope you will measure all of this well. That it was the turning point for this region to start taking responsibility for the issues that affect the region and not to have the issues defined externally. That is a conversation that I hear amongst many people in the Pacific.

As we see many issues unraveling now and I’m sure you are following some of the other major issues in terms of the fisheries, the treaties, what does it mean to capture the added value of those resources, etc. but it’s about the leadership of those region defining what is important. Can we do better? Of course we can do better to support our Leaders. But I hope that over the next couple of years, you, the press, will be part of the instrument that holds this whole process accountable.

The 2016 call for submissions When does it start and what are you looking for?

John Davidson: The next call for regional policy initiatives opens 18th of February, and closes on the 10th of April. So, a significant period of time for groups and people from around the region as you have heard from all the sectors to be able to put together what they see as the big priority issues.

Sir Mekere and his team went around the region, and they discussed with Leaders what would represent appropriate proposals and there’s a list of tests towards the back of that booklet and we would encourage people and organisations who are putting forward proposals to have a very close look at those tests and to do their level best to address them and we in turn, will do our level best to assess their proposals against those tests.

As I said earlier, the ones that don’t make the cut to go to Leaders, we will do our best to work with those organisations to find an appropriate place where action may be taken against those issues. But if I can just repeat those dates – the call for initiatives opens on the 18th of February and closes on the 10th of April.

After that time, the Forum Secretariat will do some analysis on those proposals against the tests. We will reconvene as a group between the 13th and the 16th of June and then we will make decisions about what we see as the highest priority issues and then forward those on for consideration to Leaders at the next Forum in Pohnpei.

Lopeti Senituli: We looked at the proposals that we received last time and we, in looking at the template for submissions, we also realized that in the last call we received some research proposals, we received some funding proposals seeking for example if they were able to receive our endorsements then it will boost their chances of getting money for their research or sponsorship for their research. We are trying to dissuade those type of proposals.

We don’t want those research proposals, we don’t want funding proposals. What we are looking for are regional issues that are totally important for the people of the region as a whole which would not get to the Leader’s agenda through other channels, say through the Forum Officials or through the Forum Secretariat. So this is your opportunity. This is how we would get on the Leaders agenda. I should also mention that in our initial list of priorities, we selected nine initially and then cut those down to five.

So four of those we collapsed into two but then we dropped two altogether and those two were – one to do with mining, deep sea mining. The second one was to do with water and sanitation. Those are crucial issues as you all know that there’s a lot of concern here in Fiji, for example.

That’s a concern. It is not only in Fiji but also in other parts of the region. So we are encouraging those that submitted last time to re-submit their issue if they still feel that it is an important issue, that it be placed at the Leader’s table. But we do not want funding proposals, we do not want research proposals.

Weblink: Submit a Regional Initiative

Update on the Proposals so far: Statement by the PIF Chair



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