Opening remarks by Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, to the 2014 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting


18th Honiara, Solomon Islands


10 July 2014

Introductory Remarks by Tuiloma Neroni Slade Secretary General Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Mr Chairman
Honourable Prime Minister
Honourable Ministers

Honourable Ministers, we are meeting at a time when there are significant opportunities to provide clear leadership that will shape the direction of development in the region. Your deliberations and decisions today will be made in the midst of key international efforts for global climate leadership by the United Nations Secretary General, in the post-2015 process for sustainable development goals (SDGs) and on the future of small island developing States (SIDS).
The United Nations has declared 2014 the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). For the Pacific region, this is even more special as we prepare to host the SIDS conference in September, in Samoa, a privilege and rare opportunity for the region. The SIDS conference theme in essence is about ‘sustainable development’ and ‘partnerships’, key elements to ‘strengthening economic linkages’, the theme of this year’s FEMM.
This FEMM session is also well timed as in just over two weeks Forum Leaders will gather for their annual meeting in Palau. The Ocean will be the focus of Leaders, highlighting the centrality of a healthy and productive Ocean to Life and the Future of Pacific countries and communities. The ocean-resource linkages with the economic health and growth of Pacific economies are, of course, obvious and fundamental.
Of particular significance is the re-casting of the Pacific Plan as the Framework for Pacific Regionalism recommended by Sir Mekere Morauta and his review team and as endorsed by Forum Leaders at their special Retreat in the Cook Islands in May. Leaders in Palau will give further consideration to the matter and make the final decisions on the new Framework and its operation. I would note that in practical terms the Framework is the key context for the implementation of FEMM policy and decisions; and note also the clear message from the comprehensive review conducted by Sir Mekere that we need to move beyond regional collaboration and cooperation and more strategically towards regional integration. That is the real challenge of Pacific Regionalism.
Equally of significance will be the occasion of Australia hosting the G20 Leaders meeting in November, and the prospect for Pacific countries to profile the challenges, and the multiple opportunities that we have as a region, with the major developed economies.
And so, Hon Ministers, in this context of eventful times for the region and with the world looking on, this FEMM meeting would need to be more purposeful in its outcomes, in the provision of clear, informed and strategic advice and guidance for member countries and their inter-actions with all stakeholders and development partners, as well as for the strengthening of FEMM itself and its procedures and governance arrangements. Strengthening economic linkages
We need to consider how Forum Economic Ministers can support the region in these important forthcoming engagements, and in particular, develop synergies with other decision making fora in support of regional initiatives.
Economic growth for most Forum Island Countries remains moderate and volatile with limited diversification of the key drivers of growth. Optimising the use of available limited resources, creating the enabling environment for the private sector, strengthening economic linkages amongst different sectors of the economy, complemented by genuine partnerships with stakeholders are all key to achieving broad-based and sustainable economic growth. We need to look into improved connectivity, ongoing capacity building and resilient growth for the region to reinvigorate Pacific economies. These are canvassed in the papers for this meeting.
The Waiheke Declaration on Sustainable Economic Development promotes renewed emphasis on regional economic integration sustaining long-term inclusive economic growth in Pacific communities. Integration can be the impetus for creating jobs and opportunities for training for employment, enhancing private sector growth, and raising standards of living, through the freer flow of goods, services and investment within the Pacific with both national and regional outcomes.
Drawing on the Waiheke Declaration, and with the theme-emphasis on strengthening economic linkages, this FEMM agenda and discussions will focus on linkages between important mainstays of Pacific economies, like tourism and the agriculture sectors. These, too, are addressed in the papers before Ministers, and also addressed by your officials.
May I say that as Economic Ministers, you have a lead role to play in creating an integrated and inclusive environment in both these sectors that creates jobs, and provides maximum positive spin-off effects for the economy, including specific initiatives to promote opportunities to economically empower women. Private sector as a catalyst for strengthening economic linkages
Governments and the public sector have dominant roles across the region. We know that. But we also know that governments alone cannot achieve all that is desired or able to sustain it. Having supportive and enduring partnerships is essential in achieving the goals of igniting and sustaining economic growth in the region. I should think it is common ground among us all in the room that the private sector provides the critical factor for achieving the goal of inclusive growth.
In recent times many, within Governments and the private sector, have worked very hard to promote relations; and warmly I thank and congratulate all who have taken leadership in doing so. I am very pleased that from this year we will have a deeper engagement with the private sector as part of the Private Sector Dialogue with the Economic Ministers, as called for by Forum Leaders and Economic Ministers in 2013. We hope that this new approach will result in an enduring public-private partnership both nationally and regionally. Threats to economic growth prospects and responses
Hon Ministers, Pacific aspirations for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development are constrained and under threat from both external and internal factors. We need a determined and concerted approach to address these threats. 5 Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
With respect to non communicable diseases (NCDs), which are largely reflective of lifestyle choices, these have become, literally, of epidemic proportions throughout the region. If NCDs are not promptly and effectively addressed, there seems little question that these diseases will impede country and regional aspirations for the health and wellbeing of communities, and with consequential and increasingly significant strain on national health systems and services. People are the treasured assets of all countries, more so in our part of the world where there is so much in culture, tradition and identity that is so uniquely Pacific.
You Hon Ministers at this FEMM session, working together with Health Ministers, would need to come out with clear and considered economic policy measures to rein in the epidemic rate of NCDs in the region. Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction
Time and again Forum Leaders have reaffirmed climate change as the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and welfare of Pacific peoples. Adapting to, and mitigating the effects of climate change are key aspects of our international strategy in negotiations and reflected in the Leader’s decisions.
The cross-cutting implications and impacts of climate change calls for multiple responses, including by governments, communities and development partners. For a number of years now, Economic Ministers have engaged in efforts to improve the region’s access to global climate financing for both adaptation and mitigation. There is need to continue to enhance joint Pacific endeavour on the matter. But, I would take the opportunity to welcome the commencement of the operations of the Green Climate Fund and congratulate the five Forum Island Countries which have already submitted nomination for their National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and urge those that have not done so to work with the Forum Secretariat to see what early progress can be made to that work.
21. Climate change resourcing is a complex subject and requires a substantial effort to understand the different sources and the various modalities available to our vulnerable Pacific economies. While we grapple with this, the costs of climate-related damages and the financial consequences are mounting. I will not be the first, nor the last, to call for more resolute steps – globally, regionally and nationally – for more determined action to be taken with urgency.
One particular aspect for Ministers’ consideration at this meeting concerns the current regional pilot for the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) and how this initiative might be taken forward. I would actively encourage Ministers to redouble their efforts to seek funding for the future, and improve the linkages between disaster risk management, budgets and planning. Development partners
Mr Chairman, Hon Ministers, before I close, I would like on behalf of all Forum member Governments, and the Secretariat, sincerely to thank all our friends and development partners, and the consultants to this meeting, for their commitment and the generosity of their support, in so many ways, to the FEMM and the key role that this Ministerial meeting plays in the affairs of member countries and the region. Many of these friends and major partners are present or being represented at this meeting. Our most grateful appreciation for your outstanding contribution, professionalism and collegiality. It is simply not possible for FEMM or for the Secretariat to undertake this large and important body of work without your support and assistance.
Hon Prime Minister, thank you again for being with us.
Hon Ministers and heads of delegations, may I wish you well in your deliberations. Thank You.

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