Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
4 September 2015
Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Rimbink Pato
Esteemed members of the press from across the Pacific
Members of PINA
Colleagues and friends
- Good morning. Welcome to Papua New Guinea and welcome to this two day media workshop. Your presence here is appreciated and extremely important.
- This will be an important Forum Leaders Meeting for many reasons, first and foremost because Leaders will be considering a range of high priority and perhaps politically contentious issues for our region. However, these issues have come about through new and inclusive process of regional priority setting. The intention is that these issues could have game-changing and far reaching consequences for our region.
[Role of the media]
- You play an important role in informing the public. For that reason, it is important that media is independent and is able to convey issues and facts accurately. You must communicate in a way that provokes conversation and discourse on important issues for our region such that we have a well informed public that engages with the important regional issues.
- Since becoming Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, I have prioritised the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. This Framework is as much about a process for identifying regional priorities, as it is about regional principles and ideals. It is about choosing to work together to address our shared challenges, and to strive towards the region that we want; in line with our culture, our values, and our principles.
- But working together requires frank and potentially difficult discussions to be had by our Leaders. Regionalism has implications for sovereignty. Regionalism has implications for resourcing. Regionalism requires respect for shared standards and values. These are difficult conversations but they need to take place.
- They need to take place not simply in the political arena. It is important these discussions also take place in the public domain – particularly if we are to achieve the deeper regionalism that the Framework encourages us to consider. Needless to say, the media has a big part to play in raising the level of these discussions in the public domain.
- Five key issues have been identified – through a public process – for Forum Leaders to discuss next week. Let’s stop to consider this for a moment. For the first time, issues to be discussed at the Leaders level – priority issues – have been determined by members of the public. Two were based on submissions from regional or sub-regional organisations. Three were based on submissions from civil society organisations. Again, I think we should recognise the importance of this. Regional initiatives will be discussed at the highest levels and they were generated by the public through the framework.
- These five issues were selected by the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism, an independent and representative body, whose role was to consider all 68 regional initiatives that were submitted. The Sub-Committee applied a range of tests that are set out in the Framework and my colleagues will be able to speak in more detail about this process throughout the course of the workshop.
- A fundamental dimension to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism is the shift in the development paradigm that it calls for. When I returned to the Pacific having spent many years working around the world, I returned to a region highly dependent on development assistance. With this assistance, and particularly the extent of this assistance, I also see an inability of our own people and our own Leaders to articulate and prosecute their own development and political agenda in the region. The Framework calls for us to turn this state of affairs around – to ensure that our Leaders are setting the regional agenda, based on a public process for identifying key issues. I’m sure you would agree with me in saying that this represents a major shift in how things are currently done in this region.
- Let me now turn to speak briefly on the five priority issues that Leaders will discuss.
- The first issue is increased returns on fisheries. Maximising revenue from our fisheries is of course a potential game-changer. The estimated value of the catch per year being around 3-4 billion US dollars, but much of this catch is processed outside of our region. The essence of this initiative is that Leaders agree to restructuring the tuna industry and phase out foreign fishing vessels over twenty years. The other aspect to this initiative is that Leaders task Fisheries, Economic and Foreign Ministers to undertake a joint comprehensive evaluation of the regional monitoring, surveillance and compliance regime.
- The issue around climate change contains two elements. The first is that Leaders agree on a high level, political statement on climate change to take to COP 21 in Paris later this year. The second component is that Leaders endorse a draft strategy on Climate and Disaster Resilient Development in the Pacific.
- A response to alleged human rights issues within West Papua will also be put to Leaders for consideration. Three submissions, representing over 30 civil society organisations across the Pacific were put forward. In terms of the correct nomenclature, it is important to point out that West Papua is the language used by those who made the submissions on this issue. Needless to say, this is likely to be one of the more contentious issues on the agenda.
- Leaders will also consider cervical cancer. This week the PNG Medical symposium has been taking place here in Port Moresby. My friend Dr Glen Mola tells me that a priority conversation across the week has been the need for an effective national screening and HPV vaccination program to treat cervical cancer in PNG. Research indicates that this is not a unique situation. Women and their families across the region are experiencing pain and suffering at the hands of an illness that could be prevented. There have already been positive outcomes in addressing cervical cancer in Fiji, and there are lessons here that can be applied in other countries in the Pacific.
- The last issue to be put to Leaders is Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Like the return on fisheries, ICT has the potential to transform our region. We already see the profound effects that mobile phones have had in the Pacific. There are educational, economic, health, disaster management, as well as communications benefits that can be realised if the proper ICT infrastructure is put in place.
[Forum Leaders Program]
- There are of course a number of other important meetings to take place next week. Let me quickly brief you on the key meetings and what is to take place in each of these.
- On Sunday and Monday, a Civil Society Organisation Regional Forum will be held, coordinated by the Forum Secretariat. There will be about 50 participants in attendance, who will discuss the regional priorities that are going Leaders. Tuesday they will present their considerations directly to the forum Troika.
- On Monday, the Smaller Island States Leaders will convene to discuss issues the five priority issues with particular reference to the implications that they have for Smaller Island States.
- The Pacific ACP grouping will meet on Tuesday. The meeting will be dedicated to reviewing ways to strengthen the PACP engagement for better development outcomes in the Pacific region.
- On Wednesday the Pacific Islands Forum formal session will begin; this is an opportunity for Leaders with forum associate members and observers to discuss major issues. The day will also include a high level climate change brief for Leaders, to be coordinated by SPREP and SPC.
- The Leaders Retreat on Thursday is essentially where they will discuss the five regional issues that have come through the Framework. In addition to a number of standing issues on the Forum agenda, such as RAMSI, the Leaders gender equality declaration, a strengthening of the Post-Forum Dialogue, the Post 2015 development agenda, as well as the Forum Compact.
- On Friday, Leaders will sit down with Post-Forum dialogue partners to ensure that PFD partners support the regional priority issues endorsed by Leaders at their retreat.
- So to return to my earlier sentiments, let me reiterate the significance of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism both within the Secretariat, and also at the Forum Leaders meeting next week.
- Let me also reiterate the importance that you will play in covering the events over the coming days; I do hope that your work reaches our Pacific people, and the result is greater discourse and dialogue.
- Let me again congratulate you on your travels, and welcome you to Papua New Guinea. I wish you all the best for your workshop, and look forward to the fruits of your labour in the coming days.