Acting Secretary General Andie Fong’s closing remarks at the 2016 Pacific Update Conference

Japan-Pacific ICT Auditorium, USP

Suva, Fiji

19 July 2016

Thank you Master of Ceremonies
Distinguished guests

  1. In making these closing remarks, I would firstly like to express, on behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, sincere appreciation to the sponsors and organisers of this year’s Pacific Update Conference. Dame Meg would very much like to have participated in this Conference. However, she had also committed to representing the Pacific Islands Forum at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development which is currently taking place at the UN in New York.
  2. I understand that the range of speakers has been excellent. And there has been a real spirit of enthusiasm in the exchange of ideas about the development issues affecting our region.
  3. The Conference theme “Inclusive Growth for Enhanced Resilience” is timely and relevant. Ensuring inclusive, sustainable growth to improve the economic and social resilience of our countries is one of the most critical development challenges for the Pacific region. And as attested by the discussions over the last two days, it is a challenge which covers many issues, from the needs of the most vulnerable members of our societies, to accountability for delivery of public goods and services, to the empowerment of our next generation of leaders.
  4. We are all aware of the many vulnerabilities of our region, including the impacts of climate change, the frequency of natural disasters, and internal governance issues. It is a region which is also extremely vulnerable to the movements of the international economy, which can derail within a very short period of time economic progress made over many years.
  5. However, as has been discussed in the course of this Conference, there are many opportunities for our region to enhance its resilience through inclusive growth, and we have heard of many good practices and country experiences.
  6. These include for instance, good practices on managing resource rich economies including the setting up of a sovereign wealth fund to prudently manage petroleum revenues in Timor-Leste; good practices and experiences of State-Owned Enterprises reforms in the Republic of Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tonga; as well as innovative methods of improving private sector development, especially promoting Small-medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
  7. As a representative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, it should not come as a surprise that our particular interest in this Conference has been on the role of regionalism in enabling inclusive growth and resilience.
  8. Sustainable development and inclusive economic growth are identified as two of the four key objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which was endorsed by Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2014 as the Forum’s overarching commitment to, and strategy for, deeper regionalism.
  9. As is clear from the terms of the Framework, regionalism is not an end in of itself. Rather regional action provides a way of complementing our national efforts and overcoming common constraints to achieve our region’s common goals.
  10. It has been heartening that the range of issues that feature as political priorities for Forum Leaders, including Fisheries, Climate Change, ICT and connectivity, private sector development, and regional trade were the subject of your discussions. In particular, building the resilience of local communities to climate change, accessing climate finance, and building future climate leaders. And the vibrant presentations and discussions on fisheries, especially in relation to increasing the returns of fisheries both for coastal and off-shore fisheries. On regional trade there were a number of excellent presentations on regional trade agreements and what they entail for Pacific economies and people, and the rich discussions on labour mobility, remittances and de-risking.
  11. Before I conclude, I would like to make a few comments about the importance of events such as this Pacific Update Conference.
  12. Robust research and discussion are, in the Secretariat’s view, vital for our collective efforts in shaping a more inclusive and resilient Pacific islands region. It is particularly important that this research and these discussions take place in the Pacific; and that they are open to all people with an interest to participate in the public conversation about our region’s future. Fora like this can stimulate new and dynamic ideas for public policy, at both the national and regional levels.
  13. Encouraging greater public participation in regional public policy is a key feature of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which I mentioned earlier. The Framework also emphasises the importance of evidence-based policy. So there is an increasing recognition at the regional political level of the experience, resources and insights that research institutions, policy think tanks and civil society can bring to the regionalism agenda.
  14. In closing, I would like to thank the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the Development Policy Centre of the Australia National University, and the University of the South Pacific for co-sponsoring and organising this year’s Pacific Update Conference.
  15. I would also like to thank the academics, researchers, and policy practitioners who have contributed to the success of this Conference through their research work, presentations and participation in the discussions.
  16. Thank you also to the staff and students of the USP for your excellent work in supporting this Conference.
  17. Everyone who has attended this Conference has contributed to its success. I am confident that we will all maintain the momentum and energy generated by this Conference in our various lines of work and study, and in our collective efforts to develop an inclusive and resilient Pacific.

Thank you.

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