Distinguished Representatives of the Forum Officials Committee,
Welcome again to the Secretariat and to this meeting of the Forum Officials Committee. Let me commend your resolve to sit through a considerable schedule of high level meetings this week. We have a lot of ground to cover over the next two days in preparation for the 47th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in the Federated States of Micronesia next month.
We have a full agenda ahead of us and a number of papers to consider, but many of these papers can be taken as read. The proposed agenda as set out allows us to focus on the substantive issues for discussion.
Members, we are once again at an important period in our annual calendar of meetings. Over the next two days we will engage with the key issues for our region and organisation. As we consider the specifics of our agenda, let me reflect on our collective achievements in 2016. Let me say that at the mid-point of the year, we have already accomplished much of note.
We are making positive progress against the Leader’s decision on fisheries. Through the collaborative efforts of the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office, and the Secretariat, we have mapped out a tangible work programme that will contribute to a sustainable increase in economic returns on fisheries over the next five years. The next step is to work closely with Members to implement this programme at the national level.
On climate change, of course the Paris Agreement has been signed, but we must endeavour to ratify the Agreement to bring it into force, and begin the work of ensuring that we deliver on our responsibilities under Paris. We must also work in a coordinated way to ensure easier and accelerated access to climate change finance. Of course there is also much to be done to ensure a regional approach to disaster risk management and Cyclone Winston again reminds us of the need for greater resilience in all our development planning across the region.
The Smaller Islands States Strategy, agreed to by SIS Leaders in Palau sets out the ambitions for the SIS as a sub-regional collective, and the tangible areas of work that will support the achievement of that vision. The strategy is a positive example of collective intent and action to deal with shared challenges faced by SIS countries.
As a region we are actively contributing to shape the Sustainable Development Goals and the SAMOA Pathway. The regional SDGs Roadmap will guide us in this work, and the Pacific SDGs Taskforce has been established to support these processes. As per the Leaders decision, we are working to ensure that we link our priorities and objectives under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism to globally agreed frameworks in a way that ensures that our collective reporting and monitoring is synchronised.
We continue to make strides in our work on the Analysis of Regional Governance and Finance. The Joint Steering Committee comprising the Chairs of CROP Agency Governing Councils and CEOs, which met last month, is a model for future interaction which will see greater ownership of the decisions around the resourcing and governance of Leaders priorities for regionalism in the future. The overall work of this Analysis will be game-changing in how we align our resources in support of our priorities for regionalism.
The Regional Public Policy Process continues to attract strong public interest; and the report and recommendations of the SSCR reflect issues that require a response that is regional and political. I am mindful of the need to ensure greater focus on the implementation and monitoring of priorities, and engagement with Members to ensure that we translate regional agreements to national level action.
We continue to carry out important governance and security monitoring work with our legislatures, oversight mechanisms, and security agencies. Let me also commend the people of Vanuatu, Samoa, Nauru and Australia for the conduct of successful general elections this year. I also acknowledge the Forum elections observer missions that were carried out during elections in Vanuatu, Samoa and Nauru. These missions demonstrate our collective interest in the democracies of our region and a willingness to benefit from one another’s experiences in the democratic process.
Let me turn to some of the things that we have achieved against our key budget and work programme this year.
As part of the ongoing reform programme, the Secretariat has commenced its process of regular quarterly reviews. These have been instrumental in focussing and prioritising our work. As a result of the first review in April, we have rationalised a list of 49 activities to a set of 29 outcome-oriented outputs that support our five Key Result Areas.
We have restructured staff reporting lines and removed the former programme structure. We now have dedicated team leaders for each output that report to a Director. We have also centralised a number of our administrative services such as travel and procurement. In undertaking this rationalisation work, we have been able to review our staffing needs and re-orient in support of current and future demand.
Through this process we have found savings of $2.5M this year. This is reflected in the 2016 Revised Budget that has been tabled at this meeting. Our audited Annual Financial statements for 2015 show a more positive outcome than originally forecast, due to the accounting of the funds from Papua New Guinea late last year,, taken into our General Reserve. This has resulted in a revised budgetary outcome for 2016, which has changed from a deficit of $0.5 million to a surplus of $1 million.
Looking forward we still have budgetary challenges, though the forecasts have improved as a result of the work we have done to date. These are based on conservative assumptions about costs and income, which will refined in the light of decisions on policy priorities and funding from external donors.
I want to highlight the considerable effort that has been undertaken this year to reduce the cost structure of the Secretariat. With a renewed focus on a concise and outcome oriented policy agenda, we need to ensure that we have adequate resources to meet the expectations upon us.
We need the right staffing resources to support the delivery of outcomes and we do need to look at ways to retain key staff resources. This means that the work of the Prioritisation and Funding Sub-Committee, and your support for a new long-term funding strategy, will be important to ensure we are able to support the Forum Leaders and the people of the Pacific.
Let me end with reference to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. In the Framework, Leaders have outlined a vision for the Pacific and a collective commitment to regionalism to achieve this vision. We recognise that a number of processes contribute to identify the priorities for regionalism under the Framework, including Ministerial and Officials meetings, and the regional public policy process. Within the Secretariat we continue our reform programme to ensure that we are set up to deliver effectively on the Framework.
While we have had positive engagement by CROP agencies and the Non-State Sector in the regional public policy process, it is incumbent on us to ensure that Members continue to invest in the Framework and drive its delivery.
To conclude, let me note that the Framework is more than a single process. It is about a collective political choice about how we achieve the Leaders’ vision for the future. It is about our partnerships – particularly quality partnerships that support the achievement of our ambitions. It speaks to our coherence as a group – whether that is regionally or sub-regionally. And it is about how our regional priorities contribute to our global commitments.
Moreover, the Framework calls for regional political solidarity and ambition, and it requires the innovation and the inclusion of the diversity of voice of the people of the Pacific. Our challenge is to remain consistent to these things as we carry out our work in delivering on the Framework.
Members of the Forum Officials Committee, I wish you all the best in your deliberations.