Director General Stefano Manservisi;
Heads of EU Missions across the Pacific;
Heads of Suva Based Forum and Diplomatic Missions;
Senior UN and CROP Representatives;
Colleagues and Friends;
Let me thank the European Union for the opportunity to provide some remarks on this occasion, as we reflect on relations between the EU and the Pacific.
As I understand, these discussions will also inform our consideration of the arrangements that are to follow the Cotonou Agreement, and so I look forward to being part of this meeting and contributing to the discussion.
Allow me to set the scene for our discussions by reflecting on the shared context and environment that we face in the Pacific.
Framework for Pacific Regionalism
The Pacific Islands Forum comprises eighteen Island Countries and Territories, including some of the smallest nations in the world and linguistically and culturally, it is the most diverse region of the world.
As custodians of a large portion of the world’s largest ocean, collectively, our exclusive economic zones amount to approximately 40 million square kilometres. We are the Blue Pacific Continent.
We face common threats arising from climate change, ever encroaching sea levels, and more frequent and more intense disasters from natural and manmade hazard risks. And it is a geographic fact that we are situated some distance from global markets and political centres, which makes communication and transport costs expensive but it does not diminish our voice on issues affecting us at key political fora.
Faced with this context, regionalism will help us to effectively address our challenges and capitalise on the opportunities and potential that we possess.
And at a time when the value of regional and global integration is being questioned, for us, regionalism is not only desirable, but essential to address common challenges, derive collective benefit from our shared resources, and leverage our collective, regional voice on the global stage.
The Framework for Pacific Regionalism, endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2014, represents Forum Leaders’ renewed emphasis on regionalism, as a means to achieving our development goals and aspirations, particularly as these are expressed through the Forum Leaders vision and strategic objective for the region, as articulated in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Regionalism needs to be driven at the political level if it is to be effective. Forum Leaders must play a central role in agreeing to regional priorities, driving their implementation through regional and national institutions, securing the necessary resources to support implementation, and ensuring that development partners align their support to the delivery of these game-changing regional initiatives.
Regionalism must be inclusive, and relevant to all people across the Pacific. The concerns and issues of all people, including Pacific citizens, civil society, the private sector, religious and faith-based institutions, academics and scholars, must inform the identification and delivery of regional priorities, as well as any decisions about engaging in forms of regionalism or regional integration.
And while we are one group under the Pacific Islands Forum, we are also culturally and socially diverse. Sub-regionalism is therefore important to ensure that we deal with issues that are specific to distinct sub-groupings within the Forum.
The Smaller Island States group within the Pacific Islands Forum is a specific example of sub-regionalism. The SIS countries represent the most vulnerable of Forum Island Countries. Their ‘unique and particular’ vulnerabilities linked to their small size, lack of natural resources, and remoteness minimises their prospects to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This sub-regional approach highlights an important fact of Pacific regionalism – that – one size does not necessarily fit all.
Additionally, it is important that we foster and develop forms of regionalism that are relevant to our context. While models of regional integration from other regional blocs around the world, including the EU, provide lessons, we must pursue a model of regionalism that works for us, that takes account of our history, our context, and our shared vision for the future.
Alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals
The delivery of our priorities under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism is of course overlaid with our obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals, which provide an additional context for our discussions today.
In 2015, Pacific Leaders committed to the full implementation of the SDGs in the Pacific with a focus on the unfinished business of the MDGs and means of implementation of the SDGs.
Leaders also called for coherence in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, the SAMOA Pathway and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism to reduce the reporting burden on Pacific countries.
They asked for a regional set of indicators to measure progress of the Pacific on the SDGs, the SAMOA Pathway and Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
In addition, they called on development partners to consistently meet their commitments under the SAMOA Pathway and Addis Ababa Action Agenda through supporting financing, strengthening of statistics, and supporting Pacific countries in tailoring the SDGs at national level, taking into consideration the special vulnerabilities and capacity limitations of Pacific SIDS.
To support this work, the Pacific SDGs Taskforce, consisting of Forum Countries, CROP, UN and Multilateral Agencies, Bilateral partners, Non-State Actors and regional Research institutions, is developing a Pacific SDGs Roadmap to guide the overall coordination of regional responses and support to Pacific countries in implementing, financing and monitoring the SDGs, FPR and the SAMOA Pathway.
An outline of the SDGs Roadmap was endorsed by Leaders in 2016, and a range of initiatives have been put in place to elaborate a set of regional indicators for the Pacific.
The final list of indicators will be prepared and submitted to the Forum Officials Committee Meeting in August 2017, and finally submitted to the Pacific Leaders in Apia in September 2017 for endorsement.
Once finalised, the SDGs roadmap, including the set of regional indicators, will ensure coherence in the implementation and monitoring of our development commitments at the global level, through the SDGs, at the SIDS level, through the SAMOA Pathway, and at the regional level, through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Admission of New Caledonia and French Polynesia
If I could briefly touch on another development within the context of the Pacific Islands Forum that may inform our discussions.
At the 2016 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, Leaders made the very significant decision to accept French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full Members of the Pacific Islands Forum.
This significant decision is the first expansion of the Forum membership since 1995, when Palau joined the Forum.
The admission of French Polynesia and New Caledonia is also significant given their constitutional relationship with France, which limits their capacity to make decisions within the Forum on certain issues.
Pending accession to the Forum’s legal instruments, French Polynesia and New Caledonia are currently recognized as ‘Members-designate’ under which they are invited to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, including the Forum Leaders’ Retreat, and other Forum meetings open to full Members, and they are entitled to be treated as full Members for Forum-related meetings, such as formal Forum dialogue partner summits.
Pacific – EU Relations
Let me provide some general comments on Pacific – EU relations.
Firstly, a robust consultation process is required for Post-Cotonou, to ensure the concerns and issues of all stakeholders and members are considered.
Additionally, the process to determine arrangements beyond the Cotonou Agreement needs to be guided by the ACP Roadmap.
To further support this, there is an opportunity for Forum Leaders’ discussion with the EU in September, for a deeper dialogue on future EU-Pacific relations.
The outcomes of our discussions today may identify key issues requiring the Leaders further consideration in September.
Let me also raise concerns that I think are shared from a number of regional stakeholders here, regarding the pace of the drawdown on the 11th EDF.
I note in particular the frustration of our CROP agencies with the pace of the drawdown, and urge the EU here to work closely with regional agencies to help identify ways to address the issues and concerns involved.
And as a final point, let me reiterate something I mentioned earlier: that the Framework for Pacific Regionalism – including the regional priorities identified by Leaders through the Framework, should drive EU support to the Pacific at the regional level.
Current regional priorities include, fisheries, climate change and disaster risk management through the implementation of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, human rights violations in West Papua, cervical cancer, regional mobility and harmonisation of business practice and the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
I strongly urge the EU and all our development partners to support the regional implementation and progress of our priorities.
I acknowledge that we are at the early stages in the delivery of the FPR, just over two years now. And so we are working to fully develop the range of processes required to settle on a few, genuinely transformative regional priorities. But we will get there, and as Leaders drive the delivery of these priorities, they will look to development and dialogue partners to align their policy and resourcing support behind these priorities.
To conclude, let me state that the EU is an important development partner in the Pacific, both bilaterally and regionally, and because of this, I am glad we have the opportunity to discuss the Pacific – EU relationship today.
I look forward to discussing ways in which the EU can strengthen its support at the regional level for the Forum Leaders vision for the region, as articulated through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
With those few words, let me thank the EU again for the opportunity to be here.