Mr. Chairman and our host, the Government and people of Australia;
Senior Officials and distinguished delegates of FFA member countries;
Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and the staff;
Representatives of CROP Agencies, and other technical entities;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I extend to you all the warm greetings of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor. Our sincere appreciation to the Government of Australia and the FFA for the excellent arrangements made for this Forum Fisheries Committee meeting. As the Director Policy responsible for, inter alia, the work on fisheries at the Secretariat, it is my privilege to present to you the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Observer Statement.
The Pacific Ocean that we live on is our common heritage. Collectively, we have the responsibility to protect our ocean and the resources it contains. As fisheries officials, you have a very important role. Today, I will highlight important areas of actions for which we seek your support.
The Fisheries Taskforce work programme
As you are aware, Forum Leaders endorsed fisheries as one of the priorities under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in 2015, and established a Taskforce to advance their decision on maximising social and economic returns from the fisheries sector for our people. This joint Taskforce comprises senior representatives from the Pacific Community (SPC), the FFA, the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Forum Secretariat. Over the past two years, the Taskforce has developed an elaborate Programme of actions to increase the Sustainable Economic Returns from the Fisheries sector for the Pacific islands. It complements the Fisheries Roadmap endorsed by the Leaders.
Four distinct components under the Programme are being executed by the relevant agencies. They relate to:
At their meeting in 2016, Forum Leaders endorsed the Fisheries Taskforce’s Economic Returns Work Programme and Report under the above four areas of work, and acknowledged the importance of ensuring more onshore investment opportunities. The Taskforce held its 4th meeting in December 2016 to further refine its programme of action. An update on progress, and the continued efforts of the Taskforce will be jointly presented under agenda item 10 at this Meeting.
I wish to emphasise that your support and active engagement is needed for us to deliver on the Leaders decisions for Pacific Islands to get increased returns from the fisheries sector. It requires us to work together and draw on our strengths, including changing tacts in some areas. We will need to engage in more effective collaboration within the region.
I urge you to also become more proactive at the national level and initiate dialogues with domestic and regional entities that can provide you with the ancillary services. Country specific investment and trade implementation plans for the fisheries sector is being developed for active marketing and we seek your input towards this work to ensure that we get the results we are seeking.
Our focus is on real tangible deliverables that should show results in the short to medium term. The Pacific Islands Trade and Invest Network of Offices are stepping up their efforts to support the Pacific islands fisheries sector. For example, the PT&I China is co-hosting with Fujian Province an event on 11 July 2017, to strengthen cooperation in Fisheries & Agriculture sector through engagement with prospective investors and buyers. There will be an estimated 200 businesses attending from South China, driven by their interest in fisheries and agriculture opportunities in the Pacific Islands. This will be an ideal forum for dialogue with the major South China province for fisheries, Fujian, which we believe should be the beginning of ongoing work with officials and investors there to further our goals for the fisheries sector. We therefore invite representatives of the Pacific islands fisheries sector, to attend at the highest level. We also strongly encourage Pacific private sector involvement and we are prepared to provide business match-making services. So far we have received confirmation from only eight Pacific islands. We will be pleased to provide you further details in the margins of this meeting should you be interested.
Let me briefly touch on the specific matter of fisheries subsidies that has a significant impact on our fisheries sector. The current negotiation on fisheries subsidies in the WTO aims to eliminate and discipline harmful subsidies that negatively affect the sustainability of fisheries resources. The FICs have always maintained in the WTO negotiations that they do not contribute significantly to overfishing because they either cannot afford to subsidise their fisheries sector or if they do, these subsidies are insignificant. The PIFS-WTO Regional Workshop on Fisheries Subsidies was held in Port Moresby on 24-25 April 2017 to help Trade and Fisheries Officials better understand the technical issues under negotiations, including the various political and policy implications.
While generally supportive of WTO disciplines on subsidies that are destructive to the fisheries resources, the FICs have also been pushing for flexibility in WTO rules to provide them with policy space to develop their fisheries sector through subsidies in future. It is important that we stay engaged on this issue and ensure that our interests are safeguarded.
BBNJ and SDG14
Our Ocean is extremely important to us. Earlier in the year (13 – 14 March), the Pacific Ocean Alliance convened a two-day workshop on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) in Fiji, with the objective to help Pacific Island States prepare for the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
On the Global Development Agenda – Agenda 2030 – Heads of States and Governments, Ministers and high level representatives met in Suva, Fiji from 15-17 March 2017, with the full participation of all relevant stakeholders to inter alia declare their commitment towards the implementation of SDG14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. The outcomes of this process will be fed into the New York negotiations on SDG 14 ahead of the Oceans Conference in June this year.
We encourage your continued effort in effectively supporting your national delegations to the Oceans Conference so that the Pacific islands are able to show global leadership on matters relating to Oceans.
The Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the SSCR process
This work on fisheries forms part of a broader range of priorities that have been identified in the past two years under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. Through the endorsement of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in 2014, Forum Leaders re-emphasized their commitment to regionalism and to regional approaches to achieve the region’s sustainable development goals and aspirations, as articulated in the Forum Leader’s vision and objectives for the region.
At the broader level, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism represents a more effective way of ‘doing regionalism’ by:
Articulating a more strategic approach to identifying priorities for regional action – comprising a more inclusive, and a more rigorous and analytically informed approach to regional priority setting, as well as ensuring that issues identified that explicitly require regional action represent the most strategic issues to take forward at a regional level, that is, they are issues that add value to the efforts of our members at the national level in their work to address key sustainable development and political challenges;
Ensuring that Pacific regionalism has sustained political ownership and leadership – in part by ensuring that Forum Leaders engage substantively and politically in the settling of priorities at their Forum; that Forum Leaders maintain high level oversight at regional and national level on the delivery of regional priorities;.
Lastly in this regard, by working collectively to ensure that the enabling and supportive technical architecture – principally through the CROP – is positioned to provide policy and technical support for setting and implementing Leaders priorities requiring regional action.
CROP Charter and standard procedure
The Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), its respective agencies and governing councils play a central role in delivering on the objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, both individually and collectively, given that CROP agencies embody our Member countries’ desire to pool resources to deliver regional goods and services.
As a valued member of CROP, FFA’s support for a range of Forum Leaders’ decisions, including the Fisheries Taskforce, has been captured in the 2017 CROP Action Plan. CROP Heads of Agencies will report on progress against this Action Plan at the 48th Pacific Islands Forum in September this year. We therefore thank the FFA for continued collaboration and cooperation in this regard. May I take this opportunity to also thank SPC and the Office of the PNA for their ongoing support.
A ‘one-CROP’ approach is at the very heart of effective Pacific regionalism. This can only be achieved through true collaboration and cooperation amongst CROP’s member agencies. It is in this light, therefore, that all CROP brethren must continue to strive for effectiveness in all areas where we provide technical and policy advice to Forum members. We look forward to the FFC’s views as to how CROP might be further strengthened. A stronger regional collaboration on the various issues will allow us to stand firm against any attempt to dilute the regional interests.
As we move forward in achieving the Leaders decision on maximising social and economic benefits from the fisheries sector, the importance of having a strong foundation that is based on solidarity will become increasingly important.
We need to link our regional decision making networks. For example, the Forum Economic Ministers, at their meeting on 5-6 April 2017, considered the work being undertaken on fisheries, and in particular noted the progress by the Fisheries Taskforce to enhance economic returns from Fisheries, and directed Finance Officials to: (a) prioritise support to requests for technical input and assistance from the Taskforce; and (b) ensure that recommendations arising from the work of the Taskforce are considered in a timely and effective manner through national finance and budgetary processes.
It is important to provide strong links with the outcome of regional meetings and the Leaders decisions on Fisheries. Forum Economic Ministers, have also supported Leaders decision on increased Labour mobility and Private Sector development. These two work areas are well in line with the Fisheries Taskforce work programme for component 2 and 3. Aligning these work components with other related efforts in the region and at national level will provide a strong platform for economic expansion and employment generation for the region, as aspired by the Leaders.
We have a proud tradition of being the driving force behind much of the initiatives aimed at enhancing the conservation and management of fisheries in our region. Let us continue that tradition as we endeavour to further conserve our oceanic resources and drive a better deal for the people of our region. As Senior Officials responsible for our common heritage, you have an extremely important role in ensuring that the interests of our future generations are also protected.