Secretary General Meg Taylor’s Remarks to the 2017 Budget Forum Officials Committee Meeting

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Conference Room,

Suva, Fiji

13 December 2017


  • Distinguished Members of the Forum Officials Committee;
  • Representatives of Associate Members and Observers to the Forum;
  • Senior CROP Officials;
  • Colleagues;
  1. Welcome back to your Secretariat, and thank you for your efforts to be here at this budget session of the FOC. We have a substantial agenda ahead of us today and so I will be brief in my opening remarks.
  2. 2017 is nearing its end, and like previous years – for the Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat – I am sure that you will agree that it has been a highly productive and demanding year for us all.  I trust that you found utility in the briefing sessions  held yesterday as we did, and I would like to thank you all for your willingness to discuss these key issues in a less formal, and productive and interactive way. It is our intention to seek to have more discussions of this nature in future, as I am of the view that we will be more effective in progressing our regionalism priorities if we are able to employ a range of approaches that are both informal and formal.
  3. Members of the Forum Officials Committee, let me briefly touch upon some of the key achievements for this year:

a) You will recall that at the pre-Forum FOC meeting in 2016, we agreed that we would defer the call for submissions and the regional consultation process, under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, for 2017 in order to allow  a focus on the implementation and progress of existing regional priorities. This has been a key focus of the Secretariat’s coordination role in 2017, and I am pleased with the ongoing progress that has been made of the current regional priorities.
b) I am confident that you will agree that the recent, 48th Forum Leaders Meeting held in Apia in September was a resounding success, and that we can and should again acknowledge the Forum Chair’s leadership in that regard, and  for Samoa’s leadership in ushering in the concept of the Blue Pacific. Through the Blue Pacific, we have a reframed and compelling narrative for Pacific regionalism, one grounded in our collective ocean identity, ocean geography, and ocean resources. It is a narrative to guide where we focus our collective actions and resources – as one Blue Continent, and as one Pacific Islands Forum;
c) We have held two very productive Ministerial level meetings in 2017 –the 20th Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, and the 2nd Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting. These meetings yielded some very important policy issues – including the Regional Resilience Facility and the Biketawa Plus;
d) We have provided support to members to two high level UN meetings on thematic priorities of key import for the Pacific. Both of these have been co-Chaired by Fiji and include the 1st UN Oceans Conference, and COP23 of the UNFCCC. We have also endeavoured to provide support to you, our Members at the United Nations General Assembly, and at other key global and international meetings;
e) I would like to express my appreciation to all Forum members for the considerable efforts that have been made to pay meet your assessed membership contribution dues for 2017 and to address any outstanding arrears. All outstanding membership payments have been made and the state of membership payments today is to my understanding the best in living memory. I thank you members for this as it does demonstrate your ownership, commitment and confidence in your Secretariat, and more importantly the value that you each place on being part of the Forum Family.
f) As permanent Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific, I have endeavored to work closely with fellow CROP Executives to ensure we work in a coherent and collaborative way, in pursuit of Forum Leaders’ priorities, and striving to deliver quality regional goods and services. In this regard, let me note my appreciation for the ‘One CROP approach’ that we have been able to demonstrate throughout the year, including at the inaugural UN Oceans Conference in New York, at COP23 in Bonn, and at the Forum Leaders meeting in Apia.
g) With respect to CROP, I also note that the Forum Leaders decisions made with respect to the Analysis of Regional Governance and Finance provides the basis and guidance for ongoing CROP cohesion and coherence. In developing the work programme to advance this regionalism initiative, I seek the support and guidance of Members on how we might progress the recommendations, mindful that the first and crucial steps will depend on our members-owned agencies to act and deliver together.
h) Within the Secretariat, we have continued our programme of reform. While the bulk of the corporate issues were addressed and dealt with in 2016, we have in 2017 focused on the strategic positioning of PIFS. We began the year with a Strategic Planning workshop, which allowed us – as your Secretariat – to develop the Strategic Framework which this Committee was able to consider and endorse earlier this year. The Strategic Framework provides the guidance that PIFS requires – linking the Forum Leaders vision, set out in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, to the Key Results Framework, and the activities of PIFS. The Strategic Framework will ensure that our work remains aligned to our purpose and our high level objectives, as well as our role as the region’s political and policy organization. In short, the Strategic Framework will ensure we remain aligned to purpose, and therefore remain relevant in the eyes and minds of our Members and of other key stakeholders.
i) Based on the Strategic Framework, we have carried out numerous other reforms within the organization. For example, we have reframed our Key Results Framework and result areas; we have adapted Secretariat management and reporting structures; and re-organised the physical arrangements for staff – in and across the Secretariat. Our Statement of Intent for 2018 links our Key Result Areas with our Strategic Outcomes, and sets out the resources we need to be able to respond to and carry out the decisions of Leaders as well as the other standing Forum political bodies (such as the FEMM and the FFMM). Through this format we seek to provide a clearer connection between the allocation of staff time and financial resources and the higher level outcomes on which we are working to support members. All of these changes will continue to ensure we are fit-for-purpose and deliver on our agreed objectives.
j) Our budgetary position remains sound. While we have incurred a significant underspend in 2017, this has allowed us to increase our level of our general reserve Fund. The main reasons for this were lower expenditure on staff costs (due to a weaker Special Drawing Right (SDR) than forecasted); and lower activity costs (due to the use of Extra Budget funding for some activities, deferral or cancellation of some proposed meetings and lower costs from better purchasing practices); but the real lesson is in realistic budgeting, and ongoing management of work plans throughout the calendar year, to ensure we are tracking on expenditure and on delivery of goods and of services. This is an issue and matter that we will need to strengthen in 2018 through our regular, performance review meetings – which the Secretariat holds three times a year.
k) With respect to the Secretariat’s financial position, while it is sound  for 2018, the three year projections show that we will face potential deficits from 2020 – and mainly due to a decline in income (whether this is primary and/or extra budget). Therefore we still need to take appropriate action to ensure that the members agree and are able to provide adequate funds to enable it to carry out its core activities.
l) While Leaders endorsed the principles of the Sustainable Funding Strategy, in Apia at the 48th PILM – there remains several issues identified in Apia that will need to be resolved. I stand by and ready to support the principles that are espoused in the Sustainable Funding Strategy, which increases members’ ownership of the Secretariat. The Strategy is the result of considerable work by members and I urge all of you to continue to come to the discussion table with this important objective in mind.

4. Looking to the agenda, there are some significant issues requiring your consideration, guidance and leadership.

i) The Secretariat has tabled a paper on the Strategic Opportunities and Forum Meetings in 2018; this paper draws on the Review of Regional Meetings, and also seeks to provide a coherent picture of the programme and potential sequencing of meetings in 2018.

ii) There will also be the reports presented by the various FOC Sub-Committees – to consider. With regard to the FOC sub-committees I want to thank all of those that have participated in the various sub-committees for their valuable guidance, as well as the time and energy spent in supporting these important bodies throughout the year;

iii) Additionally, we have the proposed work programme and budget for 2018, to consider, framed within the revised Key Results Framework and our Statement of Intent, which I alluded to earlier.

5. Listed also are five papers that were circulated for out-of-session decision in August/September of this year, for which we received a request for them to be tabled for discussion at this meeting. Most of these have been superseded by the papers and reports that are before you for consideration and decision at this meeting, however, whilst the out-of-session approval mechanism does allow a focus on the key policy issues that are for and/or come from Leaders meetings, a mechanism is needed to ensure that FOC is able to review and debate exceptional matters identified by a member as needing plenary attention and debate. We would like to develop this mechanism further to avoid unnecessary delays in decisions that can affect the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the Secretariat, such as a delay in the approval for a revised budget.

In Other Business, we will discuss the Terms of Reference for the Review of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. This is a key issue requiring your full consideration. You will recall that the  2016 Budget FOC agreed to undertake a review of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in 2018. The Terms of Reference, tables to be discussed at this meeting, outlines the scope and modality of this review, including oversight mechanisms. We encourage Members to participate actively in this process.

6. I look forward to your insights, guidance, and wisdom over the course of this meeting – while remaining mindful of the benefits of the informal briefing sessions held yesterday and the Secretariat’s intentions to progress and implement Leaders regionalism priorities.

7. Members of the Forum Officials Committee, it would be remiss of me not to signal that I have just reached the end of my first full term as Secretary General of PIF. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve, together, for Secretariat,, for the Pacific Islands Forum and for the region as-a-whole.

8. While this has not always been easy, with your support, and that of my staff, I feel I have been able to deliver on the potential of the Blue Pacific region – but there is much more to do.

9. Therefore I seek to continue to serve the Pacific region to the best of my abilities, and work with those that are able to provide guidance and support in order to do that with full effect.

10. Members of the Forum Officials Committee, Partners, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you and I look forward to our discussions today.

Thank you.

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