7 August 2018
Taumeasina Island Resort
Members of the Forum Officials Committee
CROP Agency Representatives and Observers
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the uniqueness of this occasion, in that we are holding the FOC meeting away from our headquarters in Suva. You’ll recall that last year we agreed that this year’s meeting of Forum Foreign Ministers would be held in Samoa, and so it made sense to also hold the FOC, SIS and PACP meetings here as well. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Government of Samoa for the excellent arrangements you have made, and for your wonderful hospitality.
And I would also like to convey at the outset my very sincere gratitude to the Government of Samoa for the dedication and energy you have brought to the role of Forum Chair over the past year. As we all know, serving as Forum Chair is not just a matter of hosting the Forum Leaders’ meetings; there are numerous ongoing responsibilities during the year to represent the Forum on the international stage, and to provide leadership within the Forum on a host of issues.
In particular, I want to acknowledge Ms Peseta Noumea Simi, the Chief Executive Officer of Samoa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You have provided an incredible level of service to the Forum in supporting the Forum Chair. Our very deepest appreciation and respect to you.
We come together this week to take stock of the policy priorities that Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum agreed last year, and to provide advice about the progress of these priorities, and opportunities for new actions by the Forum when Leaders meet in three weeks time in Nauru.
The agenda before you has been informed by the deliberations of a number of different mechanisms within the Forum architecture, including the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism, the newly established Sub-Committee on Forum Engagement and Advocacy, the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, and the Forum Fisheries Council Meeting. These mechanisms serve to offer specialist sources of advice and guidance on the different aspects of the Forum Leaders’ policy agenda.
This meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that we all are connecting well with each other in progressing the policy priorities of our region. Achieving the objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism requires the collective contribution of Member countries and regional organisations. I am very grateful for the presence today of my CROP colleagues.
The Blue Pacific serves to empower us – reminding us of the value and potential of our region, and encouraging us to think and act from a position of strength.
Since its endorsement last year, we have already seen the power of the Blue Pacific in providing coherence and focus in the way that we work together as a region. This was very apparent in our region’s contribution to the Pacific Leaders Meeting with Japan this year – PALM 8. This was a demanding negotiation, but the spirit of the Blue Pacific was very evident to me in the way that Member countries, as well as CROP organisations, worked together to ensure meaningful outcomes for our region.
The Blue Pacific is a powerful narrative in the current geopolitical environment. These include shifts in global power and globalisation, rising inequality, changing multilateral relations, depletion of natural resources, regional and global conflict and ongoing advances in technology. By reason of geography and our assets, we are a region of interest to the wider world, and indeed, there seems to have been an acceleration of interest and attention in very recent times.
This context must be recognised in our deliberations and advice to Leaders. With that intent in mind, the first substantive item on our agenda today seeks to provide a strategic frame for our discussions, based on the excellent theme proposed by Nauru for this year’s Forum ‘Building a Strong Pacific – Our Islands, Our People, Our Will’.
Colleagues, the agenda before you comprises issues requiring the consideration of Forum Foreign Ministers and the Forum Leaders. I won’t speak to each issue at this point, but rather will highlight some of the key issues that have been the subject of significant work by the Secretariat this year.
The review of the Forum’s security architecture is one of these issues. You’ll recall that at last year’s Forum, Leaders tasked the Forum Secretariat to initiate consultations on developing a comprehensive ‘Biketawa Plus’ declaration which expands and strengthens our region’s capacity for collective action in the face of new and emerging security threats. We have since embarked on an extensive course of consultation, meeting with a wide range of stakeholders across the region. These consultations have informed a draft declaration which proposes a high-level articulation of the Forum’s concerns about the current security environment, and the Forum’s commitment to and expectations of regional security cooperation. This meeting of the FOC and the meeting of the Forum Foreign Ministers provide an important opportunity to refine the draft declaration so that it can be submitted to the Forum Leaders for their consideration.
Another important area of work has been on strengthening the Forum’s engagement and advocacy on the policy priorities agreed by Leaders. You’ll recall that this was an issue highlighted by Forum Foreign Ministers last year, with Ministers tasking the Forum Secretariat to coordinate a FOC Sub-Committee of Members to develop a rolling strategy for international engagement and advocacy. This year we have worked closely with Members to establish the Sub-Committee and to prepare a draft strategy for the Forum’s engagement and advocacy in 2018-19. This Committee will be asked to review the draft strategy in advance of discussion on it at the Forum Foreign Ministers on Friday.
Promoting strong and constructive coordination and cooperation between CROP organisations has also been a significant priority for the Secretariat in the past year. We have made good progress with a number of institutional reforms, including the finalization of the Review of the CROP Charter. This has now been endorsed by CROP members governing bodies, and is ready to be presented to Forum Leaders in Nauru.
And I would like to highlight a practical example of excellent cooperation and collaboration from CROP agencies, in supporting Members in the negotiatios for PALM 8. To my mind that really represented the power and potential of CROP, bringing its diverse knowledge and expertise to support Members countries in prosecuting the region’s priorities with a key partner. The upcoming COP 24 provides another opportunity for us to bring whole-of-CROP support to Members in progressing our region’ climate change priorities.
In closing, I would like to thank Australia for chairing the Forum Officials Committee over the past 12 months. We have all benefited from your dedication and wisdom in guiding us through our discussions to arrive at considered and strategic advice for our Leaders. And I warmly welcome Cook Islands as chair for this upcoming year. Please be assured that the Secretariat stands ready to assist you and all Members as we advance our deliberations and preparations for the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting.
Colleagues, we are charged with the responsibility of providing advice to our Leaders as to what more can be done to progress our region’s ambitions for peace and security, for sustainable development and economic growth. I know that we all will bring our focused attention and collective goodwill to discharge this serious responsibility.