DSG Cristelle Pratt’s Opening Address at the 2019 Regional CSO Forum
9:00am 20 March 2019
Main Conference Center
- On behalf of the Secretary General, who sends her apologies for not being able to be here this morning – I welcome you all to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for the annual Regional CSO Forum.
- You will be pleased to know that the SG will be meeting you for a Talanoa session on Friday – when she returns to office.
- I understand some of you have been here since the weekend, and have been engaged in a series of capacity building support and information workshops – including a PIANGO Roundtable and up until yesterday attending the Gender Equality/ Ending Violence against Women (EVAW) Forum.
- I can imagine you are now armed with a wealth of current information on key regional and global issues and so your challenge for the next 3 days will be to reconcile your individual, national level priorities within the context of the collective regional priorities. Fortunately you are in good hands and over the next 3 days you will engage in robust conversations, and especially with your Facilitator who has been a Leader in this space for many years!
- Since convening the inaugural regional CSO Forum in 2015, the engagement journey with civil society has borne great results and lessons. As with most journeys, the winds have changed direction several times, and I have been able to observe how civil society have been able to adjust sails and forge ahead. The regional CSO Forum has continued to provide a platform for civil society and community leaders to critique, influence and inform regional policy initiatives that are critical to our livelihoods and our futures as one Blue Pacific continent. Civil Society makes a critical contribution to the diversity of perspectives, experiences and networks that can enrich policy dialogue and broaden the reach of implementation, both at national and regional levels.
- The Forum Secretariat has seen many important outcomes emanate from the convening of the regional civil society forum over the past years. One of the strongest outcomes is a growing sense of regionalism amongst civil society organisations, which is unmistakable in your voices and in your focused dialogues with Ministers and Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum when you have occasion to meet with them.
- Several of you can perhaps be considered ‘veterans’ of the regional CSO forum and have gained invaluable experience from engaging in dialogues with Pacific Ministers and Leaders. Therefore, as Leaders in your own right in this space, I encourage you to share with those new to this Forum and guide them through the challenges of how civil society can meaningfully influence and contribute to the implementation and monitoring of regional public policy.
- I understand that the agenda this year builds on the past and current success CSOs have had in the upstream “regional policy setting process”, by shifting focus to activities that can strengthen CSOs to impact the downstream process of policy implementation. A key part of this will include strengthening opportunities for more meaningful engagement with your governments, CROP agencies and with development partners, in order to build inclusive coalitions of the willing.
- Indeed, the importance of solidarity amongst all relevant stakeholders is crucial to ensuring successful policy implementation. Yet this solidarity is becoming more difficult in the face of the increasingly crowded and complex geopolitical environment of our Blue Pacific region. As civil society representatives, you can all play a vital role in helping our Leaders to advocate for regional priorities, maintain solidarity in the face of geopolitical competition, and act as one Blue Pacific continent where it matters most.
- Blue Pacific solidarity can not only be thought of from the perspective of implementing Leaders’ priorities, but also in terms of ensuring inclusive outcomes of those policies. The first Pacific Report for Sustainable Development emphasizes the persistent challenge facing the region of ensuring that no-one is left behind. Communities are the most affected from episodes of domestic conflict and political unrest, interpersonal violence, social exclusion and displacement. Rates of interpersonal violence against women in the Pacific are among the highest in the world. All of these pose current challenges to ongoing peace and stability across the region and I trust that your consultations and your strategies will better inform and continue to complement the efforts of your Leaders.
- I am personally encouraged to hear that this year the regional CSO Forum will have the inclusion of gender experts from the region, supporting you in collectively identifying strategies to strengthen engagement on gender equality and elimination of violence against women and girls, and to integrate gender messaging into the Outcomes of your deliberations for 2019.
- I would like to thank at this juncture the European Union for their continued support and vision toward strengthening of civil society and women’s groups and organisations and for acknowledging the role that civil society leaders play in shaping the conversation through forums such as this one – through the 11th EDF Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building Facility.
Blue Pacific and FPR
- Working together as a region to achieve common goals and to address collective challenges has been the driving motivation of the Pacific Islands Forum since its inception in 1971. Our Leaders are constantly being challenged as they attempt to promote our region in a clear, consistent and sustained way through an ever-strengthening Blue Pacific narrative,
- It is in this challenging context, that I hope you can seek and secure how best civil society can contribute to this growing narrative about us and for us all; and the opportunities, and the challenges that present for working together as the Blue Continent.
- The annual regional CSO Forum is a mechanism that is “fit for purpose” within this context and in strategizing toward your engagement at the FEMM in early May and PIFLM in early/mid August.
- I encourage you to frame your thinking and conversations over the next three days, within the broader context of Pacific regionalism. As much as possible seek to embrace the history and the advancement of Pacific regionalism, and as much as possible strategize how best civil society is able to complement the efforts of our political Leaders to advance as a powerful collective into the future.
- The support towards the NSA capacities within the 11th EDF Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building Facility will continue to contribute to the strengthening of CSOs capacities to participate effectively and meaningful in regional policy engagements and to ensure that CSO perspectives are reflected in regional policy development processes and dialogues. CSOs bring diversity of perspectives, experiences and networks that can enrich policy dialogue, embraces inclusiveness and broadens the reach of implementation, both at national and regional levels.
- I urge you to build partnerships for implementation and monitoring as you discuss and consult, I urge you to secure these working partnerships and to adjust your sails as you manoeuvre the journey ahead for our blue pacific region.