PIF Suva, August 15, 2022— The 2022 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM 2022) has ended with a bolder sense of purpose and direction for Pacific nations tracking recovery and resilience from the economic disruptions of the COVID19 pandemic including debt and supply chain issues, climate change, and looking ahead towards the implementation of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Convened from 11-12 August 2022 in Port Vila, Vanuatu, FEMM 2022 was chaired by the Honourable Johnny Koanapo Rasou, Minister for Finance and Economic Management of Vanuatu and supported by Secretary General Henry Puna.
FEMM 2022 was attended in person by ministers from Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Niue, Samoa, and Vanuatu. They were joined virtually by colleague Ministers from FSM, New Zealand, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands, PNG and Tonga were represented at heads of ministerial or diplomatic level, while Timor Leste attended as an Observer and Tokelau participated virtually as an Associate Member.
A wide range of FEMM Technical Observers across multilateral development banks, financial institutions and stakeholders also attended FEMM 2022. CROP representatives were also present physically and virtually, with representatives from the Green Climate Fund, France’s Development Agency, AFD, and the Pacific Fusion Centre attending as Special Guests of the FEMM Chair.
The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent was launched by Forum Leaders in July 2021, and FEMM 2022 saw strong affirmations from all Ministers of regional solidarity. Working as one region was noted as key to ensuring success for the implementation of the 2050 Strategy and dealing with many of the challenges shared by Pacific nations. National level context for 2050 action was recognised as part of implementation work, along with support from development and finance partners. This was reflected in the Ministers’ endorsement of the concept to develop a Blue Pacific Economic Strategy (BPES) to deliver on the economic priorities of the region in alignment to the implementation of the 2050 Strategy.
FEMM Chair Hon. Rasou noted the many decisions reached and discussions focussed on the 2050 Strategy, Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery, the Pacific Resilience Facility and Climate Finance.
Ministers also looked at the review of regional architecture and implications for post COVID Economic Recovery Taskforce (CERT) work. Ministers saw the value delivered by CERT in supporting countries in their recovery efforts from the pandemic and noting COVID-19 has challenged the region to do things differently and be more proactive, Ministers welcomed the proposal for CERT to evolve into a Pacific Economic Committee to provide guidance and oversight on the implementation of the BPES and the 2050 Strategy.
It was in the area of climate change, which together with COVID-19 has deepened poverty and inequality within several Forum Member countries, where the Vanuatu Minister emphasised on the vulnerability of Pacific nations to climate change induced disasters. Accessible climate financing to counter the economic impact of disasters and changing weather patterns on crops and food systems was also highlighted as critically important. FEMM 2022 also saw Ministers reaffirm their commitment to the Pacific Resilience Facility to help island nations build community resilience with small grants from a 1.5US billion facility, endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in2019 and a call for development partners to support the initiative.
FEMM Dialogues with the Pacific Private Sector and Civil Society Organisations saw unprecedented participation and engagement with FEMM 2022 participants. Sustainable time frames, diverse voices, and opportunity for questions and conversation featured in both dialogues.
Private sector speakers shared their concerns on challenges, including commercially viable travel and freight links, soaring costs of food and fuel, and the need for a strengthened regional private sector body to help drive private sector-led economic recovery. Ideas were also shared on ways to grow more public-private partnerships for resilient economic recovery and ensuring small and medium enterprises have ownership of the Blue Pacific Economic Strategy and are ‘investment ready’.
In similar fashion, Ministers heard from civil society speakers on ways to address current and existing challenges around socio-economic impacts and well-being, given the focus on people-centred development in the 2050 Strategy. Speakers commended governments using inclusive budgeting approaches for citizens such as vernacular translation and more information. They emphasised the respect for national systems but said national systems must work for the people and make budget disbursements to people more efficient, and easier to understand. There was also a strong message on the need to engage youth in economic growth, to focus on bringing people out of poverty, and to strengthen public finance management and accountability.
FEMM 2022 culminated with a regional development partners roundtable involving a rich discussion around resilient economic recovery, with strong calls from Pacific nations seeking genuine and committed partnerships towards debt management and recovery from economic shocks and scarring caused by the pandemic, climate crisis, and increased cost of living emanating from global supply chain challenges. —ENDS