FORUM ECONOMIC MINISTERS MEETING AND FORUM ECONOMIC OFFICIALS MEETING

Suva, Fiji
3 – 6 April 2017

FRAMEWORK FOR PACIFIC REGIONALISM: REGIONAL PRIORITIES & THE ROLE OF FORUM ECONOMIC MINISTERS

Purpose

To seek advice and action from Forum Economic Ministers in support of the implementation of relevant regional priorities endorsed by Forum Leaders, under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR).

Background

2. In 2014, Forum Leaders recommitted to a vision that was for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. The FPR represents their long-term commitment to regionalism as a means to achieving this vision. In further support of the attainment of this vision, Leaders endorsed a number of regional priorities in 2015 and 2016 that were identified through the regional public policy process established under the FPR. These priorities include:

  • Fisheries (including oceanic and coastal fisheries);
  • The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific;
  • Human Rights Issues in West Papua (Papua);
  • Cervical Cancer, including regional bulk procurement of HPV Vaccines;
  • ICT;
  • Improved Mobility and Standardisation of Business Processes; and
  • Mainstreaming the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3. Of these regional priorities, four require the attention and action of Forum Economic Ministers in order to be further progressed: Fisheries; the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific; Improved Mobility and Standardisation of Business Processes; and Mainstreaming the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Updated information and recommendations seeking the advice and action of Forum Economic Ministers are included in this paper. With respect to the other priorities listed above, but which are not included for discussion in this paper, Ministers are advised that these priorities are being addressed through other mechanisms and/or regional meetings.

Issues
Increased Economic Returns on Fisheries

4. At the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, Leaders affirmed the central importance of increasing the economic returns and ensuring the sustainable management of fisheries in the region. Leaders also endorsed the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries and directed that increases in the economic returns from the fisheries sector be achieved within five years. Currently, commercial fishing access fees contribute up to 60 percent of fiscal revenues for some Pacific Island nations. This notwithstanding, the onshore commercial value extracted from the sector remains modest when compared with the overall value of the sector.
5. To achieve the objective identified by Leaders, a joint Task Force composed of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and Forum Secretariat has been commissioned to lead the development of a Programme to Increase the Sustainable Economic Returns from Fisheries. The Decision of Leaders was taken against the backdrop of the Regional Fisheries Roadmap and in the context of the FPR.
6. At the 2016 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting, Leaders endorsed the work of the Fisheries Task Force and noted the four areas under the agreed upon work programme: reform of the management of the longline fishery; increasing the value of employment and ensuring effective labour standards are in place; facilitating investment and trade; and value chain participation. These objectives are consistent with the Goals and Strategies contained in the Fisheries Roadmap.
7. Accessing increased returns as a platform for sustained economic returns is not possible without strong and complementary policies and actions that address both management and development related concerns. Moreover, a high level of inter-agency and inter-governmental policy coherence is required to maximise the output from the fisheries sector. The policy mix required to expand the economic returns from the fisheries sector should be governed by a strong regulatory framework based on national, regional and multilateral commitments as well as international best-practice that continues to strengthen PICs’ control over fishing in their waters. This would also establish an appropriate base, and in particular, create an enabling environment for investors to invest domestically in the fisheries and ancillary services sector.
8. The Task Force is currently conducting technical work on the four components of the programme for increasing economic returns:

i. Reform of the Management of the Longline Fishery: For the tropical longline fishery, the bulk of the work is led by the PNA Office. The PNA Longline Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) has moved into full implementation with several Parties moving to allocate and sell days, to fishing companies or vessels, instead of just annual licences. There is some resistance to implementation of the Longline VDS from foreign fishing fleets following their experience with the Purse Seine VDS which has secured greater control and greatly increased benefits for PNA Members, in part at the expense of foreign fleets. FFA support is focused on developing regional standards which will be put in place as part of the introduction of electronic monitoring and reporting along with work at the national level assisting individual countries to determine fee levels per day under the VDS. For the albacore longline fishery, FFA is working with its Members to further develop the Tokelau Arrangement so as to put in place effective zone based limits in the albacore fishery. SPC has been working with FFA and its Members on the implementation of a comprehensive tuna fisheries data management system (TUFMAN 2). At the same time, longline e-reporting tools are being developed that sync automatically with TUFMAN 2, which will allow real-time management of fishery limits by members, particularly those who will be implementing the Tokelau Arrangement.

ii. Increasing the Value of Employment and Ensuring Effective Labour Standards are in Place: FFA is conducting a short consultancy to review national legislation relating to crewing, labour standards for fishing crew and the applicability of any International Conventions relating to crewing. This consultancy will be used as a resource document for two workshops in the second half of 2017 which will look at options for increasing the number of Pacific Island Crew working on commercial tuna fishing vessels and improving working conditions for Pacific Island crew. The first of these workshops will involve government officials while the second will also include crewing agents from selected countries. While this work is being led by FFA input will be sought from the PNA Office, including participation in the workshops given that this is an issue under consideration by PNA Members. PNA Members will again consider a proposal for the development of a cooperative crewing programme sponsored by Tuvalu at their annual meeting in April.

iii. Facilitating Investment and Trade: In line with the responsibilities delegated to the Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat has identified and consulted a few member countries to begin work in this area. In particular, this involves an assessment of the development plans and priorities of each country. The aim of this review is to determine whether the necessary policy infrastructure has been established to achieve national fisheries development priorities as well as the consistency of these policy outputs with the Leader’s decision on fisheries. Consultations were also undertaken with the Pacific Trade and Invest network to determine the type of assistance that could be provided by the two agencies to countries to attract investors locally as well as the need to consider improving access to existing and new markets. FFA is continuing to support Members to promote investment in the tuna fishery through promoting links between government and potential investors through its investment facilitation programme, noting that this also includes assistance in reviewing investment proposals. This activity will be enhanced by the recruitment of an Investment Facilitation Manager in the near future. In the trade area FFA is assisting members to establish Competent Authorities including the development of the Regional Competent Authority framework. In the three countries where Competent Authorities are already in place (Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands) FFA is providing support as required to ensure that these Authorities are able to carry out their functions effectively.

iv. Value Chain Participation: FFA is conducting a consultancy to examine the feasibility of establishing regional processing hub. The study will provide options and recommendations to member countries on how best they can formulate and develop strategic partnerships between themselves and with appropriate commercial partners. This will provide the basis for further development by members that deem the opportunities feasible and in line with their development priorities. Work on branding and certification/eco-labelling has been identified in the programme under value chain participation. Members of the Taskforce have discussed this and noted the substantial scope for eco-certification and eco-labelling. The Taskforce has also noted the success and benefits from the PNA Pacifical approach to branding and the progress in small scale, locally based canning. In terms of direct participation in fishing, the PNA VDS has continued to support increased participation by PICs, with the share of PNA flagged and sponsored vessels in the purse seine fishery increasing to over 40% in 2016, up from around 20% five years ago.

9. Given the potential for further development of the offshore fisheries sector, including through the optimisation and domestication of services sectors ancillary to the fisheries sectors (bunkering, provisioning, insurance, financial services, dry-docking, transportation/trans-shipment etc.) there is significant potential in increasing the domestic value added component of the fisheries sector, potentially by as much as the value of the region’s total 2015 fisheries exports. This will require concerted policy effort at national and regional levels, as well as coordinated marketing, branding and promotional activities.

Improved Mobility and Standardisation of Business Processes

10. At the 2016 Forum Leaders Meeting, Leaders tasked the Secretariat to work with Forum members, relevant technical agencies and the private sector to coordinate efforts for increased mobility and harmonisation of business practices to contribute to increased economic integration, greater investment and improved practices in the region. Leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to support private sector development in the region with a focus on improved mobility of businesses and skilled personnel, including the streamlining of business processes to support the ease of doing business in the region and therein directed relevant Ministerial Meetings to lead and monitor progress on the implementation of these initiatives as appropriate.

11. The economic, demographic and climatic challenges facing many Pacific Forum members in the region will make sustainable development even more difficult to attain in years to come. Forum Island economies tend to be impeded, albeit to differing extents, by their small size, remoteness from major markets, internal population dispersion and weak governance. These barriers to growth push up the costs of private production and public administration and limit job growth. The complexity of these challenges makes it difficult for Forum Island Countries to follow conventional pathways for economic growth and demands more genuine partnerships across Forum members as well as with others, coupled with more integrated policy and innovative approaches to development.

12. There is now a broad consensus that, given the unique development challenges faced by the Forum Island countries, expanding labour mobility is vital for their future. The economies of Forum island countries have not been able to provide sufficient employment opportunities for their people. Employment rates are estimated to be less than 50 per cent of the working age population in most countries. In four Melanesian countries, an estimated 3 million more people aged 20 to 64 years will be part of the working age population by 2040. Where these countries are unable to bring the jobs to the people, the alternative is to bring the people to where the jobs are.

13. As businesses in the region operate regionally and globally, employers want to transfer employees among borders as easily as among cities. The movement of skilled business persons is a tool to accomplish business objectives by facilitating start-up of new business operations, transfer of knowledge or culture to other parts of the organisation, building an international group of personnel capable of working anywhere on short notice. International mobility for highly-skilled workers is therefore a competitive business tool to increase employee productivity, generate cost-savings and is a workforce pipeline to attract and retain top talent on a regional and global basis – it is as important as manufacturing, investing and marketing on a global basis.

14. For labour-sending countries in the Pacific, remittance flows contribute to increased income and consumption at the household level, reducing poverty, loosening credit constraints and providing insurance against negative shocks. Remittances are also invested in education and health, with positive flow-on effects for human capital development. In the region, the share of remittances as a share of GDP in 2014 was the highest in Tonga (27.1%), followed by Samoa (17.6%), Solomon Islands (14%), Tuvalu (10.7%), Kiribati (9.6%) and Fiji (4.5%), respectively. For labour-receiving countries in the Pacific, the immediate economic benefits of having migrants available to work is to expand the output of goods and services. At the macroeconomic level, migration can improve a country’s growth prospects and the sustainability of its public finance. Advanced economies in the region will also require high rates of net migration in coming years to address major labour market shortfalls, particularly in the construction, healthcare and social assistance sectors – where Pacific nations, with some targeted training, would be well placed to fill the gap. In Australia, over the five years to 2020, its healthcare and social assistance sectors are projected to make the largest contribution to employment growth, increasing their number of jobs available by 250, 200 (Australia Department of Employment 2015). In New Zealand, a quarter of the total employment growth over the next three years to 2018 is forecast to occur in construction and related activities and as such projected job demands are likely to be in the vicinity of 31,000 and 11,600 in the hospitality sector (NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 2015).

15. The ease of company formation and costs of complying with business regulations have a huge bearing on the degree of economic activity in the region. A regional approach to streamlining and eventually harmonising business processes is necessary to assist in the ease of doing business across the Pacific region.

Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific

16. The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2016, and advocates for the integration of actions towards climate change and disaster risk management where this is possible.

17. The high vulnerability of Pacific Island countries and territories coupled with their small size, limited resources, and geographical dispersion and isolation result in high economic and non-economic costs to Pacific Island countries from climate change and disasters. Many countries have already started taking concrete steps to manage climate and disaster risks in a more integrated manner. For example, some countries have developed Joint National Action Plans on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, have joined up their national offices and have adopted integrated measures at programmatic level. This is because often, projects or actions aimed at addressing climate change also improve disaster risk management, and vice-versa. There is a clear overlap between climate change adaptation and disaster risk management with similar tools and resources required to monitor, analyse and address both climate and disaster risks.

18. As a result, the FRDP, by supporting coordinated action to reduce climate and disaster risk, will reduce duplication in governments, systems and projects; rationalise multiple funding sources that address similar needs; and optimise the use of limited resources and the sharing of technical expertise in these areas. This information is of relevance to Forum Economic Ministers because their central role in resourcing and more broadly supporting this integrated development approach.

Mainstreaming the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

19. The Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PFRPD) 2016 – 2025 was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2016, to support Pacific governments to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). To drive the implementation of the PFRPD, Leaders also tasked the Forum Secretariat to ensure that the PFRPD was effectively mainstreamed at both the regional and national level.

20. The CRPD, which 11 of the 18 Forum members have ratified, is unique, given it is both a development and a human rights instrument. Article 27 of the CRPD upholds the right to work on an equal basis with others, including the right to earn a living from a freely chosen and accessible workplace on the open market. States are required to take appropriate measures, including through legislation, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment and to protect the equal rights of persons with disabilities to just and decent working conditions, including equal pay, vocational training, and reasonable accommodation in the workplace.

21. Article 28 of the CRPD also calls for governments to recognise the right of persons with disabilities to “an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families” and “to safeguard and promote the realisation of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability.” Opportunities for both entrepreneurship and employment and decent work can help to improve the economic status and livelihoods of persons with disabilities. This can be better achieved by removing barriers to employment, including discriminatory law and inaccessible workplaces, and promoting private sector initiatives in support of entrepreneurial activities by persons with disabilities.

22. The first goal of the PFRPD relates to Livelihoods, and its key objective is to promote livelihood opportunities through inclusive economic development and decent work. The PFRPD notes that economic development should be inclusive, and should value and incorporate the contributions of all stakeholders, especially marginalised and vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities. It also seeks to ensure that the benefits of development are equitably shared.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Suva
16 March 2017

 

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