Forum SG urges meaningful NSA engagement

[Suva, FIJI] The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, has urged the region’s Non-State Actors (NSAs) to make the most of opportunities for engagement with Forum member governments.

“NSAs have a vital role to play in shaping our region’s advancement,” said the Secretary General. “We must give them a voice and good opportunities for meaningful engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum.”

The Secretary General made these comments in advance of the Second NSA Dialogue on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus being held next week in Brisbane, Australia.

The theme of the NSA Dialogue is “Engaging with Non-State Actors on PACER Plus: Improving Consultations”.

“We are at an important turning point, I believe, where we all have an unique opportunity to map out a strong strategy for meaningful and value-added participation of NSAs in key regional processes, such as PACER Plus negotiations, and others,” said Mr Slade, adding, “Let’s not waste this opportunity. Let’s make this work.”

Mr Slade also called for broad support for NSAs’ effective participation and engagement at meetings such as the NSA Dialogue, as some may not be able to afford travel to such events.

An open call for NSA participation at the NSA Dialogue was sent out to regional networks in February this year.

“Regional travel is unfortunately an expensive undertaking, and I look forward to the day when Forum members are able to welcome more NSA representatives to the table at such meetings,” said Mr Slade.

The Dialogue is a collaborative effort of Pacific Islands Forum Members, the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO).

The Dialogue will focus on consultative work undertaken in the region on PACER Plus negotiations, and will receive updates on national and regional consultations to date. Participants will then discuss ways to strengthen consultation on key issues and to better engage with NSAs as negotiations progress. NSAs will also have an opportunity to present their views on PACER Plus priorities to Officials and to ask questions related to the negotiations.

The NSA Dialogue is an initiative of Forum Trade Ministers, and takes place in the margins of a PACER Plus Officials meeting. The Fourth Meeting of PACER Plus Officials is scheduled for 27-29 March 2012 in Brisbane, Australia.

PACER Plus arrangements aim to deepen trade and economic cooperation between Forum Members. The objective of PACER Plus arrangement is to provide a comprehensive framework for trade and economic cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Island Countries (FICs) to foster improved economic growth, investment and employment in the Pacific region.

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For media enquiries contact Ms Mue Bentley Fisher, the Forum Secretariat’s Communications Officer on (679) 9998677 or email: mueb@forumsec.org.fj