Thank you Chair for this opportunity to make a few remarks on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
First and foremost, I would like to convey our heartfelt congratulations to all members and representatives on the occasion of the 70th anniversary for the Pacific Community.
I thank the Pacific Community for the significant part you have played in regional cooperation and the continued deepening collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum over the last 46 years.
Pacific unity and solidarity are at the heart of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, and is the foundation upon which our shared achievements in the past year are based – whether at COP22, the UN High-Level Conference on SDG 14: Life Under Water and our continued collaboration in the lead up to COP23.
SPC and PIFS have enjoyed a close, collaborative relationship over the last decades, – both at an institutional level, as well as through the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) – combining our different areas of comparative advantage to help the governments and people of the region to address their regional concerns.
Framework for Pacific Regionalism
I would like to commend CRGA for this continued collaboration through embedding the Framework for Pacific Regionalism as a standing agenda item since CRGA 45 in 2015.
The Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), its respective agencies and governing councils play a central role in delivering on the objectives the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, and in driving the collaboration, cooperation and coordination that is essential for effective regionalism.
In the past few years, in support of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ regional priorities under the Framework, SPC has provided key technical advice and support for issues relating to:
Economic Returns on Fisheries;
Coastal Fisheries Management;
Climate Change and,
Much of this work is ongoing, at both regional and multi-country levels, and leverages valued partnerships with other stakeholders such as the United Nations.
The resource allocation frameworks and processes across CROP agencies must incorporate regional priorities as determined by Forum Leaders – of course, in addition to agency level priorities.
Supporting the 2016-2020 Smaller Island States Strategy
CRGA is commended for last year committing to implementing the SIS Regional Strategy 2016-2020.
The Pacific Community has shown great leadership in embedding the SIS Regional Strategy and Implementation Plan into its respective Work Plans, particularly in SPC’s areas of comparative advantage in health, coastal fisheries and support for labour mobility.
As a priority for SIS, we need to do more on air transport.
PIFS looks forward to working with SPC and the Pacific Aviation Security Office (PASO) in the coming months to explore options to address aviation transport issues in the region. (*In April this year, Pacific Transport Ministers met in Tonga and discussed the need to revisit the Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement, linked also to the airspace sovereignty issues raised in the SIS Regional Strategy.)
CROP Cohesion and Coordination
As Permanent CROP Chair, I believe we continue to make positive strides in the ‘one CROP’ approach in support of Pacific regionalism, incorporating regular review to ensure CROP remains effective.
In 2016/17, we consulted widely on a review of the CROP Charter which guides regional institutional coordination, cooperation and collaboration.
We welcome CRGA’s discussion of the draft Review report, noting the importance of CROP membership-wide consultation of proposed revisions to the 2012 CROP Charter, including through the respective governing bodies of CROP agencies.
I would also like to thank the Pacific Community for being a valued partner in the PIFS-led analysis of regional governance and financing arrangements, both in terms of data validation and active contributions into the analysis, including in consultation with the CRGA Chair.
This analysis of regional governance and financing will be discussed by Forum Leaders in September 2017 and will guide a shift in governance arrangements that support member-driven Pacific regionalism.
Resourcing the implementation of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ priorities, however, is challenged by the current financial constraints that regional agencies are facing.
I encourage CRGA to work continue to work with the wider CROP family in orienting investments toward a prioritised Pacific regionalism agenda that effectively meets the needs of our Pacific peoples.
The Blue Pacific at the heart of Pacific Regionalism
Finally, I would like to reflect on Prime Minister Tuilaepa of Samoa’s announcement of The Blue Pacific identity during the UN Oceans Conference in New York in June this year, which is also the theme of the upcoming 48th Pacific Islands Forum in Apia, Samoa.
“The Blue Pacific” seeks to recapture the collective potential of our shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean based on an explicit recognition of our shared ocean identity, ocean geography, and ocean resources.
As the Pacific Community marks its 70th anniversary and prepares for the next chapter, I look forward to collaborating on new areas of Pacific regionalism through a Blue Pacific lens.
In closing, I would like to thank Director-General Dr. Colin Tukuitonga and the SPC staff for a productive 2016/17 period and for the continued collaboration and commitment to working with the Forum Secretariat and other members of the CROP family, as we seek to serve our countries as best we can.
I would also like to thank the Government and people of New Caledonia and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for hosting this meeting.