Rarotonga, Cook Islands- The SIS Leaders concluded their 21st meeting in Rarotonga on 27 August. The meeting was very constructive with major decisions made on issues pertaining to the special needs and strategic interests of the SIS membership. Members of the SIS include the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.
The SIS Leaders acknowledged the work of the SIS Unit within the Forum Secretariat and the implementation of its work programme in the past year. The Leaders noted the special work being done by the SIS Pacific Plan Desk Officers posted in all the SIS member countries. The Leaders directed that the Secretariat place more strategic responsibilities on the SIS desk officer and directed they consult with SIS, to define the specific requirements for the Desk Officers best suited to support individual SIS strategic priorities.
SIS Development Fund
On the issue of the SIS Development Fund Programme, SIS Leaders endorsed the proposal for the adoption of the programme based approach as the basis to secure additional resources for the Fund with development partners and directed the Secretariat to quickly confirm development partners’ support and funding contributions to the Fund. This would be supported by SIS finalising programme budgets, arrangements and the Fund guidelines based on proposed modalities for its implementation
Strategic Directions – The Pacific Plan and SIS
The SIS Leaders welcomed the proposed review of the Pacific Plan in 2013, in particular the proposed emphasis of the review on the specific needs and interests of the SIS within the Pacific Plan. The meeting directed the Forum Secretariat to consider the special needs of SIS in the proposed review of the Pacific Plan in 2013, by undertaking specific work to analyse the cost/benefits of the sub-regional integration and cooperation amongst SIS.
Furthermore,SIS Leaders agreed that the review of the Pacific Plan be conducted first before any recommendations of the recent Review of the Forum Secretariat be considered or endorsed by Forum Leaders.
Sustainable Financing for Climate Change
All SIS member countries are vulnerable to the effect of climate change. The SIS Leaders welcomed the progress report on access to, and management of, climate change finance presented by the Forum Secretariat. They also noted the comprehensive approach being undertaken by CROP and partners to implement the range of decisions on climate change financing by Leaders and other relevant meetings. SIS Leaders also welcomed the development of a comprehensive methodology and approach to assessing the optimal mix of climate change financing modalities in a Forum Island Country specific contextbeing implemented through a pilot study in Nauru and the progress in developing the Regional Technical Support Mechanism and associated rapid response fund. SIS Leaders encouraged CROP, the World Bank and ADB to implement this Mechanism as soon as is practicable.
The SIS Leaders also acknowledged the ongoing assistance of other CROP agencies including Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) as the lead CROP agency on climate change, and the work done by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in this sector.
Tourism in SIS
All of the SIS members are very attractive destinations for tourists. The SIS Leaders therefore acknowledged the comprehensive efforts and support by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), being directed into the areas of: capacity building of national staff; assisting with the development of national plans and policies; online marketing; and the compilation and analysis of market research to drive effective planning and decision making within SIS.
The SIS Leaders also requested that the Forum Secretariat and SPTO seek funding from development partners to undertake a feasibility study into the establishment of an SIS Hospitality training centre in the Cook Islands.
Trade Programmes in Smaller Island States.
The SIS Leaders noted the issues and the work that has been undertaken by the Secretariat on the formulation of Trade Policy Frameworks and the proposed work plan for formulating Trade Policy Frameworks in their countries. The Leaders agreed to prioritise and mainstream trade into their national development plans and to continue reforming their trade regimes to reduce the cost of doing business and develop competitiveness. The SIS Leaders also directed that the Forum Secretariat to write to the Commonwealth Secretariat, the ACP Secretariat and the EU to express appreciation for extending the Hub and Spokes Project to Phase II and request that additional funding be provided to ensure that additional Trade Advisers are deployed in Smaller Island States. The SIS Leaders also directed the Forum Secretariat to work with other development partners to mobilise Aid for Trade resources that are required to enable countries to implement their Trade Policy Frameworks.
On trade negotiations, the SIS Leaders agreed to encourage its members that are yet to accede to PICTA or complete domestic arrangements to commence trading under PICTA to do so as soon as possible.
SIS Leaders also urged their membership to sign the PICTA Trade in Services Protocol and undertake the necessary domestic arrangements to commence implementing the PICTA Protocol on Trade in Services. The SIS Leaders further urged their members that have not yet submitted revised market access offers to do so to enable the region to conclude negotiations on a comprehensive EPA in 2012. The SIS Leaders also directed the Secretariat to continue working with SIS to ensure that their needs are fully reflected in the various trade negotiations; stress the importance of a development oriented trade and investment arrangement with the U.S. and urge the U.S. to expedite the arrangements for the commencement of the joint study on this important initiative; and provide further direction on progressing the PACER Plus negotiations. SIS Regional Transport Initiatives and Issues
Shipping is a very important sector in allof the SIS. The SIS Leaders expressed support for the work of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in progressing SIS shipping initiatives in the region and recognise the need for further funding to continue this work. SIS Leaders also supported SPC’s efforts in assisting the Central Pacific Shipping Commission set up operations to improve international shipping services in the Pacific region.
Sub-regional Air Services
SIS Leadersrecognised the political dimensions in furthering discussions on the feasibility of sub-regional air services to support the SIS and encouraged ongoing efforts to facilitate progress on this matter of a proposal for a sub-regional Air Services including engagement of all public and private sector stakeholders.SIS Leaders agreed to explore the potential solution of calling for competitive tenders for the provision of air services on selected intra-regional routes with the need for prior consultations with potential commercial airline operators.
Gender Equality Commitments
The SIS Leaders affirmed developments in their own countries in regards to the promotion of the participation of women in political decision-making and commended the assistance provided by the Secretariat, SPC and other development partners in the conduct of gender-related activities such as mock parliaments. Such activities have provided real life experiences to women participants and may have encouraged their participation in political activities.
The SIS Leaders acknowledged the great progress made in women representation in positions of decision makers in government and other sectors. Indications confirmed commitments by the SIS to the development of policies to enable and strengthen women’s participation and empowerment in economic activities.
NCDs and Youth Employment
SIS Leaders also acknowledged the seriousness of NCDs in the Pacific and called on both SIS and their development partners to intensify efforts to combat the NCDs pandemic in the region.
SIS Leaders also recognized that the lack of opportunity was the main reason for high youth unemployment. Regional efforts through the Pacific Employment Strategy (Pacific –YES) was a good start to support job creation for Pacific youth and strengthening the enabling environment within SIS for job creation.
Support for Republic of Marshall Islands
SIS Leaders indicated their support for the proposal by the Republic of Marshall Islands to host the 44th Pacific Islands Forum next year.
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