The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting will soon get underway in Cook Islands.
In these extracts from a speech to the Pacific Islands News Association, PIFS Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade foreshadows some of the issues likely to be discussed. Missing from his overview; any substantial mention of Fiji’s (suspended) membership and West Papua.
As this year’s host the Government of the Cook Islands has proposed the theme “Large Ocean Island States – the Pacific Challenge”. The theme is most appropriate as it speaks to the very character of the Ocean that is home to us all, and to the challenges and opportunities for our region. It reflects and gives emphasis on oceans in the Rio+20 outcomes, as well as the priority of sustainable development goals on the global agenda. Indeed, it is a theme that corresponds to the Leaders’ vision for a Pacific of peace, a region of harmony, security and economic prosperity for all.
Possible issues for Forum Leaders’ consideration.
At their annual meetings, Forum Leaders go on a Retreat without their officials to consider issues of priority for the region. This year, the Retreat will be held on Thursday, 30 August on the island of Aitutaki. Some of the key issues to be discussed will include the following.
The Pacific Plan Annual Progress Report 2012 highlighting a number of achievements over the last 12 months will be considered by Leaders at their Retreat. I understand that the Pacific Plan is the subject of the next presentation by Deputy Secretary General Feleti Teo. But briefly, the Pacific Plan remains the master strategy for regional integration and cooperation. Despite significant progress and achievements made under the Pacific Plan in 2011 and 2012, major challenges remain and continue to confront the region – challenges like the fluctuations and instability in the global economy, climate change, achieving the MDS, etc. The Pacific Plan is due for review in 2013, and the review terms of reference will be brought to the attention of Leaders at their Retreat. The Pacific Plan needs to continue to be relevant to member countries and for regional cooperation and integration, and also reflective of the current global development landscape.
The Waiheke Declaration
As some of you might remember, Forum Leaders at their meeting in Auckland last year endorsed the Waiheke Declaration, renewing their commitment to sustainable economic development. Leaders will discuss progress on arrangements for the implementation of the Declaration including the decision by Forum Economic Ministers to provide regional oversight and leadership in the implementation of the Declaration regionally and at the national level.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)
Leaders will also discuss the important outcomes of the 2012 Rio+20 Conference for the Pacific including the reaffirmation of the special case for Small Island Developing States, the emphasis on Oceans and the decision to develop Sustainable Development Goals. Leaders will need to decide on the process to develop a Pacific position on the post-2015 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. As you will know, the RIO+20 Conference also endorsed the convening of a Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. It is possible that this will be held in the Pacific region, and Leaders, and all of us included, would welcome the opportunity to showcase the unique characteristics and challenges of our region.
With the theme chosen by the Government of the Cook Islands as the host of the 43rd Pacific Islands, Leaders will discuss Oceans issues especially the efforts of Pacific countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tokelau, also Australia – in the creation of Marine Protected Areas in line with global goals for broader conservation and management efforts and for responsible use of ocean resources. I must commend those countries that have chosen to do this, including the efforts of those Forum Island Countries that have concluded their maritime boundary delimitation negotiations and are ready to sign their maritime boundary agreements.
Because of its encompassing nature, climate change remains the greatest challenge for Forum countries. Efforts to tackle climate change across the Pacific region, including advocacy at international negotiations, mitigation and adaptation measures and efforts to deal with climate change financing will also be discussed by the Leaders. I understand climate change financing is the topic of another of session later today, so I will leave it to the Director of Strategic Partnerships Programme of the Forum Secretariat, Su’a Kevin Thomsen to elaborate further on that issue.
Implementation of the Forum Compact
The Leaders will also consider the two main reports under the Forum Compact namely, the 2012 Tracking the Effectiveness of Development Efforts in the Pacific Report, and the draft 2012 Pacific Regional Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Tracking Report. The 2012 Tracking the Effectiveness of Development Efforts in the Pacific Report highlighted the positive experience of the 2012 peer review held in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and follow-up visits to Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, and Tuvalu. Amongst other developments, the Tracking Report also notes the benefits of sharing experiences and identifying good practices to improve development outcomes.
The 2012 MDG Tracking Report reports that the achievement of the MDGs was slow and uneven across the region. It noted that poverty in the Pacific, or more accurately hardship, was characterised as lack of access to basic services, lack of opportunity to participate in the socio-economic life of the community, and lack of adequate resources, including cash, to meet the basic needs of the household. With so much more to try and achieve before the MDG deadline of 2015, Forum Leaders will consider means of accelerated efforts and otherwise how best to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
Trade is fundamental to the economic prospects for Forum countries and the region and is another important agenda item for the Forum Leaders. The Director of the Forum Secretariat’s Economic Governance Programme, Mr Shiu Raj will at a session tomorrow afternoon present on this matter. I should mention for now that the Forum Secretariat has and continues to support Forum Members in the development of their National Trade Policy Frameworks, trade capacity building at the national levels, and the promotion of Pacific exports and investments.
With respect to regional security issues, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) operations in the Solomon Islands is now in transition and Leaders will also discuss the progress of the transition including the next phase of RAMSI’s existence from July 2013 to 2017. On Fiji, Leaders will consider a Report by the Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) on the situation in Fiji on their visit to Fiji on 1 May this year, their first visit since 2008. The MCG is mandated by the Forum Leaders to monitor the situation in Fiji.
So these are some of the issues that Forum Leaders will discuss. At the end of the Leaders’ Retreat, they will issue the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum Communiqué reflecting their decisions on these and other issues. The Communiqué also forms the Work Plan for the Forum Secretariat as it implements the Leaders’ decisions together with CROP agencies, development partners and other multilateral organisations.
Smaller Island States Leaders’ Meeting
The first of the series of Leaders’ meetings next week will be the Smaller Island States Leaders’ Meeting. This will take place at the Edgewater Resort Conference Room on Monday. Leaders of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu will attend the meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. This meeting gives the SIS Leaders the opportunity to caucus on common issues of particular relevance to SIS, which include:
• the potential for a more strategic positioning of the SIS interests within the Pacific Plan in the proposed review of the Pacific Plan;
• SIS special requirements in climate change financing;
• sub-regional transport services, including shipping and air services;
• the importance of trade policy frameworks in guiding trade negotiations and agreements;
• tourism potential in the SIS; and
• the centrality of gender empowerment and equality in the achievement of national and regional outcomes.
Pacific ACP Leaders’ Meeting
Leaders of Pacific ACP countries, that is all Forum members, except Australia and New Zealand, will also meet as the Pacific ACP Leaders on Tuesday next week. This will conclude just before the official opening of the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum on Tuesday afternoon. Discussions will focus on a range of key issues including:
• implementation of the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme under the European Development Fund;
• progress made on the Pacific Region’s negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union ;
• implementation of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), and the conclusion of the PICTA Trade in Services negotiations;
• Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER ) Plus negotiations;
• Pacific Trade and Development Facility;
• Refresh and Renew process of the Pacific Aid for Trade;
• World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues relevant to the Pacific ACP countries, and
• Study to determine the effectives of ACP membership for the Pacific Region, including the proposal for the establishment of a regional Pacific office in Brussels.
Leaders’ Plenary Session
The Leaders’ Plenary Session that will be held on Wednesday next week will feature statements by the Forum‘s Associate Members (New Caledonia and French Polynesia), and the Forum Observers. This meeting gives the Associate Members and Forum Observers the opportunity to present to Forum Leaders their views on some of issues that the Leaders will discuss at their Retreat the following day.
Leaders depart later on Wednesday for Aitutaki for their Retreat (on Thursday). The Leaders’ Retreat is attended only by Forum Leaders, or their special envoys.
Post-Forum Dialogue Partners’ Meeting
The last meeting in the series of Leaders’ meetings is the Post-Forum Dialogue Partners Meeting to be held next Friday. It will be attended by all Forum Members as well as 14 development partners: Canada, Peoples Republic of China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States. There will be thematic discussions on the three issues of:
• Large Ocean Island States – The Pacific Challenge;
• Global Sustainable Development Agenda and the Post-2015 goals, and
• Enhancing Development Cooperation