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Saturday 25 August 2012 | Published in Regional


The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat secretary-general briefed Pacific media yesterday on the documents and meetings to watch for over the course of the coming week.

Speaking at PINA/PIFS Forum regional media workshop yesterday morning, Tuiloma Neroni Slade reviewed the Forum agenda and the components of it that will make for good news.

”You have your responsibilities, we have ours, but we need to work in cooperation,“ he told a gathering of Pacific journalists.

Slade said the Forum will cover discussions conducted at Rio+20.

”There are a number of important aspects of the Rio outcomes – there is of course the re-affirmation of the special case for small island developing states, there is the emphasis on the oceans and the decision to develop sustainable development goals beyond (2015) at the conclusion of the millennium development goals.“

He acknowledged that at Rio+20 leaders decided to convene the third international conference on small island developing states in either Fiji or Samoa in 2014. Climate change, of course, will top the list of discussion priorities.

”(Climate change) is an encompassing longstanding and likely to be long into the future issue for this region, and therefore it remains the dominant and the greatest challenge for all Forum island countries (and) indeed for the region as a whole.

”A range of efforts are in place and underway to respond to the dangers of climate change and you know all this – all of our countries are very directly engaged in the international advocacy and negotiations on this issue we are developing very skilled talents in all Pacific countries and this of course is to be admired and appreciated but it requires a great deal of work, of mitigation and adaptation to deal with this issue in all various Pacific countries.“

Slade then explained the agenda of the leaders’ retreat, to be held on Aitutaki on Wednesday.

”That is a very private session of leaders without the presence of officials and they will give attention to a range of priority issues for the region,“ Slade began.

The leaders will discuss such challenges as securing finance for climate change mitigation, adapting to the ”fluctuation and instability“ of the global economy, and the implementation of the Pacific Plan.

Leaders will also discuss as matters of priority the Waiheke Declaration and the Pacific Oceanscape.

”With respect to the oceans issues we have a major theme which is attracting a lot of interest and support, and this will be, I’d imagine, one of the centre points of the considerations of leaders here and we can expect that it will be the issue that will produce important decisions and outcomes from this meeting.“

Leaders will discuss the Forum Compact, which has been reviewed by the Forum Secretariat in the form of two key reports that will be effectively tabled next week – the first is the 2012 tracking report on the effectiveness of development efforts in the Pacific and the other is the draft 2012 Pacific regional millennium development goal tracking report.

”I would commend these reports to the media – they contain very important information and data that will give you some idea of the general developmental efforts being undertaken throughout the region, the performance of the region on the whole and some of the difficulties that countries are experiencing and dealing with,“ Slade said.

He noted that the tracking report reveals ”slow and uneven progress across the region“ – not a surprising revelation, he said, given the experience of a country like the Cook Islands (”with a relatively high GDP and productivity (and) a much smaller population“) will differ from that of Papua New Guinea.

Leaders will also cover trade issues at the Forum.

”Trade is fundamental to the economic prospects for the countries and for our region as a whole. (A large) number of countries in this region (does) not have many natural resources to call upon other than perhaps fisheries and tourism. We do need to develop capacity for trade to supplement what is available naturally,“ Slade said.

Forum participants will discuss regional security issues, particularly the evolving role of RAMSI in the Solomon Islands, and the situation of Fiji.

”These are some of the issues that the leaders will be addressing at their retreat session and I expect that all these ingredients will make up the communiqu of the Forum meeting,“ Slade said.

The communiqu, he said, will govern the work of the Forum Secretariat over the next 12 months.

Another meeting to watch, he said, is that of small island states leaders on Monday, at which eight nations (including the Cook Islands) will discuss issues like the special requirements of smaller states for climate change financing, sub-regional transport services like shipping and air freighting, trade negotiations and tourism.

On Tuesday at the Pacific ACP leaders meeting, leaders will cover issues of funding from the European Union in the form of the economic partnerships agreement (EPA), and PICTA negotiations+.

On Wednesday at the plenary session, associate members New Caledonia and French Polynesia will address the Pacific Forum leaders, and on Friday representatives of development partner countries will participate in the post-Forum dialogue.

Slade ended by reminding journalists that the Forum is ”not about the United States“ and it is ”not about China“.

”So if you can concentrate without getting too hyper on personalities (like US secretary of state Hillary Clinton) I think we’ll appreciate it,“ he said.