Saturday 25 August 2012 | Published in Regional
Pacific leaders shared an ambitious vision for regional cooperation and economic integration when they endorsed the Pacific Plan in Madang, Papua New Guinea, in October 2005.
Seven years on, it is timely that leaders are taking stock of progress with the Pacific Plan. With a focus on economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security, its aim was to boost living standards and opportunities for the peoples of the region, particularly those from small island developing states.
The Pacific Plan will top the agenda when regional leaders gather at the annual Pacific Islands Forum which takes place this year in Rarotonga. They will examine the plan’s development framework and its relevance to the changing socio-economic and political landscapes of the region, in line with the international environment and global development dialogue.
Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general Tuiloma Neroni Slade has called for a review of the Pacific Plan as the medium-term framework of priorities drawn up in 2009 comes to a close at the end of 2012.
The Pacific Plan Action Committee, led by New Zealand this year, can guide the effective implementation process by driving greater momentum through renewed commitment and vigour among leaders and development partners.
Effective regional cooperation will help Pacific island states overcome the inherent vulnerabilities they face on account of their geographical location and relative isolation.
These small economies, with their small populations, continue to be susceptible to external shocks. Aligning national development objectives with the Pacific Plan is a good thing, for it will promote better regional integration, help pool scarce human and financial resources, and strengthen development coordination.
Aspiration, action and achievement are the three ‘A’s pivotal to the Pacific Plan’s success. Ambition can be realised through concerted and collective action, and by setting time-bound steps towards attaining targeted milestones. The benefits accrued through reforms and improvements in key areas of the plan should serve as an impetus towards efforts for even greater accomplishments.
The Commonwealth has an interest in the success of the Pacific Plan, having jointly funded a feasibility study in 2005 in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank. The report underscored the importance of good governance and the creation of economic growth as necessary prerequisites for security and sustainable development.
The Commonwealth is keen to work with Pacific Islands Forum member countries to broaden and deepen its engagement in support of the Pacific Plan. In the area of governance, particularly, it is expanding the work it already started through the establishment of the Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Strengthened collaboration among Commonwealth Pacific island nations as well as other Pacific island countries can only be positive, and these countries have a valuable resource to draw on from Commonwealth expertise in advisory services and technical assistance.
Trade and not aid is the way forward in sustainable socio-economic development.
Thus, capacity-building is a much more preferable means towards this end. Pacific island countries and regional organisations like the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states have embraced this approach in their partnership programmes with organisations like the Commonwealth, La Francophone and the European Union.
The challenges are numerous for Pacific island countries, and political stability is paramount for administrations to undertake efficient national development plans, public financial management, and the reform of the public sector, including state-owned enterprises to improve accountability and performance management.
The growth of vibrant economies and stable societies among Pacific island countries is at the heart of the Pacific Plan.
It is a collective ambition that can be realised when heads come together in Rarotonga to add stimulus to the momentum for progress that the peoples of the Pacific richly deserve.