SMALLER ISLAND STATES LEADERS’ MEETING
19th Meeting, Port Vila, Vanuatu
3 August 2010
TUILOMA NERONI SLADE
Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Distinguished Leaders of the Smaller Island States of the Forum
Distinguished Delegates and Observers
CROP Executives and their representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen
Allow me to convene this meeting and call the meeting to order.
2. First, may I warmly welcome your Excellencies to this series of meetings of Forum Leaders.
3. Your meeting this morning is the 19th gathering of Leaders of Smaller Island States (SIS) of the Forum, and the first of the Leaders’ meetings for the week. It is a strategic opportunity for you to focus on issues of particular importance to the SIS and communities.
4. The basic document for your consideration is the report by your Officials in the form of a letter dated 12th July 2010 from the Chair of the SIS Officials Committee to the Incoming Chair of the SIS Leaders Meeting, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Palau.
5. Your Officials will have provided you briefings on their report. However, permit me to refer to some key priorities areas which I believe are long term challenges for SIS. These include:
i) transportation, in particular sub-regional shipping services;
ii) labour mobility in the context of regional economic integration;
iii) energy, with respect to renewable energy and bulk fuel procurement;
iv) sustainable financing options for concrete climate change projects at the national level: and
v) strengthened regional meteorological services.
These priorities are, of course, not new. However, they would require from us all the refocusing of efforts and the mobilisation of limited available resources so that the responses to these challenges are effective.
6. Also identified by your Officials are emerging and substantive regional issues which need to be tackled in conjunction with the Pacific Plan regional priorities established by Forum Leaders in Cairns for the next three year period. These include food security; development coordination; gender equality and the inclusivity of people with disabilities in development.
7. The onset of climate change and the damage already evident are, of course, of the highest priority and concern to the SIS.
8. At this time last year, with high expectation, a principal focus was on the preparations for the global negotiations in Copenhagen. Today, we stand again at the same crossroads, looking ahead to the next global exchange in Cancun, Mexico. We cannot allow the disappointments of Copenhagen to divert attention from the dangers of climate change; rather, we need to build on the outcomes of Copenhagen and seek to strengthen them into binding global commitments.
9. Your Officials have debated ways to strengthen and advance the region’s approach on climate change, and suggestions are being submitted for your consideration and guidance.
10. One of the key regional initiatives adopted by the Forum Leaders in Cairns last year was the Compact for the strengthening of development effectiveness and coordination in the Pacific. A key objective of the Compact is to drive more effective coordination of available development resources to the Pacific island countries, with the central aim of ensuring real progress towards achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs).
11. The Development Compact, or the Cairns Compact, is about the effective coordination of national and regional development efforts, including the peer review of national development planning processes and reporting on those processes. I take this opportunity sincerely to thank the Governments of Nauru and Kiribati for agreeing to host the first peer reviews under the first year of the Compact. I would note, in particular, that out of 8 countries which provided their reports on the planning processes, 5 were SIS. Such positive engagement and leadership in the implementation of the Cairns Compact is greatly appreciated.
SIS Desk Officers
12. As we view it from the Secretariat, the deployment of SIS desk officers in your capitals has been instrumental in the SIS high rate of compliance with reporting under the Pacific Plan and now under the Cairns Compact. However, my attention has been drawn to the number of vacancies in the desk officer positions, and it would seem that we need to do more to raise the level of understanding and interest in these positions. So I have tasked the Secretariat at the earliest opportunity to reassess the arrangements with a view to these positions being filled quickly and on a sustainable basis.
13. As I close, allow me to draw attention to Leaders’ wish last year to rotate alphabetically the chairing arrangement for your meetings. By that arrangement, the incoming Chair for 2010 would be Palau.
14. The Secretariat has been advised, however, that the President of Palau will not be arriving into Port Vila until later this morning. Though His Excellency has expressed his strong desire to fulfil Palau’s chairmanship responsibilities at this meeting, he has suggested that this meeting should commence and proceed with the outgoing Chair presiding, until his arrival at which time he will assume the role of Chair. I believe the outgoing Chair has been consulted on the matter.
15. Accordingly, with your concurrence, I would request the outgoing Chair, the Premier of Niue, Hon Toke Talagi, to remain and continue in the chair until the arrival of President Toribiong (anticipated by morning tea time).
16. May I now invite Premier Toke Talagi to resume role of Chair and take charge of the meeting.
Thank you for your attention.