Pacific Island Countries have in the past six years stepped up their engagement in the international community processes, especially at the United Nations.
And the outgoing Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa attributes this to the work done by Pacific Missions represented in New York.
“During my six year term I have seen a lot of movement internationally in the development process. I think there has been a greater understanding of the development process especially in addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by our member countries.
“We are playing a greater role in the development process, in meeting the targets of the MDGs and the flow on work from the Rio + 20. Our people are lot more involved in development work as seen in the area of climate change. It has taught us ways of trying to deal and cope with these international forces, said Slade, whose term comes to an end in October this year.
An example he shared with Pacific journalists in Palau was the work done by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat on aid effectiveness through the Cairns Compact which, he said has taught the region of the value of partnerships.
“The region is now engaging with the donors and the international community is a very genuine way which is producing results, said Slade.
“We are now able to measure and track progress in development. Previously these works were surrendered to the United Nations. We are now producing data and tracking these developments and how it fits into the regional and international agenda.
“Our governments in the region are handling massive of flow of assistance from China, Australia, the European Union and other major development partners. We cannot do it without proper understanding of what is there to help us in all the variations of assistance.
“During my term, we were seeing a lot of changes including some improvements. Have we come to the end of it? Far from it, however we are on track in getting all our systems online for major changes that the international community will face in terms of development processes.
Slade admitted his six years at the helm of the region’s premier political body have seen many challenges – Fiji’s suspension being one of them.
“Suspending a member has never happened before and I hope it will never happen again, said Slade.
“Fiji’s suspension relates only to participation in Forum meetings and activities. It has always remained a member of the Pacific Islands Forum. It never lost that membership status, according to SG Slade.
He was optimistic that Pacific Islands Forum Leaders will invite Fiji back to the Forum once free and fair elections are held in September this year.
Asked to describe his term in office, Slade said, “It has been a fascinating and challenging career role for me. It was a great honour to discharge my role as Secretary General.”
On Australia and New Zealand’s membership of the Forum, the outgoing SG said the two countries play an ‘essential role’ in the 16 member grouping.
On preparations for the 3rd United Nations Global conference for Small Island Developing State (SIDS) in Samoa in September this year, Slade said the international spotlight will be on the Pacific region during this conference.
“There will be an international spotlight on all our countries on a host of SIDS issue, in particular issues that define the vulnerabilities, characteristics and special case for SIDS. It will also define their struggles for sustainable development and the reasons for the exposure of our communities to many global forces that are not of our making.
Slade said at the Apia conference, ocean will be one of the main focus for Pacific SIDS.
“It is also one of the main subjects for the Leaders agenda here in Palau this week.
The theme of the 45th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting which begins Tuesday is, “The Ocean – Life and Future.”
At the end of the Summit, Forum Leaders will endorse a regional declaration on Oceans that is expected to feed into the global discussion on the proposed sustainable development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGSs) that expire in 2015.
Currently, oceans is one of the 17 draft goals proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals.
While this very encouraging for the Pacific, “we are not out of the woods yet, said Tuiloma Neroni Slade.
“We still have to work through the negotiations. I am not sure what the objections are. There are countries that have extreme beliefs about the freedom of the high seas. What is important for us is to safeguard the health of our oceans because it is our home environment, said Slade.
Four Forum Leaders – John Key of New Zealand, Tony Abbott of Australia, Henry Puna of Cook Islands and Joe Natuman of Vanuatu will not be in Palau for the annual summit of Pacific Leader.
By PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai in Palau