President Mori attends 41st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Vanuatu
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): August 11, 2010 - The opening ceremony of the 41st Pacific Island Forum Meeting (the Forum) was held on August 4, 2010, at the Independence Garden's Grand Stand of Port Vila in Vanuatu. The ceremony was hosted by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Nipake Edward Natapei Tuta Fanua'ariki. The Heads of State and Governments of the Cook Islands, FSM, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, RMI, Tonga and Vanuatu attended the ceremony. Ministers represented Australia and Papua New Guinea. Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu were represented by Special Envoys. Representatives of New Caledonia and French Polynesia were also in attendance, their respective countries currently hold an associate member status with the Forum.
In his inaugural speech as the new Chair of the Forum in Port Vila, Natapei called for the Forum leaders to strengthen regional cooperation. "We need to break down those barriers and remove elements of our societies that deny democracy and good governance in order that we as a region can celebrate our common vision of a Pacific region that is respected for the quality of its governance, its full observance of democratic values, and its defense of human rights taking into account the diversity of our respective cultures and traditions," he said.
Natapei alluded to Fiji's on-going suspension from the Forum and stated that "as Leaders of Pacific Islands nations, we have the duty and responsibility to remain engaged with Fiji so that democratic principles and practices can be restored in Fiji as soon as possible." Fiji was suspended from the Forum in May 2009, after it failed to meet the deadline of announcing a general election date.
Forum Secretariat Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, following Natapei's address, said: "This is a region of remarkable contrasts and of immense diversities: diversities of land forms and people; innumerable languages little known elsewhere; and of cultures and traditions, unique and distinct, one from the other. There is, in the natural order, much more to divide than there is to unite. But the legacy of this Forum organization, the true legacy of the Forum, is unity. Unity, not of a few, but for all Forum countries. The Forum has overcome diversity, and will overcome diversion, in the name of unity."
The official opening ceremony at the Independence Gardens concluded with traditional dances performed by cultural groups from the six Provinces of Vanuatu, followed by the "Pacific Song Bird" theme song of the 41st PIF, sang by Vanessa Quai.
The morning ceremony was followed by the Forum Plenary Session at Le Lagon Resort, in the oustskirts of Port Vila. The theme of this year's Forum Meeting was: "Navigating our challenges and opportunities together towards addressing the needs of the most vulnerable of our communities." President Mori was accompanied by his delegation comprised of Lorin Robert, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Gillian Doone, Assistant Director of the Office of SBOC, Samson Pretrick, FSM Ambassador to Fiji, and Judy Mahan, Special Assistant to the President for Public Information.
Guest speakers included representatives from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the World Bank. Both organizations offered their support to the Pacific region; specifically, the World Bank stated they could assist members, but also non-members, with advice and technical assistance.
The Forum Leaders heard presentations from the representatives of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Timor-Leste, Tokolau and Wallis and Futuna each expressing their hope to eventually become full-fledged members of the Forum.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Kamalesh Sharma, announced that a Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva, Switzerland, will be set up by the end of the year. He explained the purpose of the new office will be to strengthen the voices of small states in the global arena and to advance their interests in international dialogues and negotiations. Sharma encouraged Forum member countries to seize the opportunity to establish or relocate their offices in Geneva at the Commonwealth Small States Office to enjoy economies of scale in "a global hub for multilateral activity."
Presentations were also given by Alan Greenwood, Vice President of Asian Development Bank and from Thomas Stelzer, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs. The UN reiterated their strong commitment to the Pacific region and urged Fiji to return to democratic rule.
The Plenary Session closed with a presentation from the Private Sector Dialogue whose goal is to improve access to finance for the Pacific private sector. "Less than 20% of adults in the Pacific have access to financial services, and fewer still have access to credit," the Chair of the Private Sector Dialogue, Kaliopate Tavola, said. "Small and medium enterprises make up much of the private sector in the Pacific, and these enterprises face great difficulty accessing finance to support their establishment and growth." Tavola highlighted the need to introduce credit bureaus and improve opportunities to collateralize customary land and other assets. This dialogue with Leaders was a first step toward addressing some of the critical constraints faced by the private sector.
Immediately after the Plenary Session, President Mori co-hosted an evening gathering with President Toribiong of Palau and President Jurelang Zedkaia of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, for the launch of Jurelang Zedkaia's Green Energy Micronesia (GEM) Initiative. GEM, also known as the 20/30/20 Plan, proposes the following targets and goals for the Micronesian region: a 20% energy efficiency improvement by the supply side, 30% energy efficiency improvement by end-users, and a 20% electricity generation through renewable energy; all by 2020.
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