SECRETARIAT PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC)

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Nouméa, New Caledonia

REPORTS

November 3, 1998

ORGANIZATIONS URGED TO IDENTIFY GAPS

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Deputy Director-General Dr. Jimmie Rodgers today emphasized the need for the SPC and other regional organizations to identify gaps in service delivery and better target assistance in light of decreasing resources.

Dr. Rodgers made the comments on Day Two of the 28th session of the SPC's governing council, the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) in Nouméa.

"The eight regional organizations servicing the Pacific Islands are competing for the same resources and need to identify areas not being addressed by each other," Dr. Rodgers said.

He also outlined internal and external constraints being faced by the SPC in terms of resource allocation, the SPC donor/client relationship and the organization's ability to continue to build capacity and transfer skills in light of constraints and in terms of sustainability at national level.

"The current economic climate in the Pacific Islands means increases in assessed contributions (from SPC member states) would not be welcome," he said.

Dr. Rodgers said the realities of the Pacific's current economic climate would have implications on the SPC and could mean the reduction of some of the organization's programs.

He highlighted areas such as environmental and community health, aquaculture, quarantine, information technology and television in the SPC's health, agriculture and regional media programs which he said, would have positive program impacts on the region.

The Forum Secretariat observer and director of its Development and Economic Policy Division, Iosefa Maiava called for regional organizations to be in tune with their changing environment and urged them to take the needs of the private sector into further consideration, particularly as regards the impact of economic reforms on this sector.

He said the challenge for regional organizations lay in bridging the gaps highlighted by Dr. Rodgers and said that the 1998 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) had commended the work of the SPC in the areas of quarantine and forestry.

Mr. Maiava supported the SPC initiative in the area of information technology and suggested that the proposal be tabled through the South Pacific Organizations Coordinating Committee (SPOCC) working group, to avoid duplication by other regional organizations in this area.

The representative of Tuvalu and High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Enele Sopoaga, stressed the finiteness of the region's resources and urged that the SPC programs not lose sight of the important goals of capacity building and human resource development.

He said the lack of national commitment was a constraint which needed to be addressed, as was absorption capacity at national level, particularly in terms of implementation (of programs).

The High Commissioner strongly supported the SPC information technology proposal and stressed its importance for small island states.

He pointed to the upcoming Forum Secretariat Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunications in April 1999 and commended what he called "the SPC's blossoming romance" with Forsec, a crucial regional partner.

Contact: Debbie Singh, SPC, Noumea, New Caledonia. Tel: (687) 26.20.00/26.01.57 or Fax: 26.38.18.

November 3, 1998

AGRICULTURE AMONG ISSUES AT COMMITTEE FOREFRONT

The importance of eradicating the problem of taro beetle blight affecting some Pacific Island countries was emphasized on the second day of the meeting of the governing council of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea today.

The issue was raised at the 28th session of the Committee of Representatives

of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) by the representative of Kiribati and Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Kaburoro Ruaia following a presentation by the SPC Agriculture Program Manager, Dr. Malcolm Hazelman.

Dr. Hazelman clarified that while complete eradication was not possible, the problem could be contained at thresholds which were not economically damaging to countries.

"For instance, the problem is there to stay in Samoa," he said.

The issues of Kava and intellectual property rights also formed part of discussions following the program presentation and the representative of Fiji and deputy secretary for Foreign Affairs, Isireli Koyamaibole requested that these be given higher priority for the program.

Dr. Hazelman acknowledged this but said that his program priorities were determined through the Permanent Heads of Agriculture and Livestock (PHALPS) meetings.

However, he acknowledged that Pacific Island countries were now facing competition from other Kava-producing countries using materials that previously belonged to the islands.

The representative of Tuvalu and High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Enele Sopoaga, raised the issue of the importance of the coconut crop as the mainstay of many Pacific Island countries and suggested that the SPC look at crop improvement and safeguarding production.

The presentation by the SPC agriculture program was among others made by the organization's health, women's, youth, statistics, demography, maritime, forestry, information technology and media programs.

(Contact: Debbie Singh, SPC Noumea, New Caledonia. Tel: (687) 26.20.00/26.01.57 or Fax: 26.38.28).

November 4, 1998

WIDE ACCLAIM FOR SPC REGIONAL I/T INITIATIVE

A proposal by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to provide low-level training in the use of information technology to Pacific Island government departments and Non Government Organizations has received wide acclaim here by regional governments, including French Polynesia.

It has also seen the government of France, in its donor capacity, offer strong support and commitment.

The proposal for a Regional Information and Communications initiative was tabled at the 28th session of the SPC's governing council, the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) currently underway in Nouméa.

The new regional information technology initiative will target technical assistance at small government departments and social development organizations where uptake is currently slow but where efficiency savings from I/T could be substantial .

"The idea (of the initiative) is not to provide hardware. It is to provide technical support and training for government focal points," SPC Information Technology Manager, Alasdair Blake said.

"The initiative will provide technical assistance through existing SPC programs to ensure in-country staff are able to participate in information flow critical to program development.

"The wide mandate of the SPC will ensure that the synergy between existing programs and I/T can provide the reason to connect where it may not have been evident before," he said.

Training will focus on key technical areas such as network management, security, web site development and electronic commerce and will target professionals in agriculture, energy, health, statistics, marine resources, women and youth.

"There are many groups who do not have access to communications infrastructure by virtue of high tariffs and low rural penetration. While improvements in infrastructure are rapid, it is still the case that access to communications services are very restricted. The regional I/T initiative would lobby on behalf of all stakeholders in the region for appropriate regulation in telecommunications services and realistic, affordable tariffs. It would provide input to regulatory bodies in member states with respect to the advantages/disadvantages of various tariff and service provision schemes from a whole economy perspective, to provide an environment to assist long-term economic growth," Mr. Blake said.

The SPC I/T proposal suggests the convening of three sub-regional workshops to build on work carried out through training and will include participants from government departments, other stakeholders and social development organizations.

An annual conference is also being proposed to discuss and develop solutions to key I/T issues. The conference will focus on themes of current importance such as network security, web publishing and low earth orbit (LEO) satellite technology.

The need for wider usage of information and communications services,

including delivery and take-up was recognized by representatives at the 1998 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting.

Acknowledging this, the Forum observer to the CRGA, Iosefa Maiava called on the SPC, through the South Pacific Organizations Coordinating Committee (SPOCC), to collaborate with other regional agencies working in the same area, in order to avoid duplication.

(Contact: Debbie Singh, SPC, Noumea, New Caledonia. Tel: (687) 26.20.00/26.01.57 or Fax:26.38.18).

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