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Republic of Nauru August 14-15, 2001

August 14, 2001

OPENING STATEMENT Mr. W. Noel Levi, CBE Secretary General, Forum Secretariat

Honourable Minister, Heads of CROP Agencies, Chairman of FOC, Distinguished Heads of Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the pre-Forum FOC and also welcome to Nauru. On your behalf, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of the Republic of Nauru for graciously accepting to host the annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting earlier this year. In particular, I want to congratulate and commend the Government of Nauru through your Minister and through the head of the Nauru delegation for the hard work put into preparing the venue for our meeting in a space of only six months. Nauru may be small but it certainly has a very big heart insofar as looking after visitors to the Island.

We are honoured to have with us this morning the Minister for Transport and Education and Minister Assisting the President, Hon Remy Namaduk, who will officially open the meeting. But first a few words from your Secretariat.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Forum, so it is perhaps a good opportunity for the Forum Officials Committee to reflect on past achievements and future challenges. As the governing council of the Forum Secretariat, are you satisfied with the direction the region is going; are you satisfied with the implementation of the Leaders’ decisions, if not, what are the options/remedial measures we need to take to enhance the process. In asking these questions, we must always bear in mind that the long term goal of the Forum continues to be that of encouraging sustainable development in its member countries and for the peoples of the Forum region.

We live in a world of constant changes, and the pace with which these changes are happening is moving ahead of our ability to adjust. The catalyst for these changes is the globalisation process, which in terms of perception is good in the sense that it hastens development in the developing countries. There is however a growing sense of disenchantment with the impact of globalisation and trade liberalisation in our region. We need to reflect upon and develop appropriate policy options to minimise the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Our region remains economically vulnerable. The recent political crises, like economic and social ills in our region today, are clear signs that we are struggling to adjust to rapid changes. The world, including our region, has never before experienced so much pressure to open up to global consumer goods, services and markets. The Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relation (PACER) and the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) which are being submitted to the Leaders at this meeting are examples of the adjustment the region has to make to keep up with the changes that are now happening globally.

As senior policy advisors to your respective governments, I urge and plead with you to ensure that the facilitation measures, such as your negative product list, are sensible and realistic. The PICTA can only be beneficial to the majority of our under-privileged people if it can assist in reducing the cost of consumer goods to them and increasing their range.

The transnational crimes, including money laundering, trafficking in drugs, human beings, arms, and citizenship and passport fraud are posing a serious threat to the sovereignty and the political, economic and social foundation of our region and society. Despite the foresight by our Leaders in endorsing the Honiara Declaration, only four or five member countries have enacted the majority of the legislation ten years down the track. This is a serious matter indeed as it both raises questions about the Forum process, and also leaves many members exposed to the transnational crimes at the time when there is clear evidence that these activities are on the rise.

Our region continues to attract the interest of major external powers. The interest by many countries outside of the region to become dialogue partners is testimony to the growing awareness of our region's strategic and diplomatic importance. In recent months, there has been media focus on political rivalry in the region between these external powers. This can complicate relations between Forum members if they find themselves in the opposing camps. The Forum in the past has managed to avoid this issue becoming divisive. I urge you as senior foreign policy advisors to your respective governments to continue to show understanding of each other’s positions and interests in this matter.

Before concluding, it would be remiss of me not to seize this opportunity to place on record my personal appreciation, as well as that of the entire staff of the Forum Secretariat, to the Forum Officials Committee for the guidance, cooperation and an extremely good working relationship over the past years. I look forward to further enhancing this relationship in the future.

The Secretariat post Forum consultation visits to member countries had been a useful and valuable mechanism to discuss Forum issues with officials of member countries. In order to engage other stakeholders such as the NGOs, the private sector and civil society in the advocacy of Forum decisions, future post Forum consultation visits where possible will involve workshop/seminar with all stakeholders, targeted meetings with appropriate line ministry officials and with the private sector. I look forward to your usual cooperation in facilitating this process.

Finally, we have a number of important issues on our agenda to be discussed and in the interest of time, I now have the pleasure to invite the Honourable Minister for Transport and Education and Minister Assisting the President to officially open the Forum Officials Committee meeting for 2001.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at 

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