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PRESS STATEMENT October 30, 2001

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr. Noel Levi, CBE, has welcomed closer cooperation with other regional organizations on emerging issues such as HIV/AIDS, people smuggling and drug abuse.

This follows the 6th Consultative Meeting of the Sub-Regional Executive Heads and ESCAP, which was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu this week.

"We look forward to closer cooperation with our regional partners in the analysis of the scope of human trafficking, the smuggling of migrants and the involvement of organized crime groups, based on improved data collection techniques," Mr. Levi said.

The Secretary General also signaled the need for a higher political profile for addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS in the region.

"HIV/AIDS is an urgent priority that is far more than just a health issue – it is impacting on our social, economic and political sectors. There is room to develop more effective and innovative programs to overcome the cultural and other barriers to wider public awareness of HIV/AIDS.

"That includes programs and policies aimed at countering the stigma attached to people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly as more and more people are affected.

"On globalization, we need to ensure our members have a stronger voice on the international stage which is why inter-regional links are so important," Mr. Levi said. "Although globalization offers some opportunities and challenges, if not managed properly, globalization could cause problems particularly for small island states.

"Part of our discussions also looked at addressing the issues and impacts of drug abuse, through information sharing, as well as seeking financial and technical assistance," Mr. Levi said.

The meeting in Port Vila also discussed trade facilitation, WTO accession and environmental challenges.

Executive Heads from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), and Senior representatives from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Economic Cooperation Council (ECO) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) attended the meeting.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at 

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