HE Mr. Frans Baan

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SPEECH

 

Head of Delegation of the European Commission for the Pacific
8th European Development Fund
Signing of Financing Agreements (FSM, SOPAC, USP)

Honourable Secretary General, Mr Noel Levi, of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Dr Apenisa Ratu, representing the Fiji School of Medicine, Mr Alfred Simpson, Director of SOPAC, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Distinguished guests, Members of the press, Ladies and Gentlemen,

After an excellent last quarter of 2001, in terms of approval and launching of the 8th European Development Fund regional programme for the Pacific, I have the pleasure of being here today for the signing of another 3 Financing Agreements in different areas for a combined total of almost 40 million Fiji Dollars:

in public health, by improving the conditions for training of the region’s future doctors, through the construction of phase 1 of the Fiji School of Medicine’s new campus (EUR 7.5 million, equivalent to 15 million Fiji Dollars)

 

in reducing the vulnerability of small island states, through the advancement of island management systems, under the responsibility of SOPAC (EUR 7 million, or 14 million Fiji Dollars)

and in enhancing the region’s pool of human resources, by expanding USP’s delivery of training in the areas of public management, tourism, and employment and labour studies (EUR 5 million, or 10 million Fiji Dollar).

With these new three additions, "the pipeline is almost dry". Over 92% of the 8th European Development Fund’s 35 million Euro have now been committed and we are looking forward to attaining "full drought", i.e. 100% commitment, very soon, following the approval of an agriculture support programme through SPC and of a package of technical assistance to SPTO.

Actually we are already looking well beyond that target. Together with our host today, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, we are finalising the framework programme, the Regional Support Strategy, for our next cycle of development co-operation: the 9th European Development Fund, under the Cotonou Agreement. Our plans are to sign the Regional Support Strategy in September/October, during the visit of the European Commissioner for Development, Mr Poul Nielson.

Thanks to the very proactive role of the Forum Secretariat, supported by the other CROP agencies and by the national governments, we are optimistic that implementation of the programmes to be financed under the 9th European Development Fund can start early next year, not long after the Strategy is signed.

But please let me bring you back to the present and to the three programmes we will be signing here today.

FSM

The Fiji School of Medicine has a long tradition of servicing the training needs of the Pacific Island Countries. It fulfils a vital role in the training of medical and paramedical personnel from the Pacific Region.

The student population of the Fiji School of Medicine has risen up to almost 700 in the year 2001. Of these, approximately 30% come from Pacific ACP States other than Fiji.

The expected results of the European Union’s support are:

an expanded physical capacity, teaching facilities and student accommodation.

A significantly increased number of trained medical practitioners and health workers around the Region.

In practical terms, the project will deliver new infrastructure:

A teaching block with 5 lecture spaces, 16 tutorial rooms, 10 laboratories with storage and tutor room.

New accommodation for 240 students.

A single structure kitchen and dining hall.

The procedures for the publication of the open international tender for the works have already started. We are confident that the works will start in September of this year and the campus can become operational at the beginning of the year 2004.

SOPAC

The 7 Million EURO Financing Agreement entitled "Reducing Vulnerability of Pacific ACP States" will addresses vulnerability reduction in the Pacific ACP States through the development of an integrated planning and management system in the sectors impacting on hazards, aggregates and water and sanitation.

The Project, to be implemented by SOPAC, will address problems such as: unavailability of accurate, sound, and timely data; weak human resource base; limited resources; and lack of appropriate management plans, policies and regulatory frameworks to deal with these three focal areas.

Field surveys in selected onshore areas and coastal harbours, lagoons, bays and shallow waters will form the basis of the Project. User-friendly spatial databases will be developed from these surveys areas (together with up-to-date air photos and satellite images) through application of Geographic Positioning Systems, and Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing tools. Access for all stakeholders to these common spatial databases via effective communications networks will be established.

For each country, this information will support the development of a knowledge base in the three focal areas thereby enabling the production of planning and management tools such as codes of practice, guidelines and draft legislation, to enhance integrated development for selected geographic areas or nation-wide.

The Project is consistent with internationally agreed agendas and action programmes that recognise the vulnerability of small island states and emphasise the role of information technology in assisting such countries in resource development.

USP

This is not the first time the European Development Fund is assisting the University of the South Pacific and we look forward to a renewed partnership. We also count on your participation in the Human Resources component of the up-coming 9th EDF.

The University has identified Tourism studies as one of the five priority areas in it’s Strategic Plan. Understandably so, when one knows that the Tourism Industry in the region employs over 30,000 persons and that there is still, in most countries, ample potential for growth. And there is also a strong concern in the region to maximise gains, while minimising the potential negative socio-cultural and environmental impacts. To achieve these goals the region needs professional tourism planners. The present programme will kick start what will be a permanent tourism ‘centre of excellence’ providing quality research and training for future tourism planners, and for the benefit of the region.

Globalisation of trade, financial markets and services has brought new challenges to the economies and societies of the world. In order to face these challenges, in an environment characterised by rising populations and limited resources, Pacific island countries need capable and well-informed middle and senior level public managers. USP has been conducting training for them, through it’s South Pacific Development Management Programme. The present project will up-grade and modernise USP’s training delivery in this area.

The importance of both private and informal sectors in employment creation and economic growth is widely acknowledged, but the linkages of the state to private and informal sectors are still poorly understood across the region. Our programme will allow the University to expand the courses currently delivered in this area and to foster research in employment and labour, crucially needed by private and public managers, in particular as the region starts implementing PICTA, endeavours to expand its international links through WTO membership, and will in the mid-term embark in new-generation trade agreements with the EU and with Australia and New Zealand.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is just a beginning of what the year 2002 promises in terms of EU-ACP co-operation in the Pacific. In the coming months we are looking at:

implementing these 3 new programmes as well as those signed late last year,

finalising the Regional Strategy Paper for the next cycle, the 9th EDF,

the ACP Summit on Globalisation and Development, that will be held in Nadi next July,

the visit by the European Commissioner for Development to the Region in September/October,

and the official launching of the negotiations for a future Economic Partnership Agreement, which will eventually replace Lome’s non-WTO compatible trade arrangements.

These are a number of important events, in some cases challenges, the current year will bring us.

However I am confident that, with the support of all of you and of the organisations you represent, these challenges will be turned into opportunities for the development of the peoples of the South Pacific.

I am looking forward to a full and fruitful year in terms of co-operation between the Pacific region and the European Union. Thank you for your kind attention.

 

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

Ulafala Aiavao Media Adviser Forum Secretariat Private Bag Suva, Fiji

Tel: (679) 220 220 Mob: (679) 998 674 Fax: (679) 305 554 Email: UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj  Web: www.forumsec.org.fj  Mirror site: http://chacmool.sdnp.undp.org/pacific/forumsec/default1.htm 

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