SUVA, Fiji (PINA, Jan. 23) - The Pacific Islands Forum has welcomed establishment of a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Honiara dedicated to Solomon Islands needs.

Fiji's United Nations representative and chair of the Pacific Islands Forum group at the United Nations in New York, Amraiya Naidu, told of this yesterday, a Fiji Government news release said.

Mr Naidu was addressing the first regular session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) on ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) in New York, it said.

The UNDP move comes after more than two years of ethnic conflict in Solomon Islands and continuing law and order problems despite a peace agreement.

Mr Naidu said: "The 2002 Suva Forum Communiqué reiterates the region¹s commitment to peace building and conflict prevention, which will be better served with the presence of the office in Honiara."

Mr Naidu said that at the regional level, positive dialogue has taken place between member states and UNDP for the holding of a Millennium Development Goals workshop in the region.

"For this, we can draw on the lessons learned from similar workshops held in other regions," he said.

"The wide geographical distribution of our member states does indeed present a major obstacle to the various UN agencies in the discharge of their mandates in the region."

Mr Naidu also asked the executive board meeting to address the need to track development on disaster mitigation and preparedness in the Small Island Developing States.

Mr Naidu said the Pacific Islands Forum region is a pilot for capacity building in vulnerabilities.

He said: "This is given the specific social, economic and environmental challenges facing small island developing states, which are geographically remote, both from each other and their closest neighbors."

Mr Naidu said small states are systematically more vulnerable than large countries, regardless of income.

He said: "In this regard the Pacific Islands Forum group welcomes current efforts by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) to develop an environmental vulnerability index for the region.

"We flag it here for the UN system to take due note of this work."

Mr Naidu said the Pacific Islands Forum group applauds the initiative by UNDP to include in its Capacity 2015 a component to mitigate vulnerability in the Small Island States.

January 24, 2003

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