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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Apr. 6) – The leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum have given the forum's secretary-general, Greg Urwin, a mandate to play a greater role in regional crises.

Forum leaders have adopted a Pacific Mission Statement at their meeting in the New Zealand city of Auckland.

The leaders have adopted an Eminent Persons Group report, which recommends a much bigger role for the forum's secretary-general.

New Zealand's prime minister, Helen Clark, who chaired the meeting, says it is a significant development for the regional body.

"What this set of decisions does is actually charge the forum secretary-general with being proactive when he sees a crisis developing," Clark said. "We should not think such a crisis is only a security crisis - there may be health crises," she said.

The forum will also recruit a second deputy secretary-general to free up Mr Urwin for his greater role.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, meanwhile, announced that Australia will provide an additional US$750, 000 to the Forum Secretariat to help implement the new reform agenda.

The Auckland meeting was called to consider a plan to revitalise the Pacific Islands Forum. Called the Pacific Plan, it is a product of an Eminent Persons Group that toured the region earlier this year.

The report says the region faces considerable challenges, both external and home-grown. It says to overcome these requires concerted action by national governments and at a regional level.

It says for this to happen a clear vision is needed of the region’s future and a plan for getting there.

The review says it acknowledges both Pacific traditions and 21st century realities.

It says this involves a redefining of the traditional Pacific way of doing things.

The Pacific Plan calls for the Forum to take a pivotal role in helping ensure that the Pacific Island community of states survives.

It says the Forum must be clear about its priorities which the Plan defines as economic growth, sustainable development, governance and security.

April 7, 2004

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