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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, July 26) – A New Zealand academic claimed Wednesday that the Pacific Plan for regional integration has stalled due to a lack of full endorsement by island country leaders, Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) reported.

Dr. John Henderson, an associate professor of political science at Canterbury University in Christchurch, told RNZI that the only work to implement the plan endorsed by Pacific leaders last October has been done at the officials' level.

The Pacific Plan, adopted at last year's annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting, still lacks the blessing of political leaders, according to Henderson even though it is clear a lot of work has been done on the plan.

The Internet website for the Pacific Plan describes it as "a means to fully realize the leaders' vision for the whole Pacific region into the future. It will strengthen cooperation and integration between the sovereign countries of the region and identify the areas where countries will gain the most from sharing resources of governance and aligning policies."

"Dr. Henderson says the island countries' leaders have yet to fully accept the concerns of New Zealand Prime Minister (Helen Clark) had over the Pacific Islands Forum's ineffectiveness," RNZI reported.

"Her concerns were certainly shared by the Australians and they got involved too, but it didn't really come from the Pacific leaders," Dr. Henderson told RNZI. "They went along with it certainly, and contributed to it, but it didn't, and still hasn't, got true Pacific ownership, and I think that is the next key stage."

Despite Prime Minister Clark's and Australian Prime Minister John Howard's support, the Pacific Plan has not been associated "with a Pacific leader," Henderson said. "And it needs a Pacific champion to get it onto the Pacific agenda in a wider sense," he told RNZI.

The New Zealand political scientist also said it is vital that the Pacific Plan be re-launched at the next Pacific Islands Forum annual meeting, which is to be held in Tonga in October.

The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum represents the heads of government of all independent and self-governing Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand. The 14 other member countries are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

July 28, 2006

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

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