Meeting Underway In Fiji Looks At How To ‘Institutionalize’ PIDF

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Pacific Islands Development Forum seeks enhanced global standing

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 7, 2015) – Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the time has come to take the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) to another level and give it the subsequent standing it seeks in the global community.

While launching the first of two meetings to seek the views of our Pacific partners on a draft agreement to institutionalise the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Suva today, Mr Bainimarama said it is important for Pacific Islanders to establish an institution that is a genuine expression of Island opinion, embracing Governments, the private sector and civil society.

"As you know, we have held two successful PIDF Summits in Fiji that drew widespread support from across the region and beyond. At the first in August 2013, Fiji hosted representatives of Government, the private sector and civil society from 13 other Pacific countries and territories, plus 29 other nations from across the world, which have either become valued development partners or intend to do so," he said.

"At the second PIDF Summit in June last year, sixteen Pacific countries and territories attended plus our development partners. And as many of you will remember, we had the honour of hosting the then President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono."

"To have such a distinguished global figure here in Fiji was ample evidence of the seriousness with which the world is taking the formation of our new organisation."

"We had other representatives present from an extraordinary range of countries across the globe, from as far away as the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Argentina, Kazakhstan and Morocco plus many of our old friends from nations and groupings such as China, the European Union, India, Japan and Korea - to name just a few."

He said it is clear beyond doubt from the two previous meetings that the concept of the PIDF is highly valued by Governments, the private sector and civil society groups, who have always felt excluded from the existing regional architecture.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Times reported that ‘Participants from the private and public sectors, civil society organisations and some government officials gathered behind closed doors at the Novotel Convention Centre in Lami yesterday to be part of the regional workshop on the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) agreement.’]

"Yet they often speak more effectively than anyone for those who really matter in Pacific societies, our ordinary men and women strung out over the vast ocean we all call our home."

"We are a grand coalition who speak for the aspirations and dreams of all Pacific Islanders. And we have opened our doors to the world, to any Government or organisation that wants to work with us to protect our interests and improve the lives of all Pacific peoples.

"The PIDF has been gazetted, the Secretariat born and its headquarters inaugurated. The next step is to institutionalise the PIDF through an international agreement that was mandated by the Governing Council at last year’s Summit."

"Your task this week is to put forward your ideas as to what form that agreement should take. And to give us your input and expertise to create the best possible framework for the noble cause we embarked on together two years ago."

He added that Fiji has had the honour to host the PIDF but now is the time to nurture and grow its regional roots and the delegates at the meeting have a noble endeavour which is to help design the framework for an organisation that is effective, relevant to all Pacific Islanders, expresses the aspirations of us all and cements our regional solidarity – the genuine voice of the Pacific – now and in the years ahead.

"In stark contrast with other regional architecture, we have thrown open the doors to everyone, to gain the widest possible input from across the region. I want to thank each and every one of you for your enthusiasm and commitment to our collective vision. Fiji, for one, regards the PIDF with the utmost importance as a truly genuine expression of the aspirations of our own people and our friends all over the Pacific."

"Our organisation is unique, a gathering place for the widest cross section of Pacific society ever assembled. Regional governments and territories, some of which have been excluded from existing regional institutions, such as New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. Governments from throughout the world who are engaging with us as valued development partners.

"I’ve said it before and I will say it again: we are not in the business of creating fat cat bureaucracies that waste our precious tax dollars. That is not the Pacific way. Our mantra must always be to do more for less, to create an organisation that is lean and efficient and that because of its integrity, enjoys the confidence and support of our development partners."

"I know I don’t have to lecture you on this point. Because so many of you have always operated with scarce resources and know that this is no impediment to being effective.My own mantra in Fiji is that Government exists to deliver and to serve. And I urge you all to embrace the same values in the PIDF."

"In this context, I want to thank all of those nations who have given us their support and especially the People’s Republic of China, whose financial contribution towards the setting up of the PIDF Secretariat is deeply appreciated," he concluded.

The agreement which the PIDF members will be working on this week will formally signed by Pacific leaders during the third Pacific Islands Development Forum in September.

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