SG Slade's Remarks At the 23rd Pacific Developing Member Countries

SG Slade’s Remarks At the 23rd Pacific Developing Member Countries Governors Meeting with ADB Management

23rd Pacific Developing Member Countries

Governors Meeting with ADB Management

Remarks by Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade,
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

An Overview of the Pacific Plan Review 

Hon Chair of ADB Pacific Developing Member Countries (DMC) Governors
Mr. President and Vice President of the Asian Development Bank
Honorable Ministers
Distinguished Delegates

Mr Chairman,

I thank you for your kind words of welcome. I express my gratitude to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for this opportunity to update Pacific Developing Member Countries’ Governors and ADB Management on the progress of the Pacific Plan Review currently being undertaken.

2. The Review comes at an important time. Firstly, and significantly, the Pacific Plan Review coincides with the timing of the ADB’s mid-term review of its Pacific Approach policy framework.

3. Secondly, and more broadly, the Pacific Plan Review comes in the midst of major shifts in the regional and international context for inter-country cooperation and integration. Globally, key high-level fora such as the Rio+20 outcomes, Busan Partnership for Effective Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States Conference in Samoa in 2014, all have significant bearing on the evolving landscape of regionalism for the Pacific.

4. Some of these international paradigm shifts have been reflected at the regional level by Forum Leaders’ decisions, including the adoption in 2009 of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific (Forum Compact), the Waiheke Declaration on Sustainable Economic Development in 2011 and the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration last year. Other more Pacific related trends have included a renewed emphasis on sub-regional grouping and approaches, which have influenced the pace and direction of regional cooperation and integration since the Pacific Plan.

5. I should emphasise that the Pacific Plan Review is very much an independent Review, as mandated by the Forum Leaders. It is being logistically supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, but the review is being led by Eminent Persons selected by Leaders. Sir Mekere Morauta, a former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, is guiding the Review’s thinking supported by two representatives from Pacific island countries (one of whom, Peseta Noumea Simi of Samoa is in this room) and two experts. Accordingly, I am unable to speak with certainty or finality with regards to any of the Review’s impressions and likely conclusions at this stage.

6. What I can do, however, is to offer reflections on the challenges in implementing the Pacific Plan and of impressions gained of the Review Team’s work and findings thus far.

The beginnings

7. As many of you will be aware, the Pacific Plan was launched by Forum Leaders in 2004 based on challenges then confronting the region and the need for the region having a clear vision of its future, and a plan for getting there. A key recommendation in 2004 was for the adoption of a shared regional Vision of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, and the development of a Pacific Plan to realise that Vision.

8. In 2005, at their meeting in Madang, Papua New Guinea, Pacific Leaders formally endorsed the Pacific Plan as a high-level framework for priority setting around the Leaders’ vision. In its first iteration, this Plan set out 44 key initiatives for Pacific island countries to pursue, grouped under four pillars: economic growth, sustainable development, governance, and security. Priorities were updated annually until 2009, when Leaders endorsed a new medium-term set of 37 priorities over a time frame of three years, grouped under 5 themes aligned to the four pillars. These 2009 priorities have been retained pending the outcomes of the current Review.

A stock-take of the issues relevant to DMC Governors

9. Although Pacific Plan priorities have been modified and updated from time to time, fostering economic development and promoting opportunities for broad-based growth has been an enduring theme. Many of the priorities under this theme are regularly discussed at various ministerial meetings, such as the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM).

10. As to be expected with any set of ambitious regional aims, progress in implementing the Pacific Plan’s priorities has not been straightforward or uniformly successful. The Bulk Petroleum Procurement Initiative, for example, was based on a sound case for beneficial regional pooling of purchasing power, and initial investigations seemed promising. But efforts to implement the Initiative have exposed difficulties in harmonising procurement processes and legal standards, in sub-regional shipping arrangements and in identifying suitable storage facilities and locations.

11. I think it is important to bear in mind that the Pacific Plan is still comparatively young. However, in the Plan’s first seven years, we can point to a range of tangible achievements, some of significance – like the slow but steady progress made with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), an Agreement among the 14 Forum island countries which is intended to gradually lead to the establishment of a free trade area.

12. We can point to progress made in improving the effectiveness of public financial management, which is essential to the functioning of government, and the delivery of macroeconomic stability vital for sustainable inclusive growth.

13. In similar manner, there have been important gains in the promotion of unified approaches to building regional accountability and transparency through the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative which was endorsed by the Forum Leaders and FEMM in 2008.

14. And we can also highlight notable achievements in the implementation of the Forum Compact, in particular in using the peer review mechanism for promoting effective development coordination, especially in areas of national budgeting and planning, public finance and aid management.

Synergies between the Pacific Plan, the ADB Pacific Approach and others

15. In the broader context, the Pacific Plan functions most usefully in drawing synergies with other key blueprints for regional development and integration, such as the ADB’s Pacific Approach and ADB’s 20/20 Strategy, the UN’s Development Action Framework (UNDAF) and the EU’s European Development Fund (EDF) regional programmes.

16. This, of course, means that for maximum efficiency and impact, we need the highest degree of cooperation and coordination of effort and resources in the implementation of the Pacific Plan with the ADB and other major partners like the EU and UN system. Happily, I am able to report that every conscientious effort is being made to align regional development activity and to ensure such cooperation and coordination among Pacific development partnerships through operational agreements (MOUs) and other mechanisms like the Forum Compact.

Current Review of the Pacific Plan

17. Forum Leaders in their 2012 meeting decided to review the Pacific Plan with a view to gather greater depth and insights on issues critical to the region, in order more efficiently to design policies and allocate resources accordingly.

18. The overall objective of the Review is to assess the effectiveness and continued relevance of the Pacific Plan as the master strategy for regional integration and cooperation. In undertaking this broader task, the Review has been asked to consider a number of issues such as the relevance of the Plan’s strategic underpinnings, the impact of the Plan from 2005 to 2012, and the extent to which it delivered on the Leaders’ initial aspirations for the Plan, amongst other key issues.

19. The team’s chosen methodology involves gathering evidence through analyses of background documents, academic articles, past studies, written submissions from the public and by visiting each of the Forum member countries and associate member countries to consult with a wide range of stakeholders.

20. Country consultations started in late January this year, and will conclude later this month, by which time the Review Team will have consulted in and received public submissions from all Forum member countries and Associate member countries and many others.

21. At the end of this month, the Review Team will host a regional consultation workshop in Suva, to which member country officials, CROP agencies, non-state actors, and development partners have been invited. The final outcomes of the Review will be discussed with Leaders at their meeting in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in early September this year.

Themes emerging thus far

22. At this stage in the Review, the shape of a refreshed Pacific Plan is still unclear. However, the Review Team has captured some of the key themes emerging from their consultations to date in their four Review Notes, which they have shared for public viewing on the Review website. Some of the key messages include:
• widespread acceptance of the idea of having a Pacific Plan;
• agreement that regional solutions needed to overcome diseconomies of scale and costs of isolation;
• the reality of new geopolitical interests and the changing needs of Pacific peoples, which creates a new context for the Plan to operate in;
• the perception that the Pacific Plan in its current form may not be as useful or strategic as it should be, and may be driven by CROP agencies more than by member countries;
• the emergence of sub-regionalism, and the challenges and opportunities it provides for regionalism;
• the value of the Pacific Plan as a platform for articulating common values to influence international agendas; and
• the possibilities for improving the Pacific Plan by, for instance, refining its set of priorities (there is a feeling that there are too many priorities) and ensuring these are matched with funding commitments. The notable feature of the Pacific Plan is that while it is built around regional priorities, it has no funding mechanism of its own as such.

23. We expect that the Review Team will discuss these themes in more detail, and present their interim conclusions and the implications for the refreshed Pacific Plan, when they hold their regional consultation meeting later this month.

Defining regionalism

24. The Review team is also likely to spend some time at their regional consultation meeting discussing their definitions of, and perspectives on, regional cooperation and integration, and what the focus of the future Pacific Plan should be.

25. In their “Review Note 4: Defining Regionalism”, which they have also shared for public viewing on the Review website, the Team attempts to provide clarity on key terms that are used in referring to the Pacific Plan: regional cooperation, regional public goods, regional integration and regional development plan.

Concluding remarks

26. Let me conclude by saying that the Forum Secretariat is keenly supporting the Review, and welcomes member and development partner inputs to ensure its successful outcome.

27. We certainly hope that there will be strong synergies between the work being undertaken on the Pacific Plan Review, and the ADB’s own review of its Pacific Approach. The crucial role of regional organisations and technical partners in driving regional initiatives will continue to exist in whatever form the Pacific Plan takes.

28. In this connection, I should emphasise two points:

• it is essential from the policy perspective that the work of the Forum Secretariat and regional/CROP agencies is dictated by and reflect national member priorities and requirements; and
• that for the optimal integrity of the Pacific Plan, the CROP agencies and we as a region continue to seek effective alignment of development partner efforts, especially of the major partners like the ADB, UN and the EU, with our own regional efforts through the Pacific Plan. Otherwise we face significant risk of inefficiencies, duplication and fragmentation.

Thank you.

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