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Sir Michael Somare Opening Address of 36th Forum

Opening Address of the 36th Pacific Island Forum
By the Grand Chief
Rt Hon. Sir Michael Somare GCL GCMG CH CF KStJ
Prime Minister

Sir John Guise Stadium, Tuesday, 25th October 2005

Colleague Heads of Governments from Pacific Islands Forum Countries;
Secretary General of the Forum;
Invited Guests;
Delegates from member countries of the Forum;
Representatives of Forum Observer Countries;
Dialogue Partners;
Ministers of State;
Diplomatic Corps;
Fellow Papua New Guineans.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I take the opportunity to welcome all of you to Papua New Guinea. As many of you are aware, Papua New Guinea is hosting the 36th Pacific Islands Forum as part and parcel of our 30th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

Let me, on behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea, thank each and everyone of you for the honour of hosting this important regional gathering.

I hope and trust that your stay in PNG is pleasant and that you will forgive us for any shortcomings in our arrangements and hospitality.

Many of the issues that we will be addressing in the next few days have been on our Agenda since our organization was formed some 34 years ago.

Others have come to our radar screens over the years as a result of the changing political, social, trade, and economic circumstances within our region and the globe.
Thus, in addition to the traditional issues such as New Caledonia, Nuclear Testing, development assistance, fisheries cooperation, etc, we now see on our Agenda issues such as: HIV/Aids, Avian Influenza, digital strategy and a conspicuous emphasis on transnational security issues.

On the whole, PIF countries have been able to demonstrate a capacity to help each other to deal with these issues.

We should be proud of the reservoir of goodwill and understanding that prevails in the region. These qualities have helped us address many of these development challenges in Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Nauru.

This readiness to help each other has seen us alleviate the suffering of those members that have been hit by natural disasters.

Still, globalisation is bringing about new and more complex sets of development, health and security challenges.

Member states of the PIF will need to develop new strategies, new responses and new partnerships.

We have decided that the Pacific Plan is an appropriate vehicle for this purpose.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “Delivering a Prosperous Pacific”.

This theme should serve as a reminder that the ultimate objective of these regional cooperative efforts is to better the lives and well-being of our people.

I am aware that some people and organizations have expressed concerns about the Pacific Plan and have asked that PIF Leaders not to adopt it at this Meeting.

Let me state that it would be a mistake - an opportunity lost - if we do not approve the draft Pacific Plan as proposed by our officials.

The latest draft follows broad-based consultations with government, civil society, development partners and other stakeholders.

The work has been guided by a Pacific Plan Task Force and a Core Group of Leaders.

The Plan is a living document that will evolve with the priorities of members and the outcomes of consultations that will continue into the future.

The Pacific Plan espouses a vision of a region that is “respected for the quality of its governance, the sustainable management of its resources, the full observance of democratic values, and for its defense and promotion of human rights”.
The specific actions it recommends for Governments to undertake are grouped under four (4) specific pillars or key priority areas – Economic Growth, Sustainable Development, Good Governance and Security.

The challenge for us is to ensure that this document does not collect dust on the shelves of our capitals but practical actions are taken to implement the proposals contained in the Plan.

In this regard, I intend to table for the Leaders, consideration a document outlining a commitment to implement the Pacific Plan that will be called the Kalibobo Roadmap.

The Plan advocates for specific needs of those of our members that are Small Island States to be given particular attention.

You will agree with me that this is a natural and correct thing to do.

While all of us face the same development challenges, Small Island States, because of their size, are affected in ways that are more severe than some of us.

I believe that those of us that are better endowed have a special responsibility to assist our smaller neighbours.

With the global trends and the increasing need to strengthen our capacity to face new and emerging challenges, it is important that the Pacific Plan calls on the Forum Countries to embrace other Pacific communities for greater regional cooperation and integration.

It is pleasing to note that the new Agreement establishing the PIF, which will be opened for signature during this Meeting, is accompanied by a new policy calling for associate membership and observership status in the Forum.

Many of the issues covered by the Pacific Plan are ongoing concerns of the Region and, to a large extent, concrete actions have been taken by member Governments to adopt measures in accordance with Forum Leaders’ decisions.

For instance, to deepen democratic values and to implement Forum Principles of Good Leadership, Tuvalu Leadership Code Bill is likely to become law by end – 2005 or early 2006.

Kiribati is close to completing its draft legislation, while Nauru and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are planning to have their draft Bills ready for their legislative processes in 2006.

On the economic front, the Forum Economic Ministers have adopted specific, time bound, targets.
They have agreed to halve by mid 2007 the indicators for the time taken to start a business, the cost of registration, the time to effect insolvency, and the cost of enforcement of contracts.

It has also been agreed that further work be undertaken on a regional Regulatory Reform Blueprint, competition policy and consumer protection.

Forum Trade Ministers have also agreed that there is a need to move beyond the 1981 South Pacific Regional Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement.

What is needed is a more comprehensive framework for trade and economic co-operation between Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Island Countries. This is provided for in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), to foster economic growth, investment and employment.

The Regional Trade Facilitation Programme established under PACER is now operational. This will provide assistance in the Customs, Quarantine and Standards and Conformance areas.

Implementation of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), continues.

Nine Parties have met their notification requirements and most FIC’s will be ready to trade within the year, after completing their domestic legislative requirements.

As part of preparations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers endorsed the work of the technical group and charted a timetable for future preparations and negotiations.

With respect to security, the Pacific Island Civil Aviation Safety and Security Treaty is now in force and negotiations with the Asian Development Bank have been completed for a loan by the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO).

Other actions are also being undertaken in the maritime sector.

While I know that the next few days will be busy, I am also confident that we will arrive at decisions that will further ensure that we will deliver a prosperous Pacific to our peoples.

I welcome you all to this opening and wish all our visiting guests a pleasant and memorable stay in Papua New Guinea.

Thank you.


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