Pacific island states, ESCAP and subregional organizations find new potential and opportunities for strengthened partnerships and collaboration

The heads of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and leaders and senior ministers from selected Pacific island states met with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Noumea, New Caledonia, on 12 and 13 March, 2008.

The consultation meetings were held in response to a request for stronger support to Pacific island states made by New York-based Pacific ambassadors to Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, at a meeting in September 2007.

“The purpose of the Noumea meetings was to listen to Pacific leaders and Pacific regional organizations; to explore how to strengthen the ‘P’ in ESCAP, and strengthen partnerships with Asia-based subregional organizations such as ASEAN,” said Ms Heyzer.

The historic meeting, held only five months after Ms. Heyzer took up the leadership of ESCAP, provided a unique opportunity for dialogue at the highest level, strengthening mutual understanding and trust between ESCAP and its member States, and opening new opportunities for cooperation between Pacific island states and ASEAN.

In response to Pacific leaders, Ms. Heyzer committed ESCAP to strengthening its Pacific Operations Centre based in Suva, Fiji, including arrangements for South-South cooperation, and to creating opportunities for strengthening the voice of Pacific island states at the Commission and within the wider United Nations system.

Ms. Heyzer stated: “Pacific island states are facing unique development challenges requiring one to look at new potentials and opportunities, including the building of stronger partnerships and closer collaboration between Asia and the Pacific.” She also indicated that increased capacity strengthening of member States would be provided in the area of data collection and statistical analysis.

Key areas of collaboration discussed included climate change action; food, water and energy security; urban management and youth employment; telecommunications connectivity; and disaster mitigation and management. The Executive Secretary said ESCAP would undertake a review of the state of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as well as other key international development frameworks of relevance to the Pacific in order to assist member States in the Pacific with policy options.