Opening Statement - Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the tenth session of the Special Body on Pacific Island Developing countries. I am happy to join you today for the first time as Executive Secretary.

The Special Body is an important forum through which ESCAP member and associate members identify priority needs, emerging issues and challenges faced by Pacific island countries which are brought to the attention of the Commission. It enables ESCAP to better target its programme of support to Pacific island states, while at the same time providing a platform for policy dialogue. I am pleased to see many member countries at this meeting.

As part of a process to better understand the needs of the Pacific I held consultations with Pacific leaders, in Noumea on 13 March 2008. I wish to take this opportunity to share with you some of the major decisions reached at that consultation.

(a) Pacific Leaders stressed the need for the “P” in ESCAP to be strengthened and for a stronger partnership between the Pacific and Asia. In this connection, they welcomed the presence of the Secretary-General of ASEAN at the meeting;

(b) Pacific Leaders also identified other areas of collaboration which included:

• Strengthening of capacity through exchange of skills and technology in the areas of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and wave energy; we will be discussing this at the Ministerial session of the Commission.
• Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies including, resettlement options and opening up of opportunities for the employment of people with skills that could also contribute to the economies of other countries;
• Improving food security through innovative agricultural strategies that are suitable to atoll soil; and statistical analysis and data collection.
• Enhancing Pacific Connectivity, within the Pacific Digital Strategy through cooperation with Asia and other multilateral organizations.
• Greater emphasis on South-South collaboration with the support of ESCAP will contribute to addressing these areas of priorities. Indeed ESCAP and ASEAN for instance have begun working on some tangible projects identified by the Pacific leaders, and we plan to link the Pacific fisheries sector with Thailand’s fishery processing plants as part of a joint partnership in fisheries development, including value adding on-shore fisheries activities.

I also informed the Pacific Leaders that 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.

I am also committed to strengthening the capacity of the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre in Suva, Fiji to ensure that EPOC is adequately staffed and resourced to enable it to play a more effective role in the Pacific in cooperation with our development partners.

I want to place on record my sincere appreciation to the President and the Government of New Caledonia for graciously hosting this consultation with Pacific Leaders.

Turning to the Special Body, the current session with consider two key policy issues.

(1) Economic and social policies to address labour market trends in Pacific island developing countries and territories, and

(2) Formulation of national sustainable development strategies which integrate national commitments into the implementation of regional and international development strategies and plans.

Both issues were selected by the Working Group of the EPOC Advisory Council, which meets twice a year in Suva to advise the secretariat on its activities in the Pacific.

I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these issues. My experience has shown that a sharper engagement with implementation challenges is critical. I will be emphasizing the implementation dimension in the secretariat’s approach to address the issues grappling the Pacific. We will appreciate your guidance on this.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its establishment in 1989, the Pacific Trust Fund has covered the cost of participation of Pacific island countries at both the Special Body and the Commission session. This arrangement has enabled some of you to be present here to voice your requirements and to guide the secretariat on the implementation of activities in the Pacific. I would therefore like to express my sincere appreciation to the many contributors to this Fund over the years and urge them to continue to do so.

The Commission established the Advisory Council of ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre to strengthen ownership of the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre and its activities by countries and territories in the Pacific. I will be attending the Advisory Council meeting tomorrow morning for the first time, and I look forward to engaging with you on how ESCAP can best respond to your differing needs.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before closing, I am pleased to inform you that Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, will discuss some of the global initiatives which are being introduced for the benefit of the least developed, and landlocked countries and small island states at the closing session of the Special Body tomorrow afternoon.

I wish you every success in your deliberations and look forward to seeing you at the Advisory Council meeting tomorrow.

Thank you.