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In September 2015 Pacific Island Forum Leaders met in Port Moresby. A key aspect of that meeting was consideration of five regional priorities that were identified through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. These priorities reflect a range of important issues facing the region: fisheries, climate change, information and communications technology (ICT), cervical cancer, and allegations of human rights abuse. Since the conclusion of the Leaders’ Meeting, the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP), sub-regional organisations such as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, civil society and the private sector have been working together to begin implementing the Leaders’ recommendations around these issues. It is worth reiterating that Forum Members, and particularly relevant sectoral agencies at the national level, are crucial to the continued successful implementation of these priorities. I would like to give you an update on the status of each priority.
The fisheries priority consists of two aspects: increasing sustainable economic returns on fisheries, and evaluating the current monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) arrangements in the Pacific. Leaders also endorsed the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
The first step in progressing this priority has been the establishment of a multi-agency fisheries taskforce. This taskforce, which held its first meeting of Officials at the Forum Secretariat on 22 January, consists of the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. This meeting gave participating agencies the opportunity to discuss existing and new measures to increase sustainable economic returns on fisheries and look at current reviews of MCS arrangements in the Pacific. A meeting of Chief Executive Officers of the taskforce agencies is being planned for February 2016, to provide high level oversight of this work. It is envisaged that a programme for tangibly and sustainably increasing economic returns of fisheries over the next five years will be presented for Forum Leaders’ endorsement in 2016.
The fisheries taskforce will provide updates to the relevant Ministerial meetings, including Forum Foreign, Fisheries and Economic Ministers meetings, to allow Ministers to provide guidance and advice on this priority.
I am very pleased to report a successful outcome has been reached against the regional priority on climate change, with Forum Leaders’ call for the “adoption of an ambitious and legally binding agreement” at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) having been achieved through the development and ratification of a post-2020 negotiated outcome called the ‘Paris Agreement’.
The Paris Agreement includes several important elements that Forum Leaders called for in their Declaration on Climate Change Action , including (a) pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to a 1.5 degrees (Article 2); (b) a separate and standalone article on Loss and Damage (Article 8); and (c) simplified and scaled-up access to finance for SIDS (Article 9) that are specifically vulnerable to the adverse effects and have significant capacity constraints. These three issues in particular represented the core calls of Pacific island countries in the negotiations.
To implement the decision to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been tasked to produce a report on the feasibility and implications of achieving a 1.5 degree target by 2018. This will be further supported by 5-year review cycles to assess where the world is heading in terms of the temperature goal and opportunities to revise national commitments.
In light of Forum Leaders’ decision to extend the two current regional frameworks on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management for one year, the draft Strategy for Climate and Resilient Development in the Pacific will be revised using a country driven process that will incorporate concerns raised on some aspects of the framework.
The priority initiative pertaining to information and communication technology (ICT) asks for an assessment of the merits in establishing a regional ICT Advisory Council. This assessment is being led by the University of the South Pacific with support from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Crucial stakeholders in this area including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank are contributing to the analysis around ICT priority issues, and the CROP ICT Working Group will provide high level guidance to the assessment. The inclusion of a broad group of stakeholders allows for a considered and well informed response to Forum Leaders’ acknowledgment of the numerous challenges that exist in realising the benefits of ICT in the region. The recommendations of this assessment will be presented to Leaders in 2016.
In response to the Forum Leaders’ decision on cervical cancer, the Pacific Community, which is mandated to work on regional health issues, is coordinating a study on the feasibility of carrying out a regional programme to address cervical cancer. This study will weigh the benefits of resourcing and conducting a regional program addressing cervical cancer, in light of the current prioritisation of addressing non-communicable diseases across the region. With guidance from the CROP Health & Population Working Group, the study will be conducted in the first half of 2016. Key recommendations will then be presented to Forum Leaders in 2016.
As agreed by Forum Leaders, I have written to H.E Mr Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia conveying the PIF Leaders views on the human rights allegations and expressed the desire of the PIF to consult on a fact finding mission to discuss the situation in Papua with the parties involved. This was conveyed early this year and I am awaiting a response from Jakarta.
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