Tuvalu News

Forum Communiqué Names Tuiloma Seroni Slade As Secretary General

August 21

The 39th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders concluded today in Alofi, Niue. Among their major decisions was the appointment of Samoa’s Tuiloma Neroni Slade as the Forum’s new Secretary General. The leaders issued the following communiqué:


The Thirty-Ninth Pacific Islands Forum was held in Niue from 19-20 August 2008 and was attended by Heads of State and Government of Australia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and representatives of Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. New Caledonia and French Polynesia attended the formal session as Associate Members and Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Wallis & Futuna, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations as observers. The Forum Retreat was held at Alofi, Niue.

2. Leaders expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Niue for hosting the 2008 meeting, for the warm and generous manner in which they had been welcomed and for the arrangements made for the meetings.


3. Leaders noted that the Pacific Plan was coming to the end of its third year and that considerable progress had been made in implementing initiatives across all four of its pillars, and in particular, in response to the 2007 Vava’u Decisions. Challenges however remained. These included continuing human and financial capacity constraints in the implementation of some initiatives and the submission of timely reporting to support ongoing assessment of the Pacific Plan’s progress.

4. Leaders noted that the momentum provided through the 2007 prioritization process had helped focus the implementation of Pacific Plan initiatives and agreed on the continuing need to set clear direction and targets for members, regional agencies and development partners. This would ensure that the Pacific Plan continues to be a ‘living’ document and the entry point for discussions on greater regional cooperation and integration through a range of processes at both the regional and international levels.

5. In following this precedent, Leaders agreed on a number of key commitments in order to move the Pacific Plan forward in the next twelve months. In summary, Leaders continued to accord priority to fisheries, energy, trade and economic integration, climate change and transport, in addition to information and communication technology, health, education, and good governance. Priority areas for attention under the Pacific Plan are listed in further detail at Annex A.

Food and Energy Security

6. Noting their concerns at rapid recent increases in food and fuel prices, Leaders emphasized the need, at the national level, to assess the implications and to respond appropriately (drawing on technical advice from the international financial institutions). Leaders also highlighted the critical importance of efforts to reduce dependence on oil through measures to improve energy efficiency and move towards greater use of renewable energy. Leaders requested that members share national experiences at the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting at end of October and consider what regional cooperative efforts might help mitigate some of the worst effects of shifts in global prices.

Bulk Petroleum Procurement

7. Leaders underlined the need for urgent action to bring the bulk petroleum procurement initiative to fruition. In this context, they welcomed New Zealand’s offer to fund a meeting of national experts in order to provide relevant advice for the October 2008 Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting aimed at expediting implementation of the bulk petroleum procurement initiative. Leaders requested that Pacific Energy Ministers take further stock of the progress made at their meeting in April 2009, with a view to a finalized package of measures being adopted at the 2009 Leaders’ meeting. Leaders called on the World Bank and other organizations to provide the assistance and support necessary at a regional and national level.

Millennium Development Goals

8. Leaders noted that the international community is approaching the mid point in its commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Leaders noted that the Pacific region has to date shown mixed results against the MDGs and committed themselves to redouble their efforts to make faster progress towards their achievement. Leaders noted that Australia had redefined its commitment to the MDGs through the March 2008 Port Moresby Declaration and was giving effect to this through a major new programme of Pacific Partnerships for Development with Pacific Island Countries.

Labour Mobility

9. Leaders welcomed New Zealand’s provision of seasonal work opportunities for Pacific Island countries and welcomed Australia’s announcement of a pilot scheme as a means to greater economic integration and development. Recognizing the crucial significance of remittances to many Pacific island economies, Leaders welcomed the work currently underway, and encouraged further work, aimed at reducing the costs to individuals of sending money home to Pacific Island countries.


10. In line with the designation of climate change as the theme of the 2008 Forum, Leaders emphasized the great seriousness with which they regard the growing threat posed by climate change to the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being and security of Forum members, particularly the Forum Island Countries. Leaders affirmed their commitment to the ongoing development and implementation of Pacific-tailored approaches to combating climate change.

11. Leaders stressed the importance of cooperating towards the establishment of an effective post-2012 framework in which all major economies will participate in a responsible manner, underlining the need to achieve both emissions reductions and economic growth in working toward climate stability.

12. Leaders expressed appreciation for Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and welcomed Australia’s announcement of an A$150million climate adaptation programme with a focus on the Pacific. Leaders also welcomed New Zealand’s announcement that it would step up financial support for climate change adaptation. Leaders further welcomed the resources and technical assistance from Post-Forum Dialogue Partners including new initiatives such as the Japanese Cool Earth Promotion Programme and the European Union’s Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) that support practical measures to address the impacts of climate change in Pacific Island Countries, while noting that the priority of Pacific SIDS is securing sustainable financing for immediate and effective implementation of concrete adaptation programmes on the ground.

13. Leaders recalled the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which calls for Small Island Developing States, with the necessary support of the international community, to establish or strengthen and facilitate regional climate change coordination mechanisms, and calls on the international community to facilitate and promote the development, transfer and dissemination to Small Island Developing States of appropriate technologies and practices to address climate change.

14. In this context, Leaders adopted the Niue Declaration on Climate Change, attached at Annex B.


15. Leaders:

(a) expressed serious concern at the failure by the Fiji Interim Government to attend the 2008 annual Pacific Islands Forum and consider this non-attendance unacceptable; and further stated that the Interim Government should have attended to account to Forum Leaders for the undertakings given at the 2007 Forum in Tonga to hold an election by March 2009, in accordance with Fiji’s existing Constitution and electoral laws;

(b) condemned the recent statements by the Fiji Interim Government that are inconsistent with the undertakings provided to Leaders at the 2007 Forum regarding the holding of elections and a return to democracy;

(c) reaffirmed the importance of the Interim Government honoring the undertakings it made to Forum Leaders in 2007 to return Fiji to democracy by holding an election by March 2009, and to accept the outcomes of that election;

(d) acknowledged the importance of maintaining and encouraging continued pressure from the Forum and other members of the international community to meet the March 2009 deadline;

(e) reaffirmed the readiness of Forum members to continue to assist Fiji prepare for that election;

(f) commended the work undertaken by the Fiji-Forum Joint Working Group up to June 2008, and urged Fiji to demonstrate its good faith in maintaining a constructive relationship with the Forum by resuming participation in the Working Group;

(g) acknowledged that there are long-term issues that need to be addressed in Fiji, including through independent and inclusive political dialogue. In this context, Leaders recognized that a political dialogue process could assist in developing understandings among key stakeholders that would:

(i) create a more conducive environment for an election to be held under Fiji’s existing Constitution by March 2009; and

(ii) address the process for ongoing dialogue that a newly elected government and key stakeholders would need to progress following an election in order to advance relevant reforms and promote national reconciliation. Accordingly Leaders expressed the Forum’s support for a political dialogue process, providing it is:

-          complementary to the implementation of Fiji’s commitments to the Forum on elections, and not used to delay the elections;

-          conducted as a genuine dialogue, without preconditions, threats, ultimatums or predetermined outcomes;

-          supported by all key stakeholders;

(h) expressed the Forum’s support for and willingness to assist in appropriate ways the Commonwealth-led political dialogue process, and directed the Ministerial Contact Group to monitor the progress of that dialogue and any political consensus within Fiji which might arise from it;

(i) emphasized the importance of Fiji maintaining respect for human rights and the rule of law;

(j) reiterated their appreciation for the solidarity with and support for the Forum’s work on Fiji provided by other members of the international community;

(k) tasked the Ministerial Contact Group with continued monitoring of the Fiji situation, including the possibility of the Group returning to Fiji, and directed it to report back to Leaders before the end of 2008 on the situation regarding election preparations, and other key issues. The Ministerial Contact Group’s report should include recommendations, taking into account practice in the Commonwealth and other relevant organizations, on further measures that the Forum should take to promote compliance by the Fiji Interim Government with its 2007 Vava’u election undertakings, with a view to strengthening the Forum’s efforts under the Biketawa Declaration;

(l) agreed that following the receipt of the Ministerial Contact Group’s second report, the Leaders would consider a further special meeting of Forum Leaders by the end of 2008 to consider special measures in relation to Fiji (consistent with paragraph 2(iv) of the Biketawa Declaration) and that measures to be considered include the suspension of particular governments from the Forum; and

(m) agreed in principle the offer of Papua New Guinea to host a special meeting.


16. Leaders noted the positive relationship that has developed between the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and the Solomon Islands Government since the 2007 Leaders’ Meeting in Tonga, and welcomed the progress made to date in developing a new partnership framework between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI. Leaders also noted the decision by the Solomon Islands Government to approve the RAMSI Task Force Review Report; and the initiation by the Solomon Islands Government of a review of RAMSI overseen by the Foreign Relations Parliamentary Committee, which will involve extensive consultations with RAMSI participating countries. Leaders agreed to refer the proposal by Solomon Islands that Papua New Guinea become a permanent member of the Forum Ministerial Standing Committee (FMSC) to the next meeting of the FMSC.

17. Leaders welcomed and endorsed Japan’s interest in cooperating with RAMSI and noted that, as agreed by the FMSC on RAMSI, the Secretary General of the Forum would consult with Forum member countries, seek clarification from the Government of Japan on their proposed form of assistance and then refer the matter back to FMSC for further deliberation.


18. Leaders noted that in response to their 2007 decision regarding regional support to
Nauru through the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru (PRAN), assistance had continued to be extended to Nauru by Forum members, including as a one-off decision the write-off of Nauru’s membership and PIC (Tokyo) contributions outstanding for the period between 2000 and 2006. Leaders agreed to extend PRAN, and in response the President of Nauru expressed his Government’s deep appreciation for the Forum’s assistance and acknowledged the special role played by the former Secretary General, Mr Greg Urwin, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand in Nauru’s efforts to recover from its economic financial crisis.


19. Leaders recognized the special circumstances pertaining to the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States of America towards the people of the Marshall Islands, who have been, and continue to be, adversely affected as a direct result of nuclear weapons tests conducted by the U.S. during its administration of the Marshall Islands under the United Nations Trusteeship mandate. Leaders reiterated their call on the U.S. to live up to its full obligations on the provision of adequate compensation and commitment to its responsibility for the safe resettlement of displaced populations, including the full and final restoration to economic productivity of all affected areas. Leaders noted that the U.S. Government has taken a position that all avenues to respond to the Changed Circumstances Petition under the original Compact as well as the amended Compact have been exhausted, and agreed to submit another letter to the U.S. Government urging the U.S. to take action in the aftermath of the Congressional hearings that established the lingering needs resulting from the U.S. Nuclear Testing Program. Leaders encouraged Forum Members to lend support to the Marshall Islands on this issue at the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, the Post-Forum Dialogue and other international fora.


20. Leaders:

(a) recalled their 2007 decision on the rationalization of SOPAC functions into SPC and SPREP, without any substantive diminution in SOPAC functions, and the merger of South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) with SPC;

(b) expected that all work to define the new institutional arrangements, as well as plans for implementing those arrangements, will be finalized and jointly agreed by the CEOs of the relevant agencies for presentation to Leaders at the 2009 Leaders’ meeting; and

(c) directed their representatives on the Governing Councils of the SPC, SOPAC, SPREP and SPBEA in 2009 (and prior to the Leaders’ meeting) to take all the final decisions on the new institutional arrangements and implementation plans, with implementation to commence immediately after the Governing Council meetings and no later than 1 January 2010.


21. Leaders exchanged views on the importance of the WTO rules based multilateral trading system and the need to bring the Doha Development Round negotiations to a successful conclusion as soon as possible, particularly given the economic growth and development benefits this would deliver. Leaders noted that significant progress was made at the WTO ministerial meeting in July, and regretted that it had not been possible to agree on final agriculture and non-agricultural market access modalities at that time. They agreed that it was vital that WTO members re-engage quickly to look at resolving these issues in the coming months, as well as to seek progress in other areas of the negotiations including services and rules. Leaders called for all WTO members to engage constructively and with urgency to reach an ambitious and successful conclusion to the negotiations.


Sub-regional Arrangements

22. Leaders agreed that only issues which are cross-cutting or have applicability or relevance to the whole Forum body should be considered by them.


23. Leaders supported the inclusion of Pacific island teams in expanded SANZAR Rugby Union Tournaments which will raise the profile of Pacific island players. Leaders also supported the inclusion of rugby as an Olympic sport and agreed to encourage their national Olympic committees to support this objective within the deliberations of the International Olympic Committee.

Least Developed Countries Classification

24. Leaders agreed to increase collective efforts to raise awareness of vulnerability issues impacting on small islands states, and urged the United Nations to keep under review the graduation criteria for Least Developed Countries so that the economic vulnerability criterion is given more prominence when considering graduation, particularly within the context of the country impact assessment reviews.


25. On 19 August 2008, Australia, New Zealand, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank launched the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility to assist Pacific Island Countries develop and maintain critical economic and other infrastructure. Leaders expressed appreciation for the Facility which will provide up to A$200 million funding over four years, initially focused on Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

26. Improvements to the quality, reliability and availability of infrastructure in both rural and urban areas are crucial for boosting economic growth, creating jobs and providing access to basic services such as health and education. The Facility will help develop competitive local private sectors to deliver infrastructure maintenance and construction services. This will contribute to both job creation and sustainable economic growth in the Pacific. Transport infrastructure is expected to be an early priority for assistance. The Facility will assist Pacific Island Countries to improve roads, ports, and transport systems; support reliable energy and communications infrastructure; and improve their water, sanitation and waste management systems.


27. Leaders expressed support for Wallis and Futuna’s commitment to enhanced regional engagement, noted that at present the territory’s governance arrangements are still evolving toward a point where it can determine its own policy on regional issues, encouraged continued work to strengthen Wallis and Futuna’s participation in the Forum as an observer, and agreed to take the question of its associate membership under review for the present, with consideration of the application again in two years’ time.


28. Leaders agreed that progressive steps towards Post-Forum Dialogue Partnership status should include initial engagement in the Pacific Island Countries and Development Partners’ Meeting, before a comprehensive analysis of their application for Post-Forum Dialogue status is undertaken.


29. Leaders agreed that if a Leader is unable to attend the Retreat, attendance should be restricted to a high level representative.


30. Leaders noted the outcomes of the Smaller Island States Leaders’ Summit.


31. Leaders noted the outcomes of the Pacific ACP Leaders’ meeting.


United Nations Security Council

32. The Forum affirmed its strong and unanimous support for Australia’s candidature for the UN Security Council for the two year term 2013-2014 and New Zealand’s candidature for the two year term 2015-2016. Recognizing the importance of Canada as a constructive partner for the region, the Forum also expressed support for Canada’s candidacy for the 2011-2012 term.

Position of Regional Director – Regional Office for the Western Pacific of the World Health Organization

33. Leaders noted the importance of the World Health Organization (WHO), both at the regional and international level, and that Forum members constitute just over one half (16 out of 30) of the total membership of the Western Pacific region. Leaders also noted that the position of the Regional Director of the Western Pacific region of WHO would be decided upon at the next meeting of the WHO Regional Committee of the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines, in September 2008. Leaders warmly endorsed and agreed to promote the Government of Tonga’s candidate, the Hon Dr Viliami Tangi, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, for the position.


34. Leaders agreed to appoint Tuiloma Neroni Slade as the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for a three-year term.

35. Forum Leaders expressed their profound sorrow at the untimely passing of the Secretary General, Mr Greg Urwin. Leaders conveyed their sincere condolences to Mr Urwin’s family at this deeply sad time for them. Leaders acknowledged Mr Urwin’s commitment and outstanding contribution to the political, economic and social development of the Pacific region. Leaders also acknowledged his strong leadership as Secretary General that led to many major achievements, including the firm establishment of the Pacific Plan as the platform for ongoing, strengthened regional cooperation and integration for the benefit of the people of the Pacific and his role in enhancing the international standing of the Forum. Leaders noted that Mr Urwin was a strong advocate for the Pacific and his passing represented a great loss. His significant service to the Pacific Islands Forum will be remembered by all who had the privilege of working with him.

36. Leaders welcomed the offer by the Prime Minister of Australia to fund the establishment, through the Forum, of five Annual Leadership Awards, to be awarded by the Forum, its Chair and the Secretariat, in the name of Greg Urwin. Leaders further welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands to posthumously award the Cross of Solomon Islands to Mr Urwin in recognition of his outstanding contribution to RAMSI.


37. Leaders commended the outgoing Chair, Honorable Feleti V Sevele, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga, and his Government for their leadership of the Forum over the past year.


38. Leaders welcomed the Government of Australia’s offer to host the 2009 Forum and the Government of Vanuatu’s offer to host the 2010 Forum.


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