Small Island States adopt new strategy
Leaders from the Small Island States of the Pacific Islands Forum have adopted a new strategy to ensure their vulnerabilities are addressed.
Leaders from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu have adopted a new strategy to ensure their vulnerabilities are addressed as part of the regional policy agenda.
The so called Small Island States of the Pacific Islands Forum agreed on the strategy at a meeting last week in Palau.
Ben Robinson-Drawbridge spoke with the Forum Secretariat's Development Co-operation Advisor, Alfred Schuster.
ALFRED SCHUSTER: Well there were five top priorities. I guess the one that would stand out is climate change, with the particular on emphasis to climate financing and taking a different approach to accessing through a joint proposal to the Green Climate Fund. Rather than look at accessing financing on a bilateral basis, they have seen it more strategic to come together and develop a proposal that would ensure mutual benefits across the SIS group.
BEN ROBINSON-DRAWBRIDGE: How likely do you think the Green Climate Fund will be to a multilateral approach?
AS: We're seeking advice on that, it will be a new approach. From what we understand, a joint proposal of countries and governments has yet been brought to the attention of the Green Climate Fund. We would like to think that it's a much more strategic way, in light of the administrative burden and administrative requirements of the Green Climate Fund to generate the sort of revenue that is required of the SIS.
BRD: So what were some of the other priorities identified?
AS: One was on labour mobility. The SIS were keen to get a greater stake, if you like, in accessing existing labour mobility initiatives, in particular to Australia and New Zealand but they did recognise that one way to perhaps be more targeted as to which ones would service SIS interests better was to start mapping. Mapping the different labour mobility initiatives, looking at current labour flows and better understand where the best opportunities exist for them. The other one was health. So looking at NCDs (non-communicable diseases) recognising it as the biggest killer in our region but there is an existing NCDs roadmap and how best to be more specific on supporting SIS, particularly around legislating and policy reform to prevent or minimise the import of harmful products. Marine was the next priority. Again looking at fisheries. Although they are the smallest countries in our region, they are custodians of the largest proportion of the Pacific ocean so it is about SIS wanting to receive greater gains. I guess air and sea transportation is one that has been an ongoing issue for a number of years now for the SIS, in particular air transportation. They've tried to take various bilateral approaches with a number of other foreign governments around securing more fair and equitable air service agreements. I think this time they've realised that it is no longer an issue that can be addressed at a technocratic or beaurocratic level. They now want to elevate it to a political discussion amongst the Forum leaders.
BRD: We are talking here about getting greater service from Pacific airlines to these smaller nations aren't we?
AS: Yes. A bit of both. It's about ensuring that the SIS do also get a share in the different air transport routes that are available for their own airlines. It is also about where existing airline services exist, that they are able to negotiate more economically viable options for their people to the different regional hubs.
BRD: I suppose then, the next step is for that priority and the others to be raised of the full meeting of the Forum in September.
AS: There's now a discussion that needs to happen with partners and its implementation. What sort of resourcing and time frames and results that we are after from the strategy. The officials will meet in August. They will then prepare recommendations on implementation that will then go to the leaders meeting in September and as you know the SIS leaders, they have a separate meeting prior to the Forum meeting itself and it's an opportunity for them to cement what they then take to the wider group to seek their endorsement and support.
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