Strategic direction of SPC set to change
The largest regional agency operating in the Pacific, the SPC, prepares for a change in its strategic direction.
This week and next the members of the Pacific Community will be asked to endorse the new strategic plan for the regional agency.
The 9th Conference of the Pacific Community starts on Niue this Saturday when officials meet ahead of ministers from the 26 member nations and territories.
The director general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, told Don Wiseman about the changes in direction he is advocating.
COLIN TUKUITONGA: One of the critical things is that we recently developed a new strategic plan, a statement of intent if you like, that involved 11, 12 members of the Pacific community in helping to put this together, because this then determines our priorities, which then determines the budgets and so on. The meeting of the ministers and senior officials is not a rubber stamping exercise, because they could still tell us to do something different. And the other big item for us this year is we have the UN Envoy for Youth attending and having a discussion with the ministers and other stakeholders on young people. The issues of mental health, employment, unemployment and so on. So there are some fairly major items on the agenda.
DON WISEMAN: Let's just go to this strategic plan. I think we've talked about it quite some time ago, about the change in direction that you envisioned soon after you came into this role of the head of the organisation. But what would you say is the nub of it?
CT: We will have to do less. Previously SPC has tried to do a range of things at the request of the members and clearly that's not sustainable. We have to focus on the priorities because the money just isn't there and it will continue to get less and less. And we can't let the members believe that SPC will continue to do what is has always done. So this raises a very difficult question of how do you prioritise, what do the members think. Because the problem with part of the business we're in is that it's often regarded as a free good - somebody else pays for it and we deliver the service and there is no incentive to try to limit what we do. So how do you decide between tuna and agriculture and public health and human rights and all of those competing priorities. So that's the big discussion. What do we do less of over the next four of five years.
DW: What makes you say that there will be less money?
CT: Because we are getting less money. This year just gone we have roughly $100 million total budget, next year it's about $95 million. It's significantly less. And there are lots of reasons for that. A number of the big funders funding cycles have come to an end and we have to continue to try and look for the money. So this year, despite a balanced budget approved at the end of last year, we have had to try to balance a hole in our budget. We anticipate similar challenges next year and the year after. Again as I say largely because the development funding is getting less, and we've had some issues with foreign exchange fluctuations particularly because the Australian contribution to SPC and the Australian dollar being what it has been has had a real impact on us. The Australians haven't reduced their contribution to SPC fortunately, but the exchange rate has caused us some grief.
DW: So all 26 members are going to be there, and I think there's also going to be East Timor, and this is the next stage in East Timor becoming a member but they won't be made a full member at this point.
CT: That's correct. They are a member in the sense they will be invited and able to join the meeting and participate in all sorts of things that we do, but when it comes to participating government status which is a technical differentiation, partly because they haven't completed their own parliamentary requirements at home, but we anticipated that would be completed fairly shortly.
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