Leaders of Forum member countries meeting today in the Cook Islands agreed to reinvigorate their efforts towards regional cooperation and integration under the Pacific Plan.
Attending the Special Leaders Retreat, Leaders considered the 2013 review of the Pacific Plan, led by the Hon Sir MekereMorauta, former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Leaders expressed their appreciation for the comprehensive work of SirMekere Morauta and his review team.
The current Chair of the Forum, President Loeak of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, welcomed the productive discussions and outcomes of the meeting.
“It is clear from the Morauta Review and our discussions today that business as usual has not been delivering the benefits Leaders had hoped for when they endorsed the Pacific Plan in 2005,” explained the President. “The decisions we have made will sharpen the focus for Leaders and give us space to discuss how we move forward on the continuum towards integration.”
Speaking after the meeting, Prime Minister Puna of the Cook Islands emphasised the importance of political leadership discussing the challenges and opportunities for region.
“We need strong political leadership and clear decisions if we are to make regional integration work,” stated the Prime Minister. “It requires Leaders to have a serious discussion on a handful of high priority issues that will take us forward and carefully consider the benefits that will accrue to the region.”
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, welcomed the outcomes of the meeting.
“This is an important moment for the region. Once again, Leaders have demonstrated their commitment to regionalism and to working closely together,” he stated.
Leaders agreed to a number of ways to strengthen regionalism and priority setting, including further consultations with countries on the development of a Framework for Pacific Regionalism, replacing the Pacific Plan Action Committee with a small, specialised sub-committee of the Forum Officials Committee – the governing body of the Forum Secretariat – and looking at how to rationalise the range of Ministerial meetings.
Leaders’ are expected to make final decisions on taking the regional agenda forward at the 45th Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Palau from 29 July to 1 August 2014.