CAPTION: Members of the MSG Eminent Persons Group with the USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra, and other members of the USP Senior Management Team. PHOTO: SUPPLIED.
A high-level consultation meeting between the University of the South Pacific and the Melanesian Spearhead Group- Eminent Persons Group (MSG EPG) was held on 2 May, 2013.
The meeting, which was chaired by the EPG chairman and Former Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Fiji, Mr Kaliopate Tavola, was hosted by the University at its Laucala Campus in Suva.
Attended by members of the MSG Eminent Persons Group, the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, and senior staff members, the high-level consultation meeting was an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by the MSG since its inception in 1998.
As part of the EPG’s round of consultations, the aim was to review their work over the past 25 years, and develop a vision for the next 25 years.
The EPG comprised the Chairman and Former Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, Member of Parliament and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, Hon. Joe Natuman, first Vice President of the Congress of New Caledonia, Hon. Roch Wamytan and Consultant and former Deputy Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister in Papua New Guinea, Mr Leonard Luma.
The Vice-Chancellor warmly welcomed the group, saying that the University regards the work of the MSG as highly important and is very privileged to serve the Melanesian sub-region.
The recent celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the MSG, which were held at the University’s Laucala Campus from 18- 20 March, 2013, illustrate the significance of the sub-region in to USP.
In his address at the consultation, Mr Tavola said the EPG has had very good interactions in its consultation process. Mr Tavola also mentioned that the EPG is also looking to explore the possibility of a trust fund to ensure cost-effectiveness, resource sustainability and non-duplication of services.
“We want to develop our resources cooperatively and using the framework of sub-regional cooperation, we will cooperate extensively, share resources, and see that benefits are shared as well. We need to be inclusive in our approach, and there should be equity in sharing of the benefits,” he said.
He said that one of the MSG’s objectives is to have a conflict-free situation in the region and to have stability in terms of good governance, law reforms, and having decision makers accountable for the decisions they make.
A number of issues were presented by the EPG and deliberated upon during the meeting:
- Developing a model for regional integration in the Pacific, consulting the European Union, Caribbean, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) models;
- Focus on availing more scholarships for Melanesian women, and in Pacific Studies, to have a more united region;
- Education at grassroots level, and opportunities for Melanesian students to go on exchange programmes and be MSG youth volunteers to be prioritised;
- Use the Pacific Heritage Hub based at the University’s Laucala Campus to help sustain and promote Melanesian culture and tradition;
- Consider other countries in the Melanesian sub-region to be new members;
- Acknowledging climate change as a key motivational factor for regional integration, and including not just a green growth framework, but also a blue economy and;
- Information Communication Technology (ICT) will assist with connectivity, inclusiveness and access that could be promoted by MSG countries
The Vice-Chancellor said, “The vision you have described is an exciting vision but at the end of the day you will need strong advocacy. The vision needs to have champions who will defend and shepherd it through”.
He said the main focus should be on regional integration, by creating the regional vision, which could only be achieved once a national vision in each of the member countries is created and citizenry is promoted.
USP Head of School of Government, Development and International Affairs, Professor Vijay Naidu, in commending the MSG’s consultative approach, said “I think in talking about the vision, you also need to talk about the wider Melanesia”, adding that MSG should also include West Papua, Timor-Leste, and Melanesians in Indonesia.
The MSG is an intergovernmental organisation that is composed of four Melanesian states: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, as well as the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) of New Caledonia.
Three MSG member countries; Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands, are also members of the University of the South Pacific.