Fiji is to host a Secretariat for the new regional structure that it has forged with its island neighbours – the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).
The landmark announcement was made by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama , at the end of the inaugural PIDF Summit in Denarau.
For the past three days, island leaders and officials from 14 Pacific countries and territories, have joined 50 observer nations, civil society groups and businesses, to discuss a host of development challenges, including the threat of climate change.
The Prime Minister said he was delighted to announce that his fellow leaders had agreed on the need to formally establish a Secretariat to maintain the momentum of their discussions.
“I’m equally delighted to say that Fiji offered to host the Secretariat and that offer has been accepted. On behalf of every Fijian, I want to thank our fellow Pacific Islanders for the confidence you have shown in us”, he said.
The Prime Minister said work on the Secretariat would begin immediately and it would be housed in Suva in the former headquarters of the Fiji Film and Video Centre on Domain Road.
“It will be funded initially by Fiji and staffed by representatives of government, civil society groups and business from the PIDF region”, he said.
Outlining how the Secretariat would work, the Prime Minister said it would be very different from the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum, which is also in Suva.
“We have no interest in establishing a competing bureaucracy. Indeed my fellow leaders and I agree that our guiding philosophy will be the antithesis of most bureaucracies -“less is more and more for less”, he said.
The Prime Minister said the Pacific didn’t need expensive facilities or an army of overpaid officials. “We need results. We need committed publically-minded individuals ultilising scarce resources to maximum effect”, he said.
Outlining the underlying philosophy of the PIDF, Commodore Bainimarama said the Pacific also didn’t need any more top-down solutions to the region’s challenges, with Governments telling their people what to do.
“We need to harness the common sense of our people at the grassroots, listen to them as we identify their needs, and work up. And so my fellow leaders have agreed that we will start modestly, expand only when required and live within our means”, he said.
The Prime Minister thanked countries outside the region that had already pledged significant amounts to finance Fiji’s vision for a new regional framework involving a partnership between Governments, civil society groups and businesses.
“I have had meetings with some of them during this Forum and have been delighted with their enthusiasm for the PIDF.
He said that while some regional governments had yet to be convinced about the worth of the initiative, they were welcome to join those who had.
“We move forward with a new, inclusive organisation to give voice to our aspirations, designed for Pacific Islanders by Pacific Islanders”, he added.