From the podium

From the podium

Mr John Low (Resources Adviser, South Pacific Forum Secretariat - SPF)

Mr Chairman, Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates I have great pleasure in delivering this statement on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Mr Chairman, allow me to extend greetings to you from my Secretary-General, Mr Noel Levy, whom due to prior commitments, is unable to make it to this meeting.

The Forum Secretariat is an organization created to serve the political grouping of independent states, such as the Pacific Islands Forum. The major role of the Forum is to assist its member states in their collective efforts to pursue social, economic and political goals. The Pacific Region is fortunate that it does not suffer from the level of poverty that one sees in other parts of the world. Food insecurity is not yet considered a critical problem. However, this is not to say that we do not suffer from poverty and malnutrition, and in particular, the poverty of opportunity in achieving sustainable development for a Small Island Development States.

In the Pacific Region we have supported the regional strategy for agriculture, development and food security, developed by FAO. We have also supported and instituted political, social and economic reforms that are beneficial to meet the objectives of food security regionally, and have expedited such reforms to enhance participation in good governance and sustainable development. However, it should be noted that as Small Island Developing States, we are vulnerable to many factors, such as the serious negative impact of natural disasters on food security. Our vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters and external shocks is such that the entire food crops can be wiped out in one cyclone or hurricane. In this context, we recognize the importance of disaster prevention and mitigation as integral components of sustainable agriculture and rural development.

We recognize that food security issues need a holistic approach across sectors such as agriculture, land, health, education, fisheries and forestry, and also cooperation with the private sector and civil society. At the national level, a key strategy adopted by the Forum countries is to support the private sector development and investment in the productive sectors where there is greater scope for sustainable employment and food security. The measures taken include the reduction of public sector size and costs, privatization of government operations, tax reforms and good governance.

In terms of dealing with the effects of globalization and intensifying impact of multilateral trade rules, our leaders have approved the establishment of the Pacific Island Countries Free Trade Agreement and the Pacific Closer Economic Relations. The Pacific Closer Economic Relations is a trade and economic cooperation agreement for all Forum members which allows for technical assistance to Forum island countries on trade-related adjustments and the Pacific Island Trade Agreement as the basis for establishing a free trade area among the Pacific Forum island countries. The Pacific Free Trade Areas is expected to create a single regional market of 6 million consumers which will stimulate the increased production of goods, mainly in agriculture, that are traded within the Region.

In conclusion, let me reiterate, as we did in 1996, that the Forum Secretariat, through our leaders, is committed to do its part in attaining food security for our people. We have over the years already started those objectives set out in the 1996 Plan of Action. These activities on food security are being carried out through our Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific and the FAO Sub-regional Office based in Samoa. The Forum Secretariat stands ready to assist our Member Countries in renewing its call of the World Food Summit: five years later.

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