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Pacific Island Forum adopts Pacific mission statement.

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Tuesday 6 April 2004

Pacific Island Forum adopts Pacific mission statement


DAVID HARDAKER: Prime Minister John Howard and Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting in Auckland have adopted a Pacific mission statement that includes a commitment to good governance. 


The mission statement came from an Eminent Persons' Group Report that was adopted at today's meeting, and while there's little detail about how this better governance is to be achieved, the leaders have agreed that at their meeting in August this year, they'll set up a taskforce to work out a more detailed plan for the Pacific. 


Sean Dorney reports from Auckland. 


SEAN DORNEY: The proposed Pacific plan will be aimed at arresting the decline in some Pacific states by boosting cooperation in a wide range of areas. But there's little detail on that.  


There is a bigger role, though, for the Secretary-General of the forum, Australia's Greg Urwin.  


New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, expressed some disappointment that the former Secretary-General, Papua New Guinea's Noel Levi, did not become more pro-active after the forum leaders' meeting in Kiribas that adopted a declaration in the wake of the coups in Fiji and Solomon Islands.  


HELEN CLARK: It was the hope of many of us from Kiribati forum in 2000 and the agreement to the Biketawaw declaration that there would be a more proactive role for the Secretary-General flowing from that, but that wasn't the way that it panned out.  


So what this set of decisions does is actually charge the forum Secretary-General with being pro-active when he sees a crisis developing.  


We should not think that such a crisis is only a security crisis. There may be health crises. Should we, for example, have a proactive regional response when a health epidemic like SARS is… is around. We didn't have such a response, and yet SARS could have been very damaging to the tourism industries of the economies of the region.  


So it's a question of the Secretary-General now being mandated to get on the front foot, consult with the Chair, and see at what level people need to be drawn together to deal with the crisis, whatever its nature. 


SEAN DORNEY: There is an emphasis in the Eminent Persons' Report on the special needs of small island states, and the Secretary-General will now be given a wider role in helping them address the real problems that confront them in matters such as transportation and communications.  


The Chairman of the Small Islands Group, which has been critical of Australia in the past, Cook Islands Prime Minister, Robert Woonton. 


ROBERT WOONTON: Today the forum proper have taken mainstream those issues and not just by the politically correct addressing of these issues, but going down to the bone where it really matters to small island states. The concerns of small island states are real and we're united and we're very happy with the full forum accepting our recommendations that these issues will be addressed given some urgency of it. 


SEAN DORNEY: Fiji's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, was asked about the emphasis on good governance. 


LAISENIA QARASE: The issue of corruption is a serious one, it's not unique to Fiji, it is not unique to the Pacific, it's a worldwide problem, and it is our duty as leaders of countries to try and eliminate it or at least minimise the incidence of corruption. 


SEAN DORNEY: Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, professed himself very pleased with the outcome. 


JOHN HOWARD: There is a feeling now that the forum can achieve something. The last year has been the best year that I've known for the forum since I've been Prime Minister of Australia, and there is a sense around that we've turned a new page and that we are going to get somewhere. 


SEAN DORNEY: The Secretary-General has been given the job of suggesting who should be on the taskforce to draw up the Pacific plan. Mr Urwin will head that group and is expected to have recommendations on its terms of reference to present to the forum leaders when they meet in Samoa in August.  


Sean Dorney in Auckland, for PM .