(From L-R): Director DPC of ANU, Professor Stephen Howes with the acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Andie Fong Toy, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra, Director ADB's Urban, Social Development and Public Management, Ms Emma Veve and the Deputy Dean of ADBI Dr Bokwan Yu during the closing of the Pacific Update Conference 2016.
Ensuring inclusive, sustainable growth to improve the economic and social resilience of our countries is one of the most critical development challenges for the Pacific region, said Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Andie Fong Toy.
Ms Fong Toy made the remarks while officially closing the Pacific Update conference 2016 at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala campus on 19 July, 2016.
She noted that the conference theme, ‘Inclusive Growth for Enhanced Resilience’ is timely.
Ms Fong Toy stated that sustainable development and inclusive economic growth are identified as two of the four objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which was endorsed by Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2014 as the Forum’s overarching commitment to, and strategy for, deeper regionalism.
“As is clear from the terms of the Framework, regionalism is not an end in itself. Rather regional action provides a way of complementing our national efforts and overcoming common constraints to achieve our region’s common goals,” she said.
Ms Fong Toy said we are all aware of the many vulnerabilities of our region, including the impacts of climate change, the frequency of natural disasters, and internal governance issues.
“It is a region which is also extremely vulnerable to the movements of the international economy, which can derail within a very short period of time economic progress made over many years,” she noted.
“However, as has been discussed in the course of this conference, there are many opportunities for our region to enhance its resilience through inclusive growth, and we have heard of many good practices and country experiences,” she added.
These she said, include for instance, good practice on managing resource rich economies including the setting up of a sovereign wealth fund to prudently manage petroleum revenues in Timor Leste; good practices and experiences of State-owned Enterprises reforms in the Republic of Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tonga; as well as innovative methods of improving private sector development, especially promoting Small Medium Enterprises (SME) in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the Republic of Marshall Islands.
She added, “it has been heartening that the range of issues that feature as political priorities for Forum Leaders, including Fisheries, Climate Change, ICT and connectivity, private sector development and regional trade were the subject of your discussions. In particular, building the resilience of local communities to climate change, accessing climate finance and building future climate leaders”.
According to Ms Fong Toy, robust research and discussions are, in the Secretariat’s view, vital for our collective efforts in shaping a more inclusive and resilient Pacific islands region.
She pointed out it is particularly important that this research and these discussions take place in the Pacific and that they are open to all people with an interest to participate in the public conversation about our region’s future.
“For a like these can stimulate new and dynamic ideas for public policy, at both the national and regional levels,” she added.
USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra remarked that USP values being part of the organising team for such conferences which is very much about cooperating, networking and an example of regionalism.
“This has been a very successful update conference. We have seen many research papers with much greater scope for further discussions,” he noted.
“I think the discussions over the two day conference were active and a lot of networks were created. We hope to build something more from the notes that have been recorded,” he said.
Professor Chandra added that the value of such update conferences would be greater if there was participation from more Pacific island delegation, more policy makers and researchers from other countries.
Director of Urban, Social Development and Public Management of the ADB Ms Emma Vere said the purpose of the Pacific Update was to get 'people thinking and talking about issues which remained important to the Pacific and its people'.
Director of the Development Policy Centre (DPC) of the Australian National University (ANU) Professor Stephen Howes said there was a lot of good work going on out there and it was great to showcase the research efforts being made by fellows across the Pacific region.
Deputy Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) Dr Bokwan Yu said they were looking to assemble an even greater and strong group of speakers for next year’s update conference.
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