Honourable Dr Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives of Fiji during his address.
The Pacific Update Conference is a vital forum for discussing important issues of public policy in the region, said Honourable Dr Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives of Fiji, during the opening of the Conference at the Japan Pacific ICT Centre on 20 June, 2017.
The 2017 Pacific Update Conference is organised by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Economics in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Australian National University’s (ANU) Development Policy Centre.
Hon. Dr Reddy stressed that the Conference is an excellent example of the link between research and policy, thus contributing to better use of research findings for the ultimate benefit of the society.
“The concerted deliberations through the gathering of policy makers, academics, researchers, private sector and public sector partners, business people and other development practitioners adds to the prestige of this Conference,” Hon. Reddy said.
Hon. Dr Reddy highlighted that the Pacific region, despite having some of the world’s most unique environments, has per capita income growth rates which have not kept up with population growth rates, thus contributing to growing inequality and hardships.
He added that Pacific Island Countries (PICs) also withstand major issues and scenarios which are affecting the overall growth and expansion aims.
“Therefore, Conference of this nature which seeks to evaluate policies and research aimed at countering Pacific Island issues is highly instrumental,” Hon. Dr Reddy added.
The two day conference will focus, in particular on three areas including promoting blue-green economy, enhancing connectivity and creating accessible jobs.
On the subject of labour mobility in the Pacific region, Hon. Dr Reddy noted that the Pacific’s growing economies continuously need to tap into new and transitioned job skills set of our people to meet the growing demands of diverse forms of labour.
“One area that I am proud the Fijian Government is relentlessly pursuing is making education and training accessible to all the people in various job markets and which is envisioned to create labour sustainability for current key job sectors in years to come,” Hon. Dr Reddy said.
Participants at the 2017 Pacific Update Conference.
On Blue-Green growth he said “blue-green growth must be a mandatory priority for every nation and every global citizen.”
“Pacific Island nations have been in the global limelight recently through our sustained calls for sustainable development and this conference could not have come at a better time,” said Hon. Dr Reddy.
While expressing his appreciation to USP’s key partners in enabling the University to host the annual conference, Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Services), said that ADB and ANU have long been partners of the University and have supported in initiatives geared towards development of the Pacific region through higher education, research and regional integration measures.
Professor Coll added that the Conference sessions are designed to raise awareness of opportunities and challenges affecting PICs.
“The presenters include a good mix of academics and policymakers, which is important for research dissemination and how such research impacts policy making,” he said.
In her address, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said at a time where challenges faced in the Pacific region are increasingly existential in nature, policy responses need to be informed by evidence and rigorous analysis.
She added that the themes of this conference reflect major regional policy issues as well as the theme of the Forum Leaders meeting this year in Samoa.
Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Services), Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives of Fiji, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Dr Neelesh Gounder, Senior Lecturer at USP’s School of Economics.
She commended the organisers for hosting the Pacific Update at a regional university and welcomed the opportunity for the convergence of regional policy and research communities.
“This event will only serve to strengthen the advice that we provide to Leaders,” Dame Taylor said.
Dame Taylor highlighted that the geopolitical and development context of the Pacific has shifted and the region faces a range of external and internal factors that are acting to reshape it.
“Such factors spur us to re-think the form that Pacific regionalism needs to take in order to address our complex contemporary challenges, including poverty, non-communicable diseases, social inequities, gender issues and our unique vulnerabilities and dependencies,” she added.
She added that Pacific leaders have recognised the need for a new inclusive and game changing approach to Pacific regionalism.
“At the heart of this new approach is an emphasis on inclusive and robust policy development and implementation, as well as recognition of the political dimension for ensuring development outcomes for the Pacific,” Dame Taylor highlighted.
Dame Taylor reiterated the need to make better use of research and informed analysis to develop regional policy and recognised the importance of events such as the Pacific Update Conference within broader policy making processes.
The two day conference will end on 21 June 2017 and is open to the public.
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