Need for Inclusive Pacific Regionalism – Dame Meg Taylor
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Dame Meg Taylor, PIFS Secretary General, delivering the opening remarks during the Pacific Update 2017.
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.
This was the message of Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) during the 2017 Pacific Update Conference on 20 June 2017.
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,” Dame Taylor 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,” she 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 Secretary General talked about the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2014 and draws on the recommendations of the Pacific Plan review.
According to Dame Taylor, Pacific Regionalism has to be inclusive so that there is access to the breadth of experience and insight that exists in our people.
“It has to be inclusive to make sure that it impacts on those in our communities who are most in need. It has to be inclusive because only by looking at the whole picture can we identify where we might make the most profound impact,” Dame Taylor said.
She highlighted that the newly emerging wave of regionalism maintains a people-centred lens and Pacific control of a regional agenda, it fosters wider political engagement, and manoeuvres creatively through and around structures with the common goal of improving the lives of our Pacific people.
“Of particular importance, the Framework places strong emphasis on the fact that achieving impact requires us to work together, not just as states, but in ways that include all actors in the region,” Dame Taylor said.
In addition to this principle of inclusivity, she said that evidence and informed analysis is also critical to the development and implementation of sound regional policy.
“While we have established closer links with civil society and the private sector over the past few years, we must broaden our engagement to include the research community. We at the Forum Secretariat, who are responsible for the development of regional policy must engage with the research community and ensure that the advice that we furnish on Forum Leaders is based on evidence and on informed analysis,” Dame Taylor emphasised.
Starting with USP, she welcomed a regularised, process for greater engagement and interaction with the research community.
The Forum Secretariat is developing a report that provides Members and other stakeholders with a contextual analysis of the region. This State of Regionalism report, she said, will provide foundational information on the region, upon which Leaders can make informed policy decisions. We have engaged with researchers and academics in the preparation of this document, and as we revise and update it into the future, we will continue to remain engaged with the research community.
Dame Taylor pointed out that regionalism is essential in the Pacific to help us respond to the enduring challenges that we face. But, she highlighted that, “regionalism must be impactful and responsive”.
The Secretary General also reiterated that everyone must make better use of research and informed analysis to develop regional policy.
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.
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