Part of the audience at day one of the Pacific Update 2019.
The 2019 Pacific Update began on 3 July at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus, hosted by the University’s School of Economics and the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre.
The conference, a premier forum for the discussion of important public policy issues in the region, gathers policymakers, academics and researchers, business people, and development practitioners to discuss economic, social, political, and environmental developments in the Pacific.
In his welcome address, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President of USP, said the Pacific Update has become an important part of the annual calendar and brings together policymakers, academics, and development practitioners to present research and discuss the latest economic and social developments in the Pacific region.
He noted that the discussions and deliberations from past meetings have had real impact on dealing with contemporary issues facing the Pacific Islands communities.
“For USP, in our revised Strategic Plan, we have emphasised the importance of delivering quality tertiary education and addressing health issues, in particular the wide prevalence of Non Communicable Diseases in the Pacific,” he stated.
He said in the tertiary education area, as the region’s premier University, USP is building on its 50 year history and legacy, by taking a step forward to work towards entering global University rankings – such as the Times Higher Education and QS.
He assured USP’s member countries, and in particular, the Fiji Government that the University will further address the quality of its education that will enable it to produce employment ready graduates.
“At the most recent budget speech last month, the Fiji Attorney General and the Minister for Economy, Hon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out the Government’s concerns about our Foundation Studies Programme,” he noted.
He mentioned that as the Premier Regional University it is imperative that USP takes heed of this and he agreed that it cannot afford to be complacent.
“That it is our role as a 50-year-old institution to be a beacon of academic excellence in the region and we will look quickly at how we address such concerns,” he said.
His Excellency John Feakes, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji congratulated the organisers and participants for the “important contributions to public policy discourse in this very important region”.
He said he was pleased to see a continuation of the history of engagement and collaboration between ANU and USP.
“Australia is stepping up its engagement in the Pacific. We share deep personal connection with the Pacific. Thousands of Australians flock to their shores every year to experience Fiji and thousands of Fijians have direct connection to Australia through study, sport, church or family,” he said.
“As good neighbours and as friends, Australia has a long held interest in the security, prosperity and sovereignty of the Pacific region. The prosperity and stability of this region, our home and neighbourhood, has always been important to us. That is why we are working to build on our decades-long history of engagement in the region with new ideas and opportunities to work together,” he stated.
According to H.E Feakes, this effort will be supported by Australia’s largest ever allocation of development spending in the region - $1.4billion over the next financial year.
“We are proud to be making this investment, to capitalise on opportunities that abound in this region we call home,” he added.
Professor Winston Dookeran, Professor of Practice at The University of West Indies spoke on The Caribbean on the Edge: Regionalism & insights on the integration of Pacific Islands.
The Pacific Update 2019 ends on 5 July.
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