Hon. Parveen Kumar Bala, Fiji’s Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations & Youth and Sports giving the opening address at the Pacific Regional Sports Forum.
The Pacific Regional Sports Forum was hosted by The University of the South Pacific (USP) to open a dialogue with regional stakeholders on the design of the Pacific Sport, Physical Activity and Physical Education (SPAPE) Action Plan 2019-2030.
The three-day forum from 4th November began with the welcoming remarks by Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice Chancellor and President (VCP) of USP and followed by opening address by Honourable Parveen Kumar Bala, Fiji’s Minister for Employment, Productivity, Industrial Relations & Youth and Sports and Honourable Baklai Temengil, Palau’s Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs.
Following this, the panel discussion was organised as an interactive, roundtable discussion between panellists and chaired by the Master of Ceremony for every session. The programme featured two days of interactive policy dialogues on key policy areas including physical activity and health, physical education, high performance, integrity, climate action, human rights, gender, disability and youth. The third day was offered for representatives to contribute towards the drafting of the Action Plan.
The SHAPE Action Plan has five Priority Action Areas including; (1) Advocacy and Communication (2) Regional Consultation, Coordination and Action (3) Policy Development and Consultation (4) Monitoring and Evaluation and (5) Research and Education which was discussed during the four sessions.
Professor Pal Ahluwalia, welcomed Honourable Parveen Bala, Honourable Minister Baklai Temengil, Honourable Minister Jean- Pirerre Nirua of the Republic of Vanuatu, Representatives of regional and sporting organisations, USP Faculty, staff and students.
He said that USP is proud to host the Pacific Regional Sports Forum because sport is an important enabler of sustainable development under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Sport is a critical and cross- cutting component of social, economic and political development of Pacific Island Countries. Sports helps shape our national identities and the passion and fierce rivalry created by the Rugby World Cup is testament to that,” said Professor Ahluwalia.
He added that building on a series of activities in recent years, USP is committed to strengthening sport-based activities in line with the new strategic plan 2019 to 2020, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2019, a sport and Sustainable Development Coordination Committee was formed as part of a University wide approach to embedding sport, physical activity and physical education.
Professor Ahluwalia said that USP stands ready to help shape the future direction of the Pacific (SHAPE) Action Plan and build on the evidence base that both supports the sporting sector and underpins the contribution of sport to sustainable development.
“We need innovative solutions to tackle the region’s most persistent challenges, and the combination of targeted action through the Pacific SHAPE Action Plan and stronger regional coordination will go long way towards changing the game for Pacific region’s greatest asset, our people,” he said.
Honourable Parveen Bala was delighted to be invited to the Regional Forum for Sports in the Pacific and that the forum coincides with the Oceania Rugby Sevens championship which is happening this week in Suva that is also part of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
He said that sports has long been regarded as an important enabler in nation building. For Pacific Island Countries it has proven to be a unifier as well and brings our different communities together in an inclusive way.
Hon. Bala said that the three-day earmarked for this important forum will not only benefit the cause, to promote sports for wellness, competition and towards economic growth, but to also provide pathways towards improving standards and increasing the numbers of professional athletes from the region.
“On behalf of the Fijian Government, I extend our appreciation to UNESCO and USP for their support which has allowed the regional stakeholders to converge in Suva this week and consult on the Pacific Sport, Physical Activity and Physical Education or SPACE Action Plan 2019-2030,” he said.
Members and Participants of the Pacific Regional Sports Forum at Australia Pacific Lecture Theatre, USP.
“I am confident that this forum has taken on board suggestions to include stakeholders to develop and deliver the SHAPE Action Plan in a visionary and inclusive manner. The Fijian Government acknowledge and supports this important forum and during the next three days, look forward to an interactive policy dialogue on key areas including physical activity and health, physical education, high performance, integrity, climate action, human rights, gender, disability and youth.”
He added that the forum also gives us an opportunity to address the ongoing manipulation in sports at national, regional and global competitions which undermine the values of sports.
“This forum is all about generating ideas and discussions. It is in some ways a sandpit to throw ideas around. I hope that this forum is able to structure those sandpit ideas into deliverables in terms of strengthening the sports sector in the Pacific,” said Hon. Bala.
He said that we should continue to highlight the importance of standing international and regional frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SAMOA Pathway, Framework for Pacific Regionalism, the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development, the Kazan Action Plan, and the SHAPE Action Plan 2019-2030, which emphasises the importance of sports as a vehicle to drive development, promote peace and foster empowerment and inclusive participation.
“Our deliberations must also ensure that countries are able to exchange with each other and have concrete guidance on next steps, developing national action plans and exploring opportunities to establish national platforms for sports integrity in the fight against manipulations of sports competitions,” said Hon. Bala.
He elaborated that currently, the Fijian Government is working towards a new National Sports and Recreational Activities Policy, and incorporating several new policies to protect Fijian athletes and sports; a Drug Free Sports Act, Safety in Sports Policy, Child Protection Policy and Sports Governance Code.
Honourable Baklai Temengil, Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs of the Government of Palau said that she is happy to address the first Pacific Regional Sports Forum.
She said that during the Sports Ministers meetings in the past years as well the Forum Economic Ministers meeting in 2017-2019 and at the Pacific Island Forum this year, we are called to maximise the contribution of sports to sustainable development in the Pacific Island countries.
She added that we are here in the forum to dialogue in the best way to achieve our common goals in integrating sports in our National Policies.
Question and answer session between audience and panelists followed after every panel discussion of which the members of the audience actively participated.
The forum captured regional recommendations for the first phase of the Pacific SHAPE Action Plan 2019- 2030 across the five Priority Action Areas.
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