Expert Committee for the Fifth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM5)
Fourth Meeting Discussion Outline

1. Date:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 15:10-17:15

2. Venue:

Conference Room in Mita Kaigisho, Tokyo

3. Participants:

Committee members:

  • Mr. Kobayashi (Chair), Mr. Kusano, Ms. Chino, Mr. Tokita, Ms. Nakano, Mr. Noda

Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

  • Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
  • Mr. Yamada, Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation Bureau

Other officials

  • Observers: Government and governmental organizations officials

4. Agenda:

  • (1) Opening Remarks by the Chair
  • (2) Discussion 1: Policy/vision for long-lasting relations between Japan and Pacific island countries
  • (3) Discussion 2: Future PALM process
  • (4) Discussion 3: Catchphrase for PALM5
  • (5) Closing Remarks by the Chair

5. Outline of Discussion:

(1) Opening Remarks by the Chair

As the last (6th) Expert Committee meeting approaches, I would like to gather insights from all the Committee members and make a productive discussion on how PALM could be improved. In this context, the first discussion topic is Japan's policy/vision - what relations Japan should build with the Pacific island countries through PALM. Japan has been announcing to maintain 'friendship' with the Pacific island countries throughout the past PALMs but now need a clearer national policy vision. The second topic is the selection process of a PALM venue, including whether or not it should be fixed. This will have a lot to do with the strategic use of PALM because venue selection should be done in accordance with the national policy/vision. The third topic is the use of the years between PALMs - how to make the best use of those intermediate period of PALMs. These three discussion topics are inter-related.

(2) Discussion 1: Policy/vision for long-lasting relations of Japan and Pacific island countries

  • Unlike China and Taiwan, Japan invites Australia and New Zealand for the summit with the Pacific island countries. This makes the Pacific island countries wonder if Japan is attempting to put the Pacific island countries under control via good governance measures in tandem with Australia and New Zealand. Japan should reconsider the relationship with Australia and New Zealand in this regard.
  • I have an impression that past PALMs were more like donor meeting. International cooperation is of great importance but is not sufficient. Fisheries resource is one of the reasons for Japan's engagement with this region, but maintaining secure fishing access is a non-ODA affair. Immigration may be a future discussion topic, whereas trade and investment should also be promoted. The United States has established a trust fund and been strategic with its air access to this region. Japan should consider an overall picture about the relations with Pacific island countries, while bearing in mind the importance of ODA.
  • It seems that Japan's ODA does have a policy. Human security, focusing on helping the socially marginalized, reflects the spirit of the Preamble of the Japanese Constitution, thus being a unique feature of Japan's ODA. It is also important to consider how to support the subsistence economy that serves as a safety net in this region.
  • Financial crisis cannot be omitted from the discussion agenda of PALM 5 because the crisis for donors can affect the recipient island countries. It is not practical for Japan not to coordinate with other donors in this region. Japan should consider how to accomplish its own goal for international cooperation in the context of multilateral cooperation including Australia and New Zealand.
  • PALM's awareness is low among the general public and media in Japan, compared to those of other summits. Japan should redefine PALM based on the notion that Japan is also a Pacific island country and try to raise public awareness.
  • Although PALM has been criticized for the lack of vision, there must have been a blueprint in the making of the past four PALMs. A long-term policy is a must. Assistance without a vision/strategy could be a waste of tax payers' money. Eco-tech Training Center of OISCA in PNG has a long-term policy of transferring techniques for sustainable production and has received a great reputation.
  • Japan's assistance including contributions as a pacifist nation has been visible and ODA itself is in a sense the embodiment of Japan's philosophy of international cooperation and therefore Japan's soft power. Therefore, the basic notion of cooperation that Japan has shaped as a leading donor does not have to change. For example, pillars of TICAD IV were: "acceleration of growth," "establishment of human security" and "environmental issues and climate change." Out of these pillars, environmental issues and climate change can also be a pillar of assistance for the Pacific region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to soon pick a catchphrase like 'vibrant Africa' for TICAD IV and start PR activities.
  • Although TICAD IV can be a wonderful model, the Pacific region is different from Africa in terms of ODA budget, as the budget for the Pacific is shrinking. In this situation, Japan needs to aim at assistance initiatives that may seem to be small but have a great impact. Such initiatives would be developed with the focus on environment and climate change.
  • Economic independence is the key word here. It is important to think of what Japan and the Pacific island countries can respectively for the economic independence in order to make PALM more than a donors meeting. In this regard, tourism is of great importance. Assistance to help find new tourism resources/attractions including intangible cultural assets will promote tourism industry in each country of the Paicific region and contribute to their enhanced ethnic pride. Sports exchange such as rugby is also worth consideration.
  • Economic independence is not the same as economic growth as far as the pacific region is concerned. It should be noted that each country has its own circumstance and is at a different development stage.
  • In a word, national development is human-resource development. Effective human- resource development should involve face-to-face, heart-to-heart education both inside and outside the classroom. It is important to correct wrongdoing when necessary.
  • It seems that pacific island countries want to, through PALM, receive more aid as well as to escape from influences by Australia and New Zealand. This region should be considered not as an area of aid battle but as one of aid coordination. Japan might cooperate with China in this regard. In addition, Japan should maintain a good relationship with Australia, considering the recent development of relations between the two countries. Relatively speaking, the Pacific island countries do not hold high priority in Japan's diplomacy and financial resource of ODA is limited. It is therefore important to prioritize and implement cooperation that is "small but has a great impact". In addition, focusing assistance on vulnerable countries is likely to gain support from the Japanese public. Japan will be able to make their stance on assistance for the region understood more clearly by narrowing down the areas of cooperation to the environment and climate change as well as human-resource development.

(3) Discussion 2: Prospects of PALM

  • There are many international conventions held in Tokyo. If PALM is held in a local area, significant publicity can be gained through local supports, for example, with related local programs. That is why I have kept suggesting that PALM be held in a local city. On the other hand, if a host city is decided approximately six months prior to the summit, it does not give enough time to secure budget for PALM-related programs. In addition, venue selection should be done in a strategic manner and not be constrained by budget or security issues. It will help the local authorities to foresee the possibility of hosting PALM to designate as PALM venue a certain district such as Kyushu/Okinawa District instead of changing the PALM venue every three years. It will also be necessary to explore related programs during the years between two PALMs. There is also a practical matter in the selection of the host city: adequate facilities are necessary to accommodate VIPs from 14 countries and two regions.
  • I agree with holding PALM in local cities. ODA should reflect local voices as well. Local newspapers have 60 to 70 percent share in almost every prefecture, so holding PALM in local cities has a good PR advantage, too. Tourism-related events for the general public could be held in the intermediate years to raise awareness. This region also has a historical connection with Japan, which can be another subject to promote during the interim.
  • I also agree with holding PALM in local areas. Local events relating to agriculture, forestry and fisheries could be organized apart from the conferences. Assistance can be improved by the use of PDCA cycle in the intermediate years.
  • I also agree with holding PALM in local areas. Being a summit for island countries, it can be held in an island of Japan too. A pacific-tailored youth cruise could be an option as a PALM-related event in the intermediate years. Academic interest in this region could be enhanced if a university such as Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University that already has such academic interest takes the initiatives.
  • Since most national development plans are in terms of five years, it may be a good idea to hold PALM every five years accordingly. Japan should have country-specific aid policies, and a three-year cycle is rather short in this regard as well. An interim high-level meeting in the third year would be appropriate. As for the venue, I agree with holding PALM in local areas. The Yakushima Island, designated as a World Natural Heritage site, may be a suitable venue if the main theme of a PALM is the environment. Okushiri Island, in the same regard, would be an appropriate venue if disaster management is the topic of a PALM. For public relations purposes, I suggest that a day, October 4 for example, be designated as Pacific Islands' Day to hold an interim meeting and related events. It may be a good idea to organize a One-Municipality-One-Country campaign for PALM, following the example of Aichi Expo. An NGO forum related to PALM should help raise public awareness among the public. As for human-resource development, creating a Japan-Pacific Leadership Fund and a Japan Pacific Center as its management body would serve as an academic focal point for networking with research institutions in the Pacific region, which might develop into a consortium in the future.
  • The suggestion of the five-year cycle itself should not be adopted by the Japanese government. It should be coupled with an interim meeting in the third year in the five-year cycle. As for the venue, it may be difficult for the Japanese government but is desirable to announce, just like Olympics, the next PALM venue at the end of each PALM, as it will allow for better PR activities and help local authorities to better organize PALM-related events.
  • It is also important to consider allocating different districts to different summits in Japan, for example fixing Kyushu/Okinawa District to PALM and TICAD to another. This will allow Japan to organize all the summits in a more strategic approach.
  • I do not agree with the idea of fixing the PALM venue to the Kyushu-Okinawa district as it will limit the PR effects. If PALM is held all over Japan, it should result in better advertisement.
  • Specific PR activities for PALM 5 include a PR TV program, a PALM brochure, a goodwill ambassador, and a photo exhibition. The Japanese government is determined to start these PR activities as soon as possible to reach out to the media and public.

(4) Discussion 3: Catchphrase for PALM5

  • A catchphrase should be created with the notion of "hometown development." In fact, even those engaging in ODA do not have much interest in this region. Japan, therefore, should decide a catchphrase and intensify its PR activities.
  • How about a catchphrase, 'We are all environmentally friendly, rich islanders'? This catchphrase is associated with one of the pillars for next PALM, the environment, and the Pacific Ocean that is rich in resources and shared by all countries including Japan.
  • How about 'I (We) love islands - Let's protect our blue ocean.' Producing PR goods with this catchphrase such as stickers, posters and badges would be a good idea.
  • The ideas about the PALM venue proposed by the committee members today should be taken into consideration in the preparation for PALM6.
  • The Japanese government appreciates all the meaningful suggestions today. We would like to decide on a vision and a catchphrase soon and work harder on public relations. The possible pillars of assistance are likely to be: (1) environment and climate change, and (2) human security that encompasses human-resource development including education, health and water supply. Further discussion should follow on these two pillars at the next meeting. "We love islands" and "Environmentally friendly, rich Pacific Ocean" will be top-listed for a catchphrase.

(5) Closing remarks by the Chair

  • At the next meeting, I would like to narrow down the themes for PALM5 and begin drafting the final proposal. Mr. Talagi, PIF Chair and Premier of Niue, will also be attending the last meeting. He will be co-chairing PALM5. I hope we can make a draft of the proposal at the next meeting and make final adjustments at the last meeting.

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