Expert Committee for the Fifth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM5)
Discussion Outline of the Sixth (Final) Meeting

1. Date:

Thursday, March 5, 2009 15:00-18:30

2. Venue:

Sapphire Hall, Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka

3. Participants:

Committee members:

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

Guest Speaker:

Hon. Toke Tufukia Talagi, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau

Other officials:

Observers: Government and governmental organizations officials

4. Agenda:

  • (1) Opening remarks by the Chair, followed by introduction of PIF Chair Talagi
  • (2) Presentation by PIF Chair Talagi, Q&A Session, Coffee Break (PIF Chair Talagi leaves the meeting)
  • (3) Discussion on the proposals
  • (4) Closing remarks

5. Outline of Discussion:

(1) Opening remarks by Chair

  • Today's meeting will be the last one. First, we will ask PIF Chair Talagi to give us a presentation including an overview of PIF, urgent, common issues the PIF island countries are facing, and the PIF's expectations for PALM5.

(2) Presentation by PIF Chair Talagi

(a) Overview

  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the ideas with you regarding the agenda for PALM5 this May. I hope that we will find practical solutions to various problems at the next PALM. The topics of discussion include the relationship between Japan and Pacific island countries, human safety, and people-to-people exchanges, and each of these topics is most worthy of our attention. However, since the discussion will cover a wide range of areas, it is also important to choose one or two specific issues from among these topics. I met with Prime Minister Aso yesterday, and I welcome the Pacific Environment Community (hereinafter referred to as PEC) framework he suggested.

    I am concerned about the impact of the current financial crisis on the Japanese economy, for it will certainly affect the economy of the island countries.

(b) Requests and expectations regarding the PEC framework at PALM

  • We would like to strengthen cooperation between the Pacific island countries and Japan through this PEC framework.
  • In discussions on the PEC, we need to take an approach from an academic point of view as well to find practical solutions.
  • Threats to the environment specifically pose problems for the water and resources of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific island countries and Japan share these problems.
  • We need to shift our point of view from the conventional "dependency on the ocean" to "utilization of the ocean" through efficient use of resources, for economic growth and sustainable development that benefit the Pacific community.
  • About 130,000 Japanese tourists visit Pacific island countries every year. We would like to form a stronger mutual partnership to enhance the tourism industry.

(c) Comments and questions to PIF Chair Talagi

  • I appreciate your agreement with Prime Minister Aso's proposal of the PEC framework.
  • Please tell us how you and other officials of the Pacific island countries reacted to your conversation with the Prime Minister and the idea of the PEC.
  • As PIF Chair or Niue's Premier, what do you think were the good points of the past four PALMs? What needed to be improved?
  • Peoples of the Pacific island countries have long lineages of ancestors and accumulated culture. I think that slow but steady instead of rapid economic development which harmonizes well with spiritual development of societies, will lead to overall prosperity. Could you tell us your opinion about this?
  • In the PEC framework, the term "environment" has a significant meaning in a very wide range of areas including fisheries assistance, industry-related problems, and cultural problems. Because the environment is an issue relating to large industrial development, it must not be limited to particular issues such as climate change. The environment is an important concept under which we can work as equal partners in the future. The PIF countries are 14 countries of various sizes, and thus practical discussion varies from country to country, causing differences between the overall and specific solutions. Please tell us how the PIF countries as a group reach consensus when engaging with Japan and other donor countries.
  • While each of the 14 PIF countries has a unique culture, society, and tradition, they share common problems, such as vulnerability to the environment/economy and soaring food prices. Isn't there a unique "Pacific prosperity," derived from coexistence with the Pacific Ocean's resources and nature, which is different from Western prosperity? Japan has provided support through personnel exchanges to help the peoples in the region to produce food on their own. I think that this type of assistance will continue to be important. Could you share your thoughts with us on this?

(d) PIF Chair Talagi's answers to the questions above

  • I will report on this meeting to the leaders of the PIF countries and hear their views after returning home, but I will suggest that we pursue discussion on the PEC framework. In addition, I think that reports from this expert committee will play a critical role as points of discussion at PALM 5. I think that sustainable development is the key to solving the Pacific resources problem.
  • The great achievement of the past PALMs is that they have enabled Japan and the Pacific island countries to continue their past relationship. Various ideas have been developed through this relationship. However, we have tended to limit ourselves to academic points; I hope that we can find more practical solutions in the future.
  • Ms. Nakano's point is very interesting, and I agree with her. However, as it was the case in Japan, culture changes. We must accept the cultural changes that are necessary. While our philosophy, which forms our society's identity, will not change, there are cultural elements that need to be changed. By accepting and utilizing financial resources and know-how from Japan, we hope to be able to reduce our dependence on aid in the future.
  • This was a very good question from Chair Kobayashi. The important thing is that we are 16 different countries, and I would like you to understand that. Regarding the four priority issues of the Pacific Plan, it is important that we need to take a country-by-country approach for each issue. I think that firm understanding of each country with its unique needs will make the PEC framework a more meaningful one.
  • I think that aid is not just charity; it must provide opportunity for employment and development in the Pacific island countries. Thus, I think that Japan and the Pacific island countries should work together to create opportunities for development, and such investment will benefit both sides. Through the partnership with Japan, we are hoping to reduce dependence of the Pacific island countries on aid.

(3) Discussion on the proposal

(a) Opening remarks by Chair Kobayashi

  • This committee started in November. Today we are having the last meeting. PIF Chair Talagi shared his views with us, and I am sure that each of us has our opinions about them.

    I thank you for your valuable opinions and comments on the draft proposal that I presented to you at the previous meeting. I had them put together, and I have distributed to you the current version of the proposal and its outline. Personally, I would like to focus chiefly on the outline idea, and make the proposal subordinate to the outline. I would appreciate your cooperation in making detailed revisions to finalize the proposal.

(b) Comments from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

(Remarks by Mr. Kohara, Deputy Director-General)

  • On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I thank you for your efforts to put together the proposal and its outline, which are easy to understand and very informative. It is hard to say anything about the monetary fund at this moment. However, since we have received a specific request from PIF, we would like to consider the request. Meanwhile, it is not easy to establish region-wide projects, since the situations that PIF countries are facing vary depending on the country; we would like to ask for your opinions on this matter. Coordinating with other donors, especially China, in this region, is also an important factor to consider. In addition, considering the importance of PR activities, we are planning to promote the catch phrase "We are islanders," which the Prime Minister introduced to Chair Talagi yesterday.

(Remarks by Mr. Hida, Senior Coordinator)

  • I think that the proposal outline is very thought provoking. It is important that we put the proposal into concrete form for the PALM, but it is also important to follow-up after the PALM. When we have discussion on aid policy with the island countries, we would like to hear their opinions and make efforts to have this proposal reflected in the policy toward these island countries.

(4) Closing remarks

(Comments from each of the committee members)

  • We have had meetings, but we must make sure that it doesn't end there. I was deeply impressed by the leadership and expertise that Mr. Kobayashi has shown to us.
  • It was very informative. Although PALM has not attracted much attention from the public yet, I was encouraged by the Prime Minister's reference on the PEC. I personally would like to widen awareness of the importance of the relationship between Japan and the region. I hope that the PALM will be successful.
  • I attended the meeting on behalf of the private sector, and it was a very useful meeting.
  • I participated in the ODA evaluation for the Pacific region this fiscal year. I attended the committee to use the results of the evaluation as feedback for PLAM 5. I am glad that I took part in the policy PDCA and that it reflects the opinions of all members. The PALM will be held in two months, and I hope that it will be successful.

(Chair Kobayashi)

  • I appreciate your cooperation. I hope that this occasion will get you interested in the Pacific island countries, and I ask for your continuous effort as a member of the 'Pacific group.' I also thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its various efforts.

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