May 12, 2006

The Kaselehlie Press

Palikir, POHNPEI - The Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Honorable Redley Killion, headed a small delegation from the Federated States of Micronesia to the 62nd Commission Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) held in Jakarta, Republic of Indonesia, from April 4-12, 2006. Accompanying the Vice President were Assistant Messrs. Kandhi A. Elieisar and Roger Mori, the former is Assistant Secretary for Asia, Pacific, Africa and Multilateral Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; and the latter is the Assistant Secretary for Economic Planning and Statistics, Department of Economic Affairs.

The highlight of this year's Commission Session was the historic convening on April 10th of the Special Session of UNESCAP Pacific island leaders (PLUS), which necessitated for the first time high-level representations from Pacific island member nations, including the FSM, in a UNESCAP Commission Session. The hosting of the PLUS during the Commission Session this year is in line with the visionary reform initiatives by the ESCAP management to strengthen the voice and involvement of its Pacific island membership in the setting of policy objectives and priorities for the ESCAP work program. It is also aimed at improving the linkages between the Pacific members with the Asian members so that the former can benefit from the economic growth and dynamism of the latter. Hence, the theme of PLUS is entitled, "Policy issues for the ESCAP region: Strengthening Pacific island developing countries and territories through regional cooperation".

With a panel-led discussion format of the PLUS, Vice President Killion joined colleagues from the Pacific sub-region in thanking their host and UNESCAP for hosting the PLUS and the gracious hospitalities accorded them. The Vice President also took turn with his colleagues in presenting a slew of development challenges confronting the island nations (e.g. low economic growth, limited natural resources, vulnerability to climatic conditions, rising unemployment, increasing incidence and extent of poverty, fragile environment, smallness and isolation) and sought the support of UNESCAP and its wider membership for the Pacific Plan, which is the framework document that embraces the development aspirations of island peoples and advocates their achievements through regional cooperation and integration. Pacific members of the panel were the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who also chaired the PLUS, the President of Kiribati, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu and the Vice President of the FSM.

Vice President Killion also participated, along with colleague leaders, in the Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF), which is a side event held from April 7th-April 8th, aimed at promoting public-private partnership in the achievement of regional development priorities as expressed in its theme, "Public-Private Partnership for Development in Asia and the Pacific". The Forum was well attended and represented from government officials, business executives, and representatives of civil society.

Like the PLUS, the APBF was led by statements from a panel comprising of various leaders from the Pacific including Vice President Killion, and was chaired again by President Kesai Note from the Republic of the Marshall Islands. With its two plenary sessions on the themes of "Strategies to Overcome Impediments to Development" and "Pacific Connectivity through Public-Private Partnership", Pacific leaders took the opportunity again in expressing gratitude to their host and UNESCAP for inviting them to attend the APBF and in sharing their respective countries' development priorities and their experiences in addressing such needs in the areas of infrastructure development, transport, energy, information and communications technology, trade and investment, among others. Leaders specifically stressed public-private partnership that fits each country's development needs, encompasses dialogue and consultation, and is based on common strategies and shared principles. They also emphasized the invaluable contribution of the private sector in enhancing efficiency of government services, build export and trade capacity, provide funds, knowledge, skills, experience, expertise and technology, even though public and private interest do not converge. Also pointed out was the importance of the government's part in providing public services, establishing and enforcing the rule of law and ensuring transparency of public institutions.

Leaders also pointed out the fundamental role that application and utilization of information, communications and technology (ICT) play in improving Pacific connectivity, in governance and in development in general. They also alluded to the predominant role that government has in providing ICT services as unattractive to the private sector. It was deemed important that the legal and financial environment at regional and national level be strengthened to develop and adopt ICT, especially establishment of independent regulatory authorities while competition for the delivery of ICT be promoted. Along this, Pacific leaders promoted the Pacific Plan's website and its embrace of ICT development in terms of policy-making, infrastructure and human resource development, with the idea of developing ICT as a regional public good.

Vice President Killion took time to participate in a few breakaway sessions of the APBF, specifically the ones on "Implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Green Business Growth Model to Help Change the Lives of the Poor". On the former, promoting the welfare of society, instilling a healthy lifestyle in employees as agents of change, and protecting the environment in resource utilization and in manufacturing of environment-friendly products were highlighted as important elements of corporate social responsibility. The latter underscored the role of companies in developing business strategies that will address the needs of the poor through a resource-efficient approach in production of goods and delivery of services, as well as the provision of environmentally sound technologies to empower poor rural communities to participate in the economy and exit the poverty trap.

With the active participation of Pacific leaders in the PLUS and APBF, along with the strong input of Pacific delegations in the Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries and its Advisory Council held this year, the 62nd Commission Session of UNESCAP was deemed a successful and productive one. Much of the views expressed by Pacific leaders have been well received by UNESCAP and its broad membership, and are destined to be reflected in the work program of UNESCAP. It is through its sub-regional office based in Suva called, UNESCAP Pacific Office Center or UNEPOC, that assistance from UNESCAP are normally channeled and provided to its Pacific clientele.

During informal discussions with staff of the UNEPOC the Vice President's delegation sought continued technical assistance through the center's advisory services program. Consequently a formal proposal from the FSM to the UNEPOC has been initiated for assistance in the area of economic policy development and planning which is expected to commence during the summer of this year.