The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has explained that as a regional organization representing its 16 member countries it receives a lot of invitations to represent the region at international meetings around the world.

"With the need to make sure our resources, both human and financial, must be used in the most effective manner, the Secretariat has to decide on what are its priorities in order to implement the Forum Leaders' decisions at any particular time. Any decision to attend any international meeting is based on this principle," says Feleti Teo Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat.

"The most important task that the Secretariat has is to service its member countries in the most efficient and effective manner," says Mr Teo.

He explains: "The Forum Secretariat did not attend the recent ACP meeting in Ethiopia and the Armed Violence and Development meeting in Thailand because of competing priorities and scarce resources."

"The invitation to attend the ACP Meeting was received quite late but the Secretariat as requested, prepared a report on the progress of the EPA negotiations with the EU and sent it onto Forum member countries we knew were attending the meeting," says Mr Teo.

The purpose of the meeting in Thailand was to create a regional Asia-Pacific Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, as the third region to go through such a process, following on from the Declaration that was adopted by 42 countries in June 2006.

"The decision not to attend was made based on the fact that the term 'armed violence' does not resonate across the entire Pacific region, and the main focus of our conflict prevention work at the moment is the design of a Human Security Framework for Conflict Prevention that can be applied to all Forum countries," says Mr Teo.

"It would have been good to attend both meetings but competing priorities and scarce resources prevented this."