The untimely death of Greg Urwin, until recently, Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum, was a great loss to the region, the Acting RAMSI Special Coordinator, Jonathan Austin, said today.

"Greg Urwin firmly believed the Pacific's future lay in its members working closely together. In his tenure as Forum Secretary General he worked tirelessly to ensure this," Dr Austin said. "With his passing the region has lost one of its most genuine and effective advocates."

Dr Austin said he wished to express the heartfelt condolences of all RAMSI members, both past and present, to the extended family and former staff of Mr Urwin who are gathering in Samoa for his funeral.

"Not only was Mr Urwin a great believer in the principles of regional cooperation that RAMSI represents but many of us who have worked with him as a friend and as a colleague are going to miss his low key approach and sense of humour."

As a regional mission with a unique mandate, RAMSI embodies Mr Urwin's long and dearly held belief that the future of the Pacific lay in long term mutual cooperation by Forum states.

At the 2000 Forum Heads of Government meeting in Kiribati, shortly after coups in Fiji and Solomon Islands, Mr Urwin was one of the key architects of the Bikitawa Declaration which established a mechanism by which Forum countries could come to the assistance of its members.

It was under this mechanism that just three years later RAMSI was brought into being; soon after Mr Urwin was elected Secretary General of the Forum.

"Since then with the guidance of the Forum Secretariat, under the leadership of Greg Urwin, the Forum has been able, through RAMSI, to put into practice on a daily basis the fine words of the Bikitawa Declaration," Dr Austin said.

"Both RAMSI's success to date as well as the lessons that continue to be learnt from the mission's deployment would seem a fitting legacy for a man who always believed in working closely and sincerely with all countries in the region."