PRESS RELEASE - 12th July 2010 - The issue of climate change will remain for a long time as a top priority for the Smaller Island States (SIS) in the Pacific region.

In his statement at the opening of the SIS Officials Meeting at the Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji today, Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade reminded delegates the challenges faced by developing island countries in the region have become very acute as seen through the impacts of the recent global financial and economic crisis.

The challenges have been further aggravated by the adverse impacts of climate change.

"Climate change, therefore remain and will do so for a long time, a very top priority for the SIS. In that context, your agenda today reflects the serious attention that SIS need to give to climate change," Mr Slade told the Officials from SIS including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

"There was a lot of excitement leading up to Copenhagen last year and disappointment at Copenhagen but that is now behind us. You need to focus your attention on the way forward to the next meeting in Cancun, Mexico."

Mr Slade added: "At the regional level, the anticipation of increased funding resources to support climate change efforts demands a more coordinated framework to manage, disburse and monitor its utilization. This can only be achieved through clear guidance from Forum countries, but more so from SIS, who stand to gain most from these development efforts."

Other priority issues for the SIS includes transportation, labour mobility, energy including bulk procurement and renewable energy. These are on the agenda for the one-day SIS Officials meeting. Cross cutting issues such as food security, gender and disabilities will also be discussed.

"I would like to urge SIS that they continue to strengthen their networking with CROP agencies to ensure that they continue to derive maximum benefits from regional programmes, to assist them in progressing these priority areas, including their own national development efforts," Mr Slade said.

Mr Slade also commended the efforts of the SIS in the implementation of the Pacific Principles of Aid Effectiveness through the processes under the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination.

"I must add and with much satisfaction, that without the constructive efforts of the SIS in the implementation of the Cairns Compact deliverables, we may not have been in a position to report back to our Leaders on the positive progress made on the Cairns Compact." Two of the SIS countries were the first to be peer reviewed and of the eight Forum island countries who reported on their national plans, five were SIS.

The SIS Officials meeting is the first in the series of meetings that will be held this week at the Forum Secretariat as a build up to the 41st Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu 3 - 6 August. The other meetings are the Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) to be held 13 - 14 July and the Forum Officials Committee pre-Forum session on 15 - 16 July 2010.