PRESS RELEASE - 26 July 2012 - Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers confirmed their leadership and oversight of the implementation of the Waiheke Declaration on Sustainable Economic Development endorsed by Forum Leaders in Auckland last year.

This was agreed at the 16th Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting (FEMM) held in Tarawa, Kiribati recently

"The Forum Leaders recognised, through the Waiheke Declaration, that inclusive sustainable economic development increases the resilience of Pacific communities, including the most vulnerable Forum Island Countries. The recent Rio+20 Conference reaffirmed the need to further mainstream inclusive sustainable development at all levels, that is, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects," said Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

"In addition, the Waiheke Declaration reinforces the FEMM agenda of broadening the economic base if we are to grow and develop beyond our continuing lower than potential growth performance," said Mr Slade.

He added: "Economic Ministers play a fundamental role as national decision makers, and as those directly responsible for the allocation of budgetary resources for development. This gives them an especially significant influence in progressing national and regional initiatives."

The FEMM in Kiribati agreed that a technical Working Group on the Waiheke Declaration, comprising of technical agencies, be established at the regional level to progress inter-sessional discussion, coordination, policy advocacy and implementation of actions associated with the various aspects of the Waiheke Declaration, and encouraged reporting to the regular meetings of the Chief Executive Officers of the Council of the Regional Organisations in the Pacific given the cross-cutting mandates and actions, and to the annual meeting of the Forum Economic Ministers.

Investments in the productive sectors, particularly agriculture, fisheries (including purse seine tuna fishery and management of coastal fisheries), mining, tourism and infrastructure aspects (relating to transport, energy, communications, health and education) are crucial in improving the tax revenues to governments. Further, food and energy security and competiveness are an integral part of efforts to promote public-private partnership for inclusive sustainable development of the region.

An essential priority of the Waiheke Declaration is improving the enabling environment for women's economic participation, and increased opportunities for women to participate in economic development of the region.

"We need to look at the involvement and increased participation of Pacific women in specific areas. The economic and social costs of women's limited participation in the economy is enormous and unacceptable, and we must provide Pacific women with the enabling environment to increase their opportunities to participate productively in the formal labour market and as entrepreneurs," said Forum Secretary General, Mr Slade.

The Forum Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant development partners and technical agencies, will assist Forum Island Countries to improve the enabling environment for women's economic participation, and increase opportunities for women to participate in the formal labour market and as entrepreneurs, as recommended by the Economic Ministers during their deliberations at FEMM.

Some of the recommended specific measures to achieve this vision include removing barriers to women's access to employment opportunities, finance and businesses ownership, implementing affirmative action/equal opportunity employment practices, and reviewing and improving the facilities and governance to encourage women's safe, fair and equal participation in local economies.