PRESS RELEASE - 17th August 2011 - The Pacific Plan endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2005 has recorded good achievements in the past year despite continuing challenges in the implementation of the Plan.

The achievements are contained in the 2011 Annual Pacific Plan Progress Report presented to the meeting of the Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) underway at the Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji. PPAC is the committee mandated by Forum Leaders to oversee the implementation of the Plan.

The Report states that in the fisheries sector, a number of regional maritime surveillance operations were conducted to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The largest of these was Operation Kurukuru in November last year, which covered the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and areas of the high seas - covering over 12 million square kilometers.

In the area of climate change, significant developments included the establishment of the CROP Executive Sub-Committee on Climate Change to coordinate the efforts of regional agencies. In response to a request by Forum Economic Ministers, the Forum Secretariat completed a major study on options to improve access to and management of climate change financing. Agreement was also reached at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable held in Niue early this year on coordinating regional responses by establishing working groups on mitigation, adaptation and mainstreaming, climate change resources, and climate change information and knowledge management.

The implementation strategy for the Pacific Education Framework was endorsed by Forum Education Ministers in October last year. Work commenced on a baseline survey to obtain accurate information on the status and requirements of education systems in the Forum island countries.

As part of the implementation of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Cooperation, peer reviews were conducted in Vanuatu, Niue and Tuvalu in 2011.

Regional accountability was strengthened through the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative (PRAI) and the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance. Key programmes were delivered by the PRAI including financial audits on Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, and co-operative performance audits into solid waste management involving ten Supreme Audit Institutions across the Pacific.

The Regional Institutional Reforms which were started in 2005 were completed during the past year. This included the merging of the Pacific Islands Applied GeoScience Commission (SOPAC) and the South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) into the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

The annual 2011 Pacific Plan Progress Reports states that while there have been achievements under the Plan in 2010 and 2011, major challenges remain. This includes ongoing negotiations on trade agreements under the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. There are also major stresses on the region from the impact of climate change, and the rising costs of fuel and food.

The Report said that in considering the challenges, it is important to again highlight the potential benefits that regional integration and cooperation offers the Pacific region.

The full annual 2011 Pacific Plan Progress Report will be released after the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland, New Zealand 6 - 9 September.