A series of meetings of senior officials from Pacific Islands Forum countries preparing for the Forum Leaders' meeting early next month, started today with a meeting of officials from the Smaller Island States (SIS) of the Forum.

The other meetings to be held this week will include the Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) meeting and the pre-Forum session of the Forum Officials Committee (FOC), the governing council of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

In his opening remarks to the SIS Officials meeting today, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade noted that this was the first time that an SIS Officials meeting is being held before PPAC and FOC.

"We hope in taking this approach, SIS issues will feature prominently and more explicitly in the PPAC discussions and by extension contribute to the formulation of priorities for consideration by our Leaders as they deliberate on our course of action in the coming year," said Mr Slade.

He told the SIS officials meeting: "A key factor underlying the successful implementation of resolutions of the SIS Leaders is strong national, sub-regional and regional commitments. Without these commitments, there is little that SIS can achieve to progress agreed and collective initiatives that address long outstanding challenges faced by SIS. SIS, being the smallest countries of the Forum membership, should value greatly collective initiatives to support their development challenges,"

Transportation, labour mobility, energy including bulk procurement, climate change and development financing, continue to be high priority for the SIS.

"These are issues which continue to stretch our limited social and economic capacities on the one hand, yet on the other, provide the necessary leverages for a more sustainable livelihood at both national and regional levels. In the past year, the onslaught of the global economic and financial crisis adds another dimension that heightens the need for us to rethink and consolidate our collective efforts to address these issues," Mr Slade said.

He urged SIS to continue to strengthen their networking with the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies to ensure they continue to derive the maximum benefits from regional programmes.

Mr Slade also told the SIS officials that the Forum Secretariat will continue to support the positions of SIS Desk Officers in the SIS member countries.

"The placement of SIS Desk Officers in country has, I believe, strengthened the Secretariat's presence and engagement at the national level. They are key positions in facilitating our engagement with you. We will continue to support these positions subject of course to funding availability."

Some of the issues discussed during the one-day meeting included labour mobility, bulk procurement of fuel initiative, sub-regional shipping, renewable energy, regional meteorological services and sustainable financing for climate change

SIS members include the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands.