The Sixth Conference of the Pacific Community officially ended today in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. The Minister for National Planning and Aid Coordination, Hon. Steve Abana, represented the Solomon Islands in this important regional gathering.

Delegates representing the 26 member countries and territories of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami affecting American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga, and other recent tragedies.

"Our hearts go out to the people of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga," Hon. Abana said in his opening statement.

With the theme "Maximizing impacts of Regional Programmes at the National Level," Hon. Abana said that there is a great need for the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities to continue to focus on decentralizing its presence beyond Fiji and New Caledonia.

"The decentralization of the SPC is key in not only achieving cost savings but also in maximizing limited resources. Savings may not be obvious in the short to medium term, but that should not deter us to continue with this important task."

Hon. Abana said that, "the closer the SPC is to the people the greater the impact of its programmes at the national level.

Hon. Abana noted with appreciation the positive contributions made by the SPC to its membership despite the negative effects of the global economic crises. The global economic crisis had reduced SPC's operating budget in 2009 with consequent curtailing of some services.

"The successful implementation of a pilot of the 'One Laptop per Child' (OLPC) has improved access to digital communications and has established higher bandwidth in a village setting," Hon. Abana said. "Such a technology, if used to its maximum potential, would have huge positive impacts at the rural level."

Hon. Abana also noted with appreciation the successful completion of the Socio-Cultural Research on Gender Based Violence & Child Abuse. "The findings have highlighted the need for us to do more in protecting the most vulnerable in our society," Hon. Abana said.

Hon. Abana said that for the SPC to continue to succeed at the national level it must continue to work on developing and expanding partnerships among all relevant players within the country.