Creating a space for civil society representatives to discuss key issues and priorities that will be put to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, is the purpose of the “Civil Society Regional Forum” which begins today in Suva.
The forum aims to provide an opportunity for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from across the Pacific to convene, discuss policy issues, and provide governments and policy makers with evidence-based, collective positions on regional level policy. In addition, the CSO Forum is an avenue for CSOs to build and strengthen networks and relations and share knowledge to improve engagements among themselves and with Forum Leaders. [restrict]
“Hearing the voice of Civil Society is important in developing well informed regional policy for the Pacific,” said Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Deputy Secretary General Cristelle Pratt at the opening.
Also in attendance was the Head of European Union (EU) Cooperation with the Pacific, Christoph Wagner, who said “This forum is a unique opportunity for CSOs from the Pacific region to work together, build coalitions and define priorities in view of the Forum Leaders that will take place in September in Pohnpei. CSOs are essential stakeholders playing a pivotal role in linking local concerns to regional debates”.
A total of 33 civil society organisations from 15 Pacific Island countries are represented at the Regional Forum. The discussions will draw from suggestions gathered during a series of national level consultations that were conducted by participants in July this year. It is also likely that there will be a focus on existing Forum priority issues, which include addressing the impacts of climate change, increasing the economic benefits of fisheries, upholding human rights in West Papua (Papua), reducing the burden of cervical cancer, and coordinating ICT across the region.
Six participants from the CSO Forum will be selected to present their policy positions at a special breakfast with the Forum Troika Leaders (the past, present, and future chairs of the Forum) when they gather in Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia, in September for the 47th Pacific Islands Forum.
The 2016 CSO Regional Forum is the second such event organised by the Forum Secretariat through their programme for “Strengthening Non-State Actors engagement in regional policy development and implementation”, which is supported by the EU under the 10th European Development Fund.
Over the next four years the NSA programme will work to engage civil society across the Pacific and enable regional leaders to reflect on civil society’s perspectives in regional policy mechanisms.
SOURCE: PIFS/PACNEWS [/restrict]