United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres will attend this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Tonga in August.

This was announced by Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum(PIF), Henry Puna at his monthly media briefing in Suva last Friday.

“I wrote to him last month, I think on the 9th of April, to thank him for gracing the lunch that was hosted by the Australian embassy with our women delegates that went over to the UN for their Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) CEDAW) meeting.

“And he was gracious enough to accept the invitation and came and sat with us for two hours. So I thought it’s important for me as Secretary General to write to him and thank him personally for that very generous and gracious gesture. But in closing the letter, I said it would be very nice if he could come to the Forum in Tonga because he’s always expressed an interest in coming to the Pacific.

Although he was here in 2019 for the talanoa among leaders that (former) prime minister (Voreqe) Bainimarama hosted. But this is different, and I think he saw the importance of the Forum and without hesitation, earlier this week, he came back and confirmed that he accepts the invitation, so for me, that’s history in the making – the first time that a UN Secretary General has graced our Forum.”

Puna said Tonga is “over the moon” with the announcement and “looks forward very much to making sure that the appropriate welcome and respect and courtesies are extended to the United Nations Secretary General”.

Meanwhile, the review of the Pacific region architecture, a core undertaking that will precede the delivery of the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy, will not be rushed, said outgoing Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna.

Upon the mandate of Pacific leaders in Cook Islands last year, PIFS is leading the implementation work of the Blue Pacific Strategy in partnership with member countries, the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) and regional agencies, development partners and key stakeholders.

“I’m pleased to say that there will be a report, not the finished product, to our leaders in August, when they hold their Forum Leaders’ meeting in Tonga,” Puna told the Fiji Times.

“If I can summarise the concerns that have emanated from our members, it is the perception that there is too much duplication of work, too many meetings dealing with the same issue, so what they’re really asking for is that there needs to be better alignment and better coordination and collaboration between PIFS and these various CROP agencies.

“I think that is a very reasonable request, because from our sponsors’ point of view, they really want to see real value for their money. We respect that very much. So, that’s a brief report on the review of the regional architecture – very important work that will not be rushed. It will be handled with care and sensitivity.”

Puna said in streamlining the different CROP agencies, consideration must be given to their complex realities in that they are funded by a number of bigger countries who are also members.

“It’s very important for us to be conscious of that when we are dealing with this sensitive issue and we need to respect the sovereignty of these organisations.”

CROP agencies are: The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme(SPREP), the University of the South Pacific(USP), the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), South Pacific Tourism Organisation(SPTO), Pacific Power Association(PPA), Pacific Aviation Safety Office(PASO).