15 Aug 2003

Outgoing and incoming chairpersons set themes for Forum meeting in Auckland

10:45 am on 15 August 2003

The leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum appear ready to embrace calls for closer cooperation, including on security issues.

In his parting address in Auckland as chairman, Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, said Forum members must place greater emphasis on security aspects.

He says the region has a responsibility to make it difficult for criminals to operate.

"In this regard, i again thank our development partners as well as the regional law enforcement agencies for their continuing support for our efforts nationally and in the region. Special thanks must go to Prime Minister Howard of Australia for proposing at the Suva Forum last year a regional policing plan. This is now advancing."

Meanwhile, New Zealand's prime minister, Helen Clark, who is the new Forum chair, says the advantage the region has and the challenges it faces is its willingness to talk and work together.

She says the Forum has to be prepared to look ahead.

The issues we face are both bigger and more complex than ever before. It is up to all of us to see that the Forum re-news itself and ensures its continuing relevance to all those it represents and gathers together. We must be open to new ways of working. We may benefit from co-operating more closely in more areas than in the past.