20 Aug 2003

Pressure on Urwin to show he is not working for Canberra

11:25 am on 20 August 2003

A political scientist says the new Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Greg Urwin, faces a tough challenge to show he is not Australia's man.

The former Australian diplomat won the post over three island candidates in a hotly contested selection process during last week's Forum leaders meeting.

Dr John Henderson from Canterbury University says while there are efforts to create a more effective, proactive Forum, the organisation is still largely dependent on receiving Australian approval.

He says Australia's dominance effectively grants it a veto on Forum decisions.

But Dr Henderson says a counter to this will be Mr Urwin's desire to show he is not Canberra's man and wanting to put his own stamp on the organisation.

"Tthe first thing he's got to do, is heal the rifts from the hurt feelings from his taking the job, the next thing is to identify himself as a pacific man, one who is there and he can claim some credibility in that regard, given his own extensive background in the region,but it's not easy. It makes the job of Secretary General, that much harder."