6 Aug 2004

Don't oversell war on terror, say NGOs in joint plea to Forum

6:34 am on 6 August 2004

The Pacific's major non-governmental organisations have urged regional leaders not to allow the global war on terrorism to divert resources from pressing local issues.

In a statement ahead of a 16-nation summit opening in Samoa today, the alliance of 13 NGOs said real security could be assured only through the sustainable use of resources and if the development needs of the region's people were met.

Pacific Forum secretary-general Greg Urwin said he would formally deliver the statement to the summit - the first time in the forum's 33 years that leaders have formally listened to civil society groups.

The statement said the war on terrorism should not divert resources from the issues identified by leaders in the Biketawa Declaration in 2001.

The agreement outlined ethnicity, socioeconomic disparities, lack of good governance, land disputes and erosion of cultural values as priority areas.

The group urged leaders to accept "the security threat posed by climate change" to Pacific countries, many of which are low lying and susceptible to slight rises in sea levels blamed on global warming.

The Pacific Island countries have also been struggling to comply with new international standards on increased security around port areas and at airports.

In small island nations open access to ports, often right in the middle of towns, has been the norm and with a shortage of land and money, the new measures have stretched some countries.

The submission also focused on economic development, calling Pacific leaders to promote a broad debate on development reflecting people's needs and urged a freeze on any more free trade negotiations.