RMI Faces Logistics Issues As 2013 Pacific Forum Host
By Giff Johnson
SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 9, 2012) – The Marshall Islands will host next year’s annual gathering of the Pacific Islands Forum, and the country’s ambassador to Fiji says it will be a major undertaking.
A team of officials from the Forum Secretariat in Fiji is expected to visit Majuro later this month to start coordinating efforts with local officials for next year’s leaders’ meeting in Majuro. It is expected to bring at least 300 people to Majuro, a number that will encounter limited hotel rooms overflowing with guests for the ten days of meetings.
The hosting by the Marshall Islands of the most important body in the Pacific will mark the second time that Majuro has played host to the Forum. The first was in 1996.
"A Pacific Islands Forum team will be here at the end of November with a checklist for organizing the meetings," said Marshall Islands Ambassador to Fiji Frederick Muller.
The Forum Secretariat, based in Suva, will provide technical support for hosting the event. For funding to support the ten days of meetings that will take place in August next year, "we need to talk to our development partners about help," said Muller.
He said the cabinet was expected to name an official Forum organizing committee in the near future to get preparations underway.
A key issue for organizers is an undeniable shortage of hotel space to accommodate the hundreds of people who annually attend the Forum meetings. In addition to heads of state of all independent Pacific nations as well as New Zealand and Australia, hundreds of officials from the islands and donor partner countries participate in a series of pre-Forum and post-Forum sessions.
In recent years, attendance at the Forum meetings has averaged around 300 people, Muller said. But the Forum meeting held in the Cook Islands in August blew this average out of the water when 600 people flew in to the meetings. Muller said the attendance by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a high-level leader from Beijing produced large entourages and increased the number of media who attended the event in the Cook Islands.
Muller is confident the Marshall Islands can handle a 300-participant Forum, but emphasizes the need to get organization and logistics matters moving ahead now so that there is time to address and fix any issues that are identified.
He praised the Cook Islands government for its superb hosting of the recent Forum meeting, saying the Marshall Islands’ neighbors to the south set a high standard for Majuro to follow.
At the opening ceremony in Rarotonga, each head of state was carried into the national gymnasium on a decorated platform by half a dozen Cook Islands men as welcoming music and dancing celebrated the arrival of each VIP. School children followed each head of state carrying flags from the country represented. "The leaders are the stewards for the future of the Pacific," said Muller. "Having the kids there connected things for the leaders."
Muller said he will be liaising closely with the Forum Secretariat in Fiji as well as with Marshall Islands officials as organizing efforts for next year’s meetings get underway. The Forum is expected to be held the last week of August or early September.
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