8th Vanuatu Heads of Missions Meeting Underway

A group of Vanuatu's Heads of Missions at the National Convention Centre yesterday. Picture: VANUATU DAILY POST

PORT VILA, 02 JULY 2019 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Ralph Regenvanu, Monday welcomed all Vanuatu’s Heads of Missions (HOM) to the 3-day 8th HOM meeting held at the National Convention Center.

“To all Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consul Generals who have travelled from all corners of the world to be here today, welcome home,” Minister Regenvanu said.

“It has been a great year establishing working relationships with you all and I look forward to a more frank and open constructive discussions over the course of the meeting.”

This year’s HOM theme is “Expanding opportunities for our children through a responsible and representative Foreign Service”.

Minister Regenvanu said this coincides with an initiative that will be introduced for the first time this year – the School Outreach Program (SOP).

“The SOP will provide an opportunity for our diplomatic representatives to interact with students from different secondary schools around Efate,” he told the diplomats.

“This initiative will provide a platform for students to have direct interaction with you all as diplomats through your stories and the sharing of your experiences.”

He said the HOM meeting is an important platform for discussions and collaboration on the country’s foreign policy reflecting the visions and goals of the government, through its National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP 2016 to 2030).

“Last year’s HOM outcomes should be our starting point in this process,” the Minister said.

“We need to take stock of its implementation; the challenges surrounding implementation and the ways in which we can better manage key policy directives amongst the relevant stakeholders in achieving our underlying objectives.

“As we report on our achievements for the past year, we will also discuss ways we can better address our challenges, establish new partnerships with the relevant government line agencies, bilateral and multilateral partners.

“We are operating in such a dynamic and complex international environment that assertive international engagement is utterly fundamental to our success as a nation.

“The work of our diplomats overseas is significantly important to our national interests with an increasing expectation on the Foreign Ministry to conduct and implement the country’s Foreign Policy Objectives which, most fundamentally, are about promoting the Government’s development agenda.”

The Minister noted the progress so far, saying the Government continues to ensure there is representation in key strategic areas.

“This year we have appointed two Consul Generals, one in the Philippines and the other in Guangzhou, China,” he said.

“The presentation tomorrow (today) by the Ministry will identify and recommend new areas of strategic interest to Vanuatu where having a presence is fundamental to the development objectives of our country.

“To achieve our foreign policy objectives, we must continue to attach great importance to relations with all our bilateral partners. Our engagements with our traditional partners – Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan and France – continue to grow.

“We remain committed to enhance our cooperation in areas of common interest with them. We also welcome the re-establishment of the British High Commission here in Port Vila this year.”

Through these relations also, Vanuatu had welcomed unprecedented visits this year by Australia’s Prime Minister in January, the UN Secretary General in May and just last month the second visit of the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs in less than 12 months.

“Similarly, over the last 12 months our Prime Minister and several Ministers have made official visits to Australia, New Zealand and China,” the Minister added.

“These high-level exchange visits reflect genuine reciprocal commitments by ourselves and our key partners to deepen engagement at the bilateral and multilateral levels and raise the country profile at the global level.

“We must continue to work in building friendships and partnerships with our partners in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the African regions.  We need to strengthen our interactions with the countries of these regions that have great potential to assist in our cause for development.

“We have forged development cooperation agreements with some countries in these regions and greater effort is required to extract tangible economic returns from these development frameworks.”

Minister Regenvanu said Vanuatu is making significant progress on the global stage.

“On the global stage, we have made remarkable progress in projecting Vanuatu at the UN and at the same time defending our interest as a small island nation in the international arena,” he said.

“The recent appointment of Vanuatu’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO), Laurent Parenté, as Chair of the Technical Cooperation Committee (TCC) is an excellent example of this progress.”

In the region, Vanuatu attaches great importance to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the process by which regional priorities are being identified and implemented at the national level.

“The peace and stability of the region is our priority and we welcome ongoing review of the region’s policy priorities,” he said.

Engagement with regional platforms remains critical for strategic reasons, and for leverage of national positions on issues of mutual concern.

Regional cooperation and integration remain an important foreign policy pillar of the Vanuatu Government. Vanuatu’s hosting of the Forum next year, and of the SPC Council in 2021, provide important opportunities to this end.

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