SOPAC Lives on… for now.

PAC – SOPAC:
PACNEWS                                   
                                                          PACNEWS
1: Tues 10 Nov 2009

 SOPAC
not ready for January 2010 merger deadline, Governing Council

 10 NOVEMBER 2009 SUVA (Pacnews) — The
planned integration of the Fiji-based Secretariat of the Pacific Islands
Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) with two regional organisations will not
go ahead as planned on 01 January 2010, PACNEWS
has been told.

 Instead, SOPAC’s
Governing Council has given its director, Cristelle
Pratt until July 2010 to prepare draft detailed integration
agreements with the heads of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and
the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP).

 Both SPC and SPREP were
to take over some functions of SOPAC’s work programme from January next
year.

 The draft integration
agreements will be circulated to members by July 2010 before the Governing
Council meets in October, where PACNEWS was
told, a decision on whether to dissolve or suspend the organisation’s
constitution will be finalised,

 “Notices for proposals
for suspension, dissolution or amendment to the SOPAC Agreement in accordance
with Article 14, to facilitate full and effective implementation must be
circulated by July 2010 three months ahead of the next annual session of
Council.”

 A copy of the record of
deliberations of the SOPAC Governing Council meeting in Vanuatu a week ago
obtained by PACNEWS said the
integration agreements must ensure that all parties agree to the key terms of
the take-over of SOPAC.

 “It must provide a
“Road Map” for orderly implementation, provide employees and third
parties with certainty regarding structure of transactions and include
oversight and recourse procedures, the Governing Council resolved.

 The 17 members of SOPAC
have now been instructed that during the transition period, “The
Governing Council will continue its role as provided for in the SOPAC
Establishment Agreement, supported by a director.”

 The contract of both
SOPAC director, Ms Pratt and her deputy, Bhaskar Rao, ends in January and March
next year respectively.

The Governing Council has
not made a decision on their replacements or who will head the organisation
during the transition period.

PACNEWS understands SOPAC’s energy and ICT outreach programmes ‘may be able
to move to SPREP and SPC by January next year.’

 “Any agreement
dealing with energy and ICT outreach will be relatively simple and
straightforward, according to resolutions of the SOPAC Governing Council.

 A well placed source that
attended the Vanuatu
meeting told PACNEWS that it will
take SOPAC, at the minimum, at least 24 months to comply with the requirements
of its Establishment Agreement.

 “The full and
effective implementation of the RIF decision from Jan 2010 will require a
transition period, during which issues such as funding contracts, employees
contracts and relationships, intellectual property, budget and governance must
be addressed and resolved through the development of an integration agreements
between SOPAC and the receiving organisations (SPC and SPREP).”

 Any decision on the
suspension, dissolution or amendment of the SOPAC Establishment Agreement will
require ratification by two thirds of the full members.

 “This means 12 out
of the 17 members of SOPAC will ratify any change in status. Some members need
ratifications through Congress, Parliaments or by cabinets. This is a long
process itself,” according to our source.

 “There is no way
that SOPAC will fully integrate by 01 January 2010, our source told us.

 Director General of the
Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Jimmie Rodgers reminded the SOPAC
Governing Council that as a ‘sovereign entity – any decision to
dissolve or suspend the organisation must be guided by its constitution.

 According to meeting
records, Dr Rodgers advised against a ‘potentially contentious’ arrangement
where an independent entity was expected to operate within another independent
entity.

 SOPAC members had sought
legal advice from a U.S based legal firm, K&L Gates, who provided legal
options available under the SOPAC constitution.

Fiji introduced a resolution, supported by most member states, urging members not to rush into the merger but comply with legal requirements of
the SOPAC Agreement.

 “The resolution was
drafted to ensure compliance with SOPAC Agreement, capture all the concerns
expressed by island member states since the start of the RIF process and to
ensure a smooth transition process for the transfer of SOPAC functions into SPC
and SPREP, according to the Governing Council report.

 “The Fiji
resolution clearly outlines what the SOPAC Constitution requires us to do to
achieve this dissolution. We’ve always been reminded about the Rule of
Law, Good Governance and Transparency as required under the Pacific Plan. This
is an opportunity to put into practice these fine ideals, said a SOPAC member
government official.

 In August this year,
Pacific Leaders meeting in Cairns,
Australia
‘agreed that specific functions relating to the environment be
transferred to SPREP, while the rest of the core functions are integrated into
a geoscience unit within SPC.’

 SOPAC,
an intergovernmental regional organisation with 17 full members was established
in 1972 under the Economic and Social Division of the United Nations as a
project called the Committee for Coordination of Joint Prospecting for Mineral
Resources in South Pacific Offshore Areas (CCOP/SOPAC), to promote offshore
mineral and petroleum prospecting. The secretariat became autonomous in 1984
with the funding of its member countries, donor countries and international
agencies to steer its annual operations….PNS (ENDS)

 [PacNews based this article on an
earlier draft of the meeting record, and verified certain details with SOPAC, but the slant, certain inaccuracies and
conclusions should be attributed to PacNews]

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About Alan

Alone in a sea of spinifex.
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