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Remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at opening of 42nd PIF

REMARKS BY THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARY GENERAL
TUILOMA NERONI SLADE
OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 42ND PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM
7th September 2011, Auckland, New Zealand

 

E nga mana, e nga reo, raurangatira ma (Prestigious people, leaders and Chiefs)
Tena koutou, tena koutou katoa (Greetings to you all)

Let the language of Aoteroa New Zealand proclaim from this marae the salutation and greetings of Forum Leaders to all Pacific communities.

Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand
Hon Leaders of Pacific Islands Forum countries
HE Mr Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
HE Mr Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary General
[HE Mr Jose Manuel Barosso, President of the European Commission]
His Worship, Mr Len Brown, the Mayor of Auckland
Your Excellencies members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of Governments and of multilateral and regional organisations
Citizens of Auckland and Friends of the Forum

These are magnificent surroundings!

Prime Minister Key, let our first words be of the warmest congratulations on a setting so splendidly spectacular. Thank you, sincerely, to the people of New Zealand and to your Government, for hosting this gathering of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and for the largesse of your care and welcome.

To the outgoing Forum Chair, Vanuatu, I express the acknowledgement of a grateful region for its contribution and stewardship of the Forum over the past year. Tankiu tumas.

Christchurch

Honourable Leaders,

As we commence the proceedings of your meeting, let us remember and give special thought to those taken and who have suffered so much as New Zealand commemorates the first anniversary of the terrible earthquake disaster which struck Christchurch last September. We express to all families and to the New Zealand Government our feelings of respect and complete solidarity.

The Forum at 40

Forty years ago in Wellington, rather more modestly and intimate than this harbour setting, seven Pacific Leaders met for the first time: Charles Barnes of Australia, Sir Albert Henry of the Cook Islands, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara of Fiji, Hammer DeRoburt of Nauru, Sir Keith Holyoake of New Zealand, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi of Samoa and HRH Prince Tu’ipelehake of Tonga. These are names that will remain on the roll of honour of Forum history for they took the first steps. Adventurous, but resolute steps with common purpose and shared Pacific identity to build a better future.

It was not the first time Pacific peoples had journeyed into the unknown. But with instinct of the great voyages of the past they will have had sense of the unending promises beyond horizons. And so today we marvel and offer tribute to imagination, to leadership, to Pacific statesmanship.

We also know from the great voyages that Pacific people do not journey alone. Rather, we move with family and kin, for true strength can only be sustained by the mana of community. Togetherness is the way of the Pacific region.

The aspirations of 1971 have not faltered over forty years. In this very city in 2004 in the spirit of the Pacific Plan, Forum Leaders called for “a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, so that all of its people can lead free and worthwhile lives”.

We need to do much more to realise that Pacific vision, for we live in times of rapidly evolving change, times when no one country or region can remain untouched by global events and their forcing influence on the climate system, the environment and our Pacific ocean homeland. There remains unevenness and uncertainty in the global market place; indeed, important economic and power shifts are occurring closer to home in our region.

Forum theme

We want to thank the Government of New Zealand for the theme set for your meeting this year: converting potential into prosperity. Inherent in the theme is a call to action for greater effort and to make better use of the Pacific assets that we have. The region is not without potential, and it cannot be sufficient that we be merely concerned with inabilities and in counting the problems we have.

Honourable Leaders, you may agree that the chosen theme could not be more pertinent in timeliness and forward-thinking or more potent in its challenge.

Pacific Plan and Forum Compact

The Pacific Plan remains the master strategy for regional development and integration. We now have the Cairns Forum Compact as a mechanism for greater improvements and strengthening of development coordination among member Governments, development partners and regional organisations. The implementation of the Compact has become a central activity in regional efforts to ensure aid effectiveness and to revitalise commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

A central feature of the Compact is the “peer review” system, which is an opportunity for Forum island countries to help each other in new ways by using expertise from within the region, as required, to assist in the evaluation of national development plans and the operation of related management systems for more efficient development. These are the practical measures that demonstrate the Pacific Way in action.

Climate change

The exposure of Pacific communities to the dangers of climate change is globally and well acknowledged; and climate change impacts remain at the centre of regional concerns. The world is already locked into a certain level of global warming which will affect all economies and all communities. Climate change is a danger now, not an issue for tomorrow. Adaptation is a must, not an option. Urgent mitigation, including through the reduction of fossil fuel dependence and energy efficiency, is critical to ensuring long-term sustainable economic growth and development. Comprehensive energy ‘road map’ initiatives are being undertaken in several Forum island countries, and we highly commend these efforts. We know from such efforts the importance of having sound national plans, systems and institutional structures, which must mainstream and reflect climate change priorities.

We commend, too, the proposals to Leaders to improve options for FICs in accessing global sources of climate change financing.

On this subject, I want to take the opportunity of the presence of so many of the regions friends and development partners to register the deep appreciation of Forum Leaders for their assistance and support.
In particular, may I say to the Secretary General of the United Nations how especially grateful we all are for his personal leadership. Secretary General, when you advocate for human safety and security in the face of climate change, you draw directly from our United Nations Charter, and we thank you for doing so. We are deeply honoured, Sir, by your attendance.

Security and social issues

Honourable Leaders,

A range of other pressing issues will feature on your agenda including non-communicable diseases in the region which is serious, and the evidence is overwhelming. Pacific Ministers of Health have declared the situation a development crisis and have called for immediate attention.

The Forum Regional Security Committee is also submitting to Forum Leaders a report, the first of its kind, on an old standing but increasingly dangerous state of unexploded ordnances from the Second World War.
As we seek to realise Pacific opportunities, we must not forget the responsibilities we have for our children and youth for they require employment and other opportunities for productive development and engagement. They are, in fact, are our most valuable resource, not just for future, but for now.

Conclusion

Honourable Leaders, many of the challenges I have touched on are major and complex forces, global in nature and not of our making. They come not in single file but often in tandem, and their impacts and implications are well beyond the coping ability of individual Forum countries.

And so, in the name of the Forum I want to reiterate our thanks to all the friends and development partners of the Pacific whose presence at this gathering is the measure of your commitment and support.

I want to acknowledge my fellow Executives of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific and their CROP delegations who are here. It is not possible for the Forum Secretariat to function properly in the service of Pacific communities without the assistance and cooperation of all CROP agencies.

As I close, let me say that we have all been greatly delighted and honoured to be in this lovely and vibrant city, the largest centre of Pacific populations – and compliment His Worship the Mayor of Auckland for making it the most liveable in the world. May Auckland’s hosting of the first matches of the 2011 World Rugby Cup be a resounding success, as may the results for all Pacific teams.

Thank you.

 

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