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DSG Fong Toy remarks to the 2017 Boao Forum for Asia New future for marine economy

STEWARDSHIP OF OUR OCEANS: FOR THE PRESENT AND FOR THE FUTURE

 

Remarks by Andie Fong Toy, Deputy Secretary General

On behalf of

Meg Taylor DBE

Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum & Pacific Ocean Commissioner

2017 Boao Forum to Asia Annual Conference

25 March, 2017


President Christian (FSM)

Governor LIU (Hainan Province)

Vice Minister LIU (MFA)

Governor Alvarez (Palawan Province, Philippines)

Minister Koroilavesau (Fiji)

Premier MacLauchlan (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

Former PM Shipley (NZ)

Mr WANG Hong (Administrator, State Oceanic Administration)

 

Other Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Let me thank the Boao Forum for the invitation to the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Ocean Commissioner to participate in this esteemed panel.  I am honoured to represent her, and to convey her best wishes and regrets that she could not join us due to ill health that has prevented her planned travel at the last moment.

Let me also congratulate the organisers for the initiative to establish since last year the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Islands Economic Cooperation Forum.   In particular, I am pleased to speak on this year’s theme, a new future for the marine economy.

The Belt and Road initiative is a welcome contribution to global economic leadership at a time when the world economy faces serious challenges but is also holding great promise for sustainable development in regions that have a great need for infrastructure, human capital development and access to markets.

The Maritime Silk Road, in particular, allows us to envisage greater connectivity across the ocean, releasing the potential of our people to build closer links with neighbouring countries, both near and far, and to release the potential of our maritime and land resources to create employment and raise living standards.

The Pacific Islands region is one of those regions that can prosper by building stronger connectivity to global markets and welcomes the opportunities provided by the Maritime Silk Road.

The Pacific Islands Forum comprises eighteen island countries, including some of the smallest nations in the world, but whose exclusive economic zones cover a large part of the Pacific Ocean.

As you are aware, the Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest ocean, and for us, it is our home in a very literal sense. For our people, approximately 98% of our territory is ocean, while 2% is land.

The ocean is integral to our culture and our livelihoods. It has shaped our way of life. It connects our sea of islands and links us to the rest of the world. And it is of course an important source of income and wealth that drives economic development for us and also for others.

We are at the forefront of global efforts aimed at establishing the right balance between sustainably developing, managing and conserving our ocean and its resources. Getting this balance right is the key to good ocean governance and management.  Sustainable oceans must therefore be integral to the new marine economy.

The desire of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to achieve this balance is reflected in several key regional policy documents including the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy developed in 2002, and the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape developed in 2010, as well as key regional declarations made by Forum Leaders over time, including most recently, the Pohnpei Ocean Statement – A Course to Sustainability, agreed by Forum Leaders at their meeting in the Federated States of Micronesia last year. There are also ocean-related sector plans and strategies such as the Future of Fisheries – a Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries (for both pelagic and coastal fisheries) and the Cleaner Pacific 2025 (to address marine pollution).

Forum Leaders have also established the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, which works to ensure coordination and coherence between national, regional, and global ocean governance and policy platforms regarding integrated ocean management.

And we have also established the Pacific Ocean Alliance.  It is facilitated by the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and has a broad stakeholder base made up of private, public and civil sector representatives. This is crucial given the need to work collectively to advance integrated ocean management, across sectors and issues.

We of course seek to derive economic benefit from our ocean, but crucially, Forum Leaders have sought and pursued a balanced approach to harnessing oceanic resources as currently demonstrated through our work in the fisheries sector.

The Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries lays out targets and indicators to benchmark and measure progress towards sustainable fisheries, and also calls for an increase in the economic returns. In reinforcing the message, Leaders in 2015 directed that the results of this programme of work should be achieved within five years (or by 2020).

From our position in the Pacific, we note and applaud the recent advances that have been made by the global community regarding oceans management, which resonate with the principles and practices that have been set out in our regional policies, plans and strategies.

We note the prominence that has been given to the oceans in the universally adopted Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard I am proud to note that it was through strong, collective Pacific advocacy and leadership for a standalone goal for Oceans and we all now have SDG 14 to work toward.    

We note that the SAMOA Pathway, which reaffirms the particular vulnerabilities that we as Small Island Developing States face, also sets out a range of commitments on oceans that guided the development SDG 14 and its relevant targets.

As a region, we have interests in the ongoing international negotiations relating to Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, as well as protectingBiodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

The forthcoming, inaugural UN Ocean Conference, to be co-Chaired by Fiji and Sweden in June of this year, will be an important opportunity for the generation of a global collective consensus regarding the long term management and stewardship of our world’s oceans. This should include a strong call for action, a list of voluntary commitments, as well as the development of genuine and enduring partnerships that are appropriate, transparent and accountable and that enable the implementation of initiatives to achieve SDG14.

Beyond these global advances in ocean governance and management, let me state here that within our “Blue Pacific” domain, and in pursuit of the balance that we must constantly strive for between the sustainable development, management and conservation of our ocean and its resources, we must challenge ourselves to continually assess the relevance and currency of the conventional approaches that often inform our decision-making.

As a region, while we must remain attentive to sustainably and sensibly managing our fisheries, we must also look beyond fisheries. We must consider the limitless potential of our ocean – and consider its infinite range of under-explored and un-tapped opportunities. The potential returns from ecosystem services, pharmaceuticals, energy and mineral resources far exceed the developmental impacts that can be realised from the fisheries sector, which is currently our predominant area of focus.

We must look beyond our current modes of operation and pursue innovative business models and policy approaches that give full expression to what has now become the accepted reality of our time.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road provides a unique new platform for the sustainable development of the Pacific Islands as a region, as it does for other maritime economies.  Individually, most of our nations are challenged by small market size, distance from markets and under-development.  The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road invites us to consider how improved infrastructure, connectivity and investment in people and industries could bolster our efforts to move away from donor dependency to self-reliant and sustainable development.

Together as a regionally integrated economy, the Pacific Islands region has the scale in our fisheries, tourism and potentially other sectors over time, to take advantage of the new sources of development finance such as those originating from China and multilateral development banks.

The new marine economy in the Pacific Islands, with new infrastructure, logistics and connectivity to markets, could add value to our traditional fisheries, with greater processing, industry services and aquaculture.  Better air connections will drive growth in our sustainable tourism sector, which in turn will strengthen our local agriculture industries to service the tourism industry and to take advantage of air links for exports.

Chair, thank you again for the opportunity to represent the Pacific region in these discussions and I wish you well for the remainder of the deliberations.

 

Thank you.  

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