Honourable Leaders of the Smaller Islands States of the Pacific Islands Forum
Distinguished Ministers, Observers and Delegates
Fellow CROP Executives
I am extremely honoured to be here at this, my first SIS Leaders meeting as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. This being also my first Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting carries both significance and personal pride for me, given it is being hosted here in my home country. On that note, Honourable Leaders, Excellencies, may I warmly welcome you all to Papua New Guinea, my home.
The SIS Leaders meeting is the first of a series of opportunities this week, for you and fellow Leaders to reflect, assess and engage on critical decisions in pursuit of wider and deeper regionalism.
In our meeting with SIS Officials, I offered my commitment and determination to project a more “in touch” Secretariat with the SIS. This morning, I reiterate that commitment and determination. For too long we have expressed much intention and hope in addressing the unique vulnerabilities of the SIS, but unfortunately at times with little or varied results.
Honourable Chair, for the Secretariat, this is changing.
Since the beginning of this year, I have had the chance to meet with you all in your home countries; and let me take this opportunity to thank you for the warm welcome and hospitality you extended to me. A clear message from our discussions, is that the true benefits of regionalism, must be measured by its impact on the most vulnerable of our Pacific Islands Forum collective.
Your agenda today captures the prevailing issues for the SIS, in the context of strengthening and deepening regionalism in the Pacific. Of note, is a call for a more exclusive focus on the SIS.
Honourable Chair, we cannot afford NOT to place special attention on the SIS, if we are to reflect and better understand the real rewards of regionalism. The region stands to gain and learn from the special attention given to the smallest of our collective. Where this can be most evident, is of course in our endeavour to tackle the devastating and indiscriminate impacts of climate change on the SIS.
The Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the opportunity it presents for all Members is of particular relevance to the SIS. The handful of priorities that you consider this week must be implemented as fully and effectively as possible. But this also requires a clear sense of the objectives and purpose for working together.
The opportunity of the recent review of the SIS Programme Unit, provides suggestions for a more strategic pathway for SIS to reap the full benefits of regionalism – driven by the SIS, for the SIS. My hope is that your decisions on the Review and in particular a proposed SIS Strategy, will shed clear light on a more strategic and meaningful way forward. There is real prospect for the region in a more cohesive SIS.
2015 marks a critical point for our region in influencing the course of international affairs. The SIS have a role to play in elevating your collective concerns and perspectives on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the momentum towards the COP21 meeting in Paris, throughout the course of your deliberations with fellow Leaders and key partners this week. Your collective resolve is critical in further shaping a strategic and political Pacific response to these international endeavours.
Honourable Chair, may I at this time acknowledge your leadership as Chair of the SIS and your stewardship as the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. Your leadership, and through the collective efforts of our missions in New York, has embedded within international political and policy discourse the importance of Oceans and its conservation, as one of the central pillars for global sustainability.
To end, let me reiterate my commitment and determination to the SIS by paraphrasing from Sir Mekere on the review of the Pacific Plan; we need to elevate and prioritise the political conversation about the prospects for more accurate responses and for greater integration both amongst SIS and in the context of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
I wish you well in your deliberations this morning and throughout this week.