Statement at the APEC Third Senior Officials Meeting
19-20 August 2018
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
delivered by Mr Shiu Raj, Director Programmes and Initiatives
Chair, Senior Officials, Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me commence by congratulating the Government and the people of Papua New Guinea for their hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for the APEC meetings.
The proposed informal dialogue between the Pacific Islands and APEC Leaders on 17 November 2018 is an important platform for the Leaders to engage constructively on key issues of strategic importance to the region, including improved linkages between the APEC and the Pacific island economies.
I take the floor to share with you some of the key priorities the Pacific Islands are focusing on as a region. I hope it will assist the APEC economies in preparing for the informal dialogue engagements and beyond.
The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders will be meeting in the first week of September 2018, in Nauru, focusing on the theme of ‘Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will’. It’s a call on the Pacific Islands Forum to strengthen our collective will to overcome our persistent development challenges and drive our own ambitions. It builds on the Blue Pacific narrative which Forum Leaders had endorsed in 2017, and which has served to bring a revitalised commitment to regional identity and action.
The Blue Pacific is a crucial narrative to the 2018 theme, enabling the Pacific Islands Forum to work together to advocate, engage and address our collective challenges, interests and opportunities that deliver on our regionalism priorities and ambitions under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Ten days ago, the Honourable Rimbink Pato, Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, provided an update on APEC arrangements to the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers at their regional Meeting in Apia, Samoa.
At that meeting, the Forum Foreign Ministers approved key Pacific Islands Forum priorities for strengthened, strategic international advocacy and engagement in 2019. As the region promotes active engagement for sustainable development, working towards the 2030 agenda, including the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway, the key priorities are as follows:
The Pacific region is seeking international action on climate change and support for strengthened Pacific resilience. Climate Change continues to be the single major existential threat for our islands. Support from APEC Economies is being sought for the implementation of the commitments in the Paris Agreement and continued engagement with the Pacific islands to help build resilience, and assist in the adaptation efforts and mitigation of the effects of Climate Change.
A Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF) is currently being developed by the Pacific islands which takes the region’s adaptation efforts to the next level of efforts, focusing on developing resilient structures that can better withstand the frequent calamities. Support from the APEC economies will be needed in the coming years once the PRF will be operationalised.
The Ocean is critical to the future prosperity and wellbeing of our people. It is our natural environment as well as the primary source of livelihoods, economic opportunities and geopolitical importance. The Pacific Ocean is the past, present and future. It is a powerful catalyst for Pacific regionalism. The Pacific region has established a collaborative and integrated ocean management system. The region advocated collectively to secure SDG 14 focused on the oceans.
We seek a cleaner, less polluted Pacific Ocean. We must work together to reduce plastics and all forms of pollution from the ocean. APEC economies have important shared responsibilities as land states that encircle the Pacific Ocean. We congratulate those economies that have minimised the use of plastics, and encourage other economies to do the same. Pacific Islanders depend on coral reefs just for the same reasons as marine species do – for their survival. Tourism industry and the Fisheries sector is the main income earner for most of the Pacific islands. We call on APEC economies for a concerted effort to sustainably manage our oceanic resources and to protect the reefs, the oceanic biodiversity and ecosystems. We need to stop all types of contamination of our oceans.
Tuna fisheries are a key resource for all Pacific Island countries – for many, the only renewable economic resource. Sixty percent of the global Tuna catch comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It is the only tuna area on the planet where all four target stocks – big eye, yellow fin, albacore and skipjack are rated as sustainably fished with no overfishing occurring. Effective management of tuna fisheries is not just relevant to SDG 14 but to the achievement of a range of SDGs including poverty reduction, eliminating hunger, promoting decent work and improving industry innovation and infrastructure. We call upon APEC economies for strengthened cooperation and sharing of resources and information in the combat against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
Securing the wellbeing and potential of The Blue Pacific is at the centre of the Forum Agenda. The security of our people and their environment is crucial for sustainable growth and development. The Forum is committed to working together to ensure the security of our shared ocean geography, and its resources and ecosystems, from unsustainable exploitation and illegal activities, including illegal fishing and transnational crime. The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders will be discussing the regional security environment, and their expectations and ambitions for regional action on security issues at their forthcoming meeting in September.
We call on APEC economies to protect and nurture our Blue Continent for the current and future generations. It requires strong collective action on regional security. Enhanced regional security cooperation with an effective action plan is necessary to address the security threats to our region, from within and from the outside regions.
Let me conclude by saying that it is heartening to hear the strong commitment by all economies in promoting improved trade and economic cooperation in an inclusive manner for better development outcomes for all. The efforts by APEC economies to support Regional Economic Integration through an inclusive approach with active participation of the Governments, the Private Sector and Civil Society is encouraging.
The Pacific Islands Forum has consistently urged APEC economies to consider tangible and practical ways to link with the Pacific island economies. Many of the APEC economies are the Pacific Islands Forum Dialogue Partners and through that process are engaged in supporting the Pacific islands development objectives. We call on all APEC economies to consider increased engagement with the Pacific islands in supporting sustainable resilient development. Let us not forget Papua New Guinea’s APEC theme “Harnessing inclusive growth, embracing the digital future”.
The onus is on us, Senior Officials, to set up a framework for constructive engagement at the informal dialogue of the APEC and Pacific Island Leaders in November, and to follow through on the tangible and practical engagements that can link your economies with the Pacific islands for mutual and collective benefits.