DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL for Pacific Ocean Commissioner – OPENING REMARKS
PACIFIC OCEAN ALLIANCE WORKSHOP
01 October 2019
Distinguished Members of the Pacific Ocean Alliance from
On behalf of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General – Dame Meg Taylor I would like to welcome you all to the Pacific Islands Forum, and to thank you for investing your time to participate in meetings of the Pacific Ocean Alliance that will today and tomorrow focus on working sessions and culminate in two days of plenary sessions with the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and UN Special Envoy on Oceans – HE Peter Thompson, wherein I hope we will be able to agree ways to address crucial issues that require our urgent, immediate attention and efforts – to be able to secure our Blue Pacific Continent for us now and for our generations to follow.
As Epeli Hau’ofa wrote “No people on earth are more suited to be guardians of the world’s largest ocean than those for whom it has been home for generations.”
We know that our elders and forefathers understood the ocean and islands as one and made decisions that incorporated present and future interests across peoples and territories. We know we need to build appropriate frameworks that provide the best chances of successfully managing our resources in an integrated and sustainable way, drawing on our heritage and more recent best practices, standards and limits set by our communities and leaders, and international bodies.
This narrative is embodied in the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2010 – as a catalyst for implementation of our region’s ocean policy.
It articulates that institutions that are a legacy of other cultures and places need to be adapted to the realities and strengths of the Pacific way, and the capacity for dialogue and consensus across cultures and distances to reach a common goal.
Further that governance of our natural heritage should be built on the capacity of our most valued resource, people and communities, , based on their traditional ties of stewardship to the land and sea.
Out of this – Forum Leaders mandated a strengthening of the regional institutional framework for ocean governance and policy coordination by establishing a Pacific Ocean Commissioner to provide the necessary high-level representation and commitment – to ensure dedicated advocacy and attention to ocean priorities, decisions and processes at national, regional and international levels. This of course includes framing of our approach to the various international commitments such as the 2030 Agenda and SDGs.
The FPO also establishes a Pacific Ocean Alliance mechanism to be facilitated by the Ocean Commissioner to provide effective ocean policy coordination and implementation, to facilitate regional cooperation for the high seas, and to support national ocean governance and policy processes. As we know the Pacific Ocean Alliance is a unique, open-ended mechanism that seeks to address a gap around the multi-dimensional nature and facets of integrated sustainable management, use and conservation of the ocean and its resources – by bringing together the multiple stakeholders and the multiple interests.
Mindful of this provenance and in responding positively to the most recent decision of Forum Leaders to lift the gaze and develop a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent – a strategy which must ensure social, cultural, environmental and economic integrity, sovereignty and security in order to protect people, place and prospects of the Blue Pacific – we have ahead of us several days of working together – opportunities for us to reflect on progress that we have made, as well as opportunities to project possibilities for our future. These will require constructive and healthy debate given that we purposely bring different perspectives which is vital if we are to achieve strong, integrated ocean management of the Blue Pacific Continent and the areas that surround it. I hope that the discussions over the next two days will provide guidance for the plenary sessions on Thursday and Friday.
You will have received a number of technical briefs that have been prepared as starting points. They provide some background information and are not intended to be definitive but rather to inform and provoke healthy discussion.
I conclude with a final quote from Epeli Hau-ofa as inspiration for us all as we start the working day –
“No single country in the Pacific can by itself protect its own slice of the oceanic environment; the very nature of that environment prescribes regional effort and to develop the ocean resources sustainably, a regional unity is required.”
I offer that we use this as our mantra for the Pacific Ocean Alliance and our collective efforts in contributing to securing The Blue Pacific Continent for us now and for our future generations to come.