Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor
10 August 2020
PIFS HQ, Suva, Fiji :New economic realities and challenges driven by the COVID-19 pandemic will dominate the 2020 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) as it gets underway this week.
The 23rd FEMM on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 August will be held virtually. Forum Ministers and other Heads of Delegation will consider progress on strengthening climate resilience, empowering women, educating more students, and preparing the Blue Pacific to leverage opportunities in the digital economy. Ministers will also deliberate on climate finance and resilience issues noting that while COVID-19 presents an immediate challenge to the region, climate change creates an existential threat for the Pacific that cannot be addressed without an unwavering global commitment to implement obligations arising from the Paris Agreement.
At the top of the agenda will be ways to help Forum Members manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19. The FEMM 2020 Chair, Tuvalu Minister for Finance Hon. Seve Paeniu says he is looking forward to hearing from other Forum Ministers on how their economies and nations are adjusting to “the new normal” and to develop innovative regional solutions that will address the pressing development challenges confronting the Pacific region.
“We are already witnessing the devastating economic impacts from the pandemic on our Pacific nations who depend on tourism, and I am sure there will be intense discussion around how our economies, already adapting in ways we could never have foreseen, can forge a sustainable path to recovery over the next few years,” says Paeniu.
“We can be certain that as long as the pandemic is still playing out, the new normal takes the lead. It will no longer be business as usual,” says Paeniu.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor noted there has been a record level of interest from Ministers – 15 Members are so far confirmed to attend the 2020 FEMM.
“The meeting will examine in detail the economic impacts of COVID-19 and disruptions caused to Forum Members. She added that “I know Ministers will come to this year’s FEMM prepared for hard facts and difficult choices. This is, however, an opportunity to act as one Blue Pacific Continent to strengthen our resilience through the pandemic and beyond.”
Given the impact of COVID-19 on global trade, Pacific economies and livelihoods, and mindful of protecting the wellbeing of Pacific people, Ministers will look at options for recovery from both the economic and socio-economic perspective, cognisant of the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on vulnerable groups such as women, children and the disabled. These discussions will be supported with specific sessions dedicated to the region’s civil society and private sector representatives.
The Secretary General highlighted that “the 2020 FEMM takes place at a critical juncture and it is my hope that the decisions taken by Ministers will be remembered for guiding the region towards a path of safety, certainty and stability for our people during a transformative moment in Pacific history.”
Since 1997, the annual FEMM meetings have been an opportunity for Finance Ministers to bring focus and solutions to economic challenges facing the Blue Pacific. As part of new hosting procedures, the meeting is held in Fiji and hosted every third year by a Forum member. Last year FEMM was in Suva, and Vanuatu has offered to host the FEMM in 2021.
FEMM gatherings include observers from regional organisations and international agencies including the UN, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, IMF and CROP partners. Major development partners are part of a post-FEMM dialogue scheduled for next week.
Members Confirmed to Attend: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Lisa Williams -Lahari
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Communications & Public Affairs
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat