Opening Remarks delivered by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor
at the Pre -Forum Session of the Forum Officials Committee
7 October 2020
Excellencies and members of the Forum Officials Committee
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me extend a very warm welcome to you all and allow me to offer my gratitude for your efforts to be here today in this virtual meeting.
Let me say that I have been heartened by the level of Members’ engagement in various aspects of our work, particularly, since the beginning of this year with the onset of the current crisis.
I wish to touch on some of our key achievements.
Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C)
- The region acted quickly in response to COVID-19. The Pacific Humanitarian Pathway comprising of a Ministerial Action Group and its operational arm was established by Forum Foreign Ministers on the invocation of the Biketawa Declaration by Leaders.
- The five common regional protocols which underpin the PHP-C has been used so far to move 428 cubic tonnes of much needed medical and humanitarian supplies using national assets and the Pacific Humanitarian Air Service with flights to Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands
- Additional Covid related cargo and passenger flights are planned for Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
- The Pathway is a regional endeavour that demonstrates our collective action and a milestone we should be proud of as the only region in the world to have achieved such a platform.
- However, short and long-term challenges remain, especially until there is a safe and effective vaccine for the region.
- The short-term challenges include coordination and alignment at national and regional levels by regional and international agencies, the socio-economic impact, particularly on women, girls and vulnerable groups.
- An emerging issue is the repatriation of thousands of our nationals unable to return home. As prompted by some members, we have carried out preliminary internal work on this.
Forum Economic Ministers Meeting
- The Forum Economic Ministers 2020 met virtually in August with the meeting focussing largely on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Forum Island Countries.
- FEMM issued a Ministerial statement on Economic and Social Impacts of COVID-19 on the Pacific, highlighting the serious impacts on Pacific economies, and called for support from the international community.
- In recognition of the value of collective action in addressing common challenges, a regional COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce will be established to build back more resilient and sustainable economies, including a focus on health sector investments.
- FEMM also endorsed the 2020 Biennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report, and endorsed the Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF) Prospectus and Transitional Arrangements.
Forum Trade Ministers Meeting
- The Forum Trade Ministers endorsed the new Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy (PAfTS 2020-2025).
- Quality Infrastructure and Ecommerce have been prioritized to support members to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
- On Quality Infrastructure, work is underway with development partners to support implementation of various initiatives with Forum Island Least Developed Countries and additional resources will be mobilised to support non-LDC Forum Island Countries.
- On E-commerce, and the Secretariat is currently working on the development of a regional E-commerce strategy and roadmap for implementation which we hope to put before Members for consideration in early 2021.
- Members, with respect to progress on the development of the 2050 Strategy, let me convey my sincere thanks to the co-Chairs of the FOC Sub-Committee on the 2050 Strategy, for their leadership, intelligence, and guidance in taking this substantive piece of work forward.
- Members, I also thank and congratulate for you all, for your efforts in supporting this work, particularly in the current circumstances. Your commitment to holding comprehensive and inclusive national consultations demonstrates your commitment to Pacific regionalism.
- It is my heartfelt belief that the investment we are putting in to this long term project now, will pay off for our children and our grandchildren, who will inherit this region.
- Let me also acknowledge our CROP colleagues who continue to ably support the ongoing progress of the regional agenda and have been particularly collaborative through this COVID period.
Members, recently, there has been speculation around the possible fragmentation of the Pacific Islands Forum over the appointment of the next Secretary General. The Secretariat is working closely with the Forum Chair, Tuvalu, to map out the process for the appointment of the next Secretary General, consistent with past practice and taking into account that Leaders will be meeting virtually. The Forum Chair has written to Leaders with some options around this and it will be the Leaders who will decide the process to be followed. It is my hope that our Leaders will reach consensus on a way forward!
During this time, as it has in the past, regionalism continues to be a rallying point! Our collaborative approach to responding to COVID-19 demonstrates our regional solidarity and commitment to one another. As we have collectively responded to nuclear testing, political and economic instablity, the climate emergency and our geopolitical environment, we always seem to emerge stronger and better!
It is my hope that our Pacific Way, our collective aspirations for one Blue Pacific will always bring us together! Unified and emboldened to navigate the currents of our present and our shared future.
I thank you!