Delivered by Dame Meg Taylor
14 October 2020
Chair of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting, Hon Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu
His Excellency Taneti Maamau, President of Kiribati
The Honourable Prime Ministers of Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands, the President of New Caledonia, and the Hon Premier of Niue
Representatives of CROP agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning and bula vinaka from your Secretariat in Suva.
Excellencies, I wish to extend to you all a warm welcome and thank you all for availing yourselves to be here today, albeit virtually!
I wish to echo the sentiments of the Chair by congratulating his Excellency Taneti Maamau for his re-election as President of Kiribati, Honourable Dalton Tagelagi for his appointment as Premier of Niue and the Honourable Mark Brown for assuming the mantle of leadership of the Cook Islands.
Honourable Ministers, today we meet in exceptional times and under extraordinary circumstances.
The Pacific Islands Forum response to COVID-19 was decisive and coherent. Using available regional mechanisms such as the Biketawa Declaration and the Boe Declaration, we were able to achieve a world first with the establishment and operationalisation of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, our regional response platform which has been able to move around 47,000 kilograms or 466 cubic metres of medical and humanitarian supplies through our region.
In the midst of response, we have already turned an eye to recovery with our Economic Ministers calling for support from the international community by highlighting the serious impacts of COVID-19 on our economies and livelihoods. Furthermore, our Trade Ministers have prioritised infrastructure development and digitisation and E-commerce as vital for rebuilding resilient economies moving forward.
I wish to also acknowledge our international partners, in particular those who responded despite their own circumstances to support our regional and national efforts in contending with this pandemic.
This crisis should serve as a wake-up call for our region. Notwithstanding COVID-19 and whether there is a vaccine today or tomorrow – we will continue to face a more pressing challenge, the existential threat of climate change and its related impacts.
Climate change as a threat multiplier will exacerbate the systemic vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19 and when coupled with natural disasters and other climatic shocks, economic downturns and the resultant impact on coping capacities at national, community and family level – we need to be ready and we need to be resilient.
Whilst the full impact of COVID-19 and what our post-COVID-19 region, or indeed global landscape will look like, I believe that COVID-19 and the enduring crisis of Climate Change has continued to justify and reaffirm the need for – and relevance of – regionalism and indeed – multilateralism.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, today, issues of import and significance will be discussed, that would in my hope strengthen our region’s solidarity and unity, now and into the future.
Your guidance and direction will steer ‘The Blue Pacific’ to effectively weather the currents of COVID-19 today and the challenges of tomorrow.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, with those brief remarks I wish you well in your deliberations today.