COVID-19 heralds ‘new normal’- Opening Statement by the Hon Simon Kofe, Chair of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting 2020

Delivered by Hon Simon Kofe

14 October 2020

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

Honourable Ministers

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum

Senior Officials

Representatives of CROP agencies

Ladies and Gentlemen

Talofa from Funafuti, Tuvalu.

It has been over 6 months since we last met to discuss how best we can work together to deliver for our people and our region to respond to the threat of COVID-19. Subsequently we established the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 and endorsed its five protocols which has been instrumental in moving much needed medical and humanitarian supplies and repatriating our people across our region.

Since then, our region has seen three national elections: in Vanuatu, Niue and Kiribati and relatedly, changes in leadership in Vanuatu, Niue and the Cook Islands. At this juncture, may I, on your behalf, congratulate His Excellency, Dalton Tagelagi on his successful election as Premier of Niue, His Excellency Taneti Maamau on his successful re-election as President of the Republic of Kiribati and the Honourable Mark Brown, on his recent appointment as Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.

Excellencies and Ministers, we have also seen the conclusion of the second referendum in New Caledonia and I congratulate New Caledonia on the conclusion of a peaceful referendum process.

At a global level, we have witnessed and continue to witness substantially increased political manoeuvring that will shift the dial on multilateralism and international cooperation. This includes, heightened geo-strategic tensions, increasing challenges to multilateralism, the enduring existential threat of climate change and currently of critical concern, COVID-19 and its related implications.

Indeed, we meet today amidst a ‘new normal’ world turned on its head by COVID-19. The pandemic has exacerbated and exposed the existing systemic vulnerabilities that are inherent in our economies. It has wiped out the hard-earned progress of decades for our island economies and brought key economic sectors such as Tourism to a grinding halt. For the first time in 30 years, global poverty is on the rise.

These challenges exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic possibly signal the cascading challenges that are to come. To overcome these challenges, we must work together as a region. In our globalised ‘new normal’ world, solidarity and unity will be the only way forward if we are to succeed– both at the regional and global level.

Our meeting today provides a valuable opportunity for a collective discussion on key regional priorities that will chart the way forward for our region. The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent is one such issue. Indeed, this is perhaps our only collective opportunity to have a thorough discussion on what we would like to see emerge from a Strategy such as this – the 2050 Strategy will be our blueprint for regionalism and how best we can work together to progress priorities for current and more so, our future generations.

Of equal import will be our discussion on climate action and ocean governance. In particular, how best we can support a considered and concerted way forward on climate advocacy, despite the challenges we are currently presented with.

Indeed, on climate action there is only one answer – swift, decisive and ambitious action now, tempered by solidarity and unity – for it is our survival and that of our future generations that is on the line.

Excellencies, with those brief remarks I wish us all well in our deliberations today.

-ENDS-

 

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