Forum Troika Leaders farewell ‘custodian for regionalism’ at final meet with Dame Meg Taylor

 SUVA, FIJI – 26th May 2021—Dame Meg Taylor has completed her six-year term as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Dame Meg Taylor received tributes and praise at her last official Forum meeting on Friday 21st May, a political dialogue between the Forum Troika leaders and the Micronesia Presidents’ Summit.

While the political dialogue will continue, leading towards recommendations to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders when they gather for Retreat later this year, Forum Leaders made interventions to acknowledge Dame Meg Taylor at the closing part of the session. Their comments follow the regional round of formal farewell tributes from Forum member nations at the Special Leaders Retreat in February 2021.

Fiji’s Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola acknowledged outgoing Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, “for her leadership and huge contributions to the region as the Secretary General of the Forum.”

He said “it would be remiss of us to not acknowledge her hard work and efforts as the custodian for regionalism for the last six years. Her accomplishments speak for themselves. Reforms at the Secretariat; strengthening of regional security arrangements through the Boe Declaration; and the adoption of the Blue Pacific narrative, speaking to our collective identity as a region.”

“She has been a force to be reckoned with in the region and is a reassuring [hope] to a new generation of upcoming women leaders that anything is indeed possible.”

Ratu Inoke noted SG Taylor had come into her role at a time “when Fiji’s own relationship with the Forum was at odds. I believe it was not easy at first, but I’m glad we were able to fully restore relations with the PIF family during her tenure. I therefore convey our sincerest appreciation for her leadership and commitment to Fiji and the region. It is also because of this that we remain optimistic that we will resolve the current impasse that we find ourselves in.”

Past Forum Chair, Nauru President HE Lionel Aingimea, said Nauru and Micronesia agreed with the sentiments of Fiji, saying SG Taylor has “worked tirelessly to try and keep this family together. We’ve always considered you an older sister, with the passion and wisdom of a mother, and someone that Micronesia could always rely on.”

“We know we didn’t give you a happy last six months, but that is true in all families. There are times of ups and times of downs,” President Aingimea noted of the current situation.

He thanked Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Hon. James Marape for “giving up one of their daughters for six years’ service in the region. It is not always easy when one gives up one of their premier daughters to work in the region. Thank you, Papua New Guinea. ”

Forum Chair, Tuvalu Prime Minister Hon. Kausea Natano also recorded appreciation “on behalf of all Members of the Forum to Dame Meg Taylor for the excellent contribution that she has made to our region.”

Dame Meg Taylor said it has been a “great privilege to serve the region as Secretary General to the Pacific Islands Forum over the past six years. We have achieved much, but there is still much to do. We must ensure all Members and the people of the Blue Pacific feel valued and derive value from the Forum. At the same time, and particularly at this juncture of global history, I sincerely hope that all 18 Members continue to recall why the Forum is a necessary institution.”

Dame Meg has served in the role since 2015, supporting Forum Leaders through meetings in Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Nauru, and Tuvalu. A special Forum Leaders Retreat in February 2021 voted in Henry Puna of the Cook Islands as the new Secretary General and a review of the 2002 Appointment Procedures for the Secretary General is underway. Forum Leaders have been engaged in the review process and the outcomes will likely form part of their meeting scheduled for later in the year.

“As I conclude my term, I have never felt more strongly about the need for the Pacific Islands Forum. It remains the only regional political institution that provides us with the space to determine our own strategic direction, free from external influence and dependence,” Secretary General Taylor commented.

“I want to acknowledge and thank our Member countries and officials for what we have achieved together, and I am very proud of the Secretariat staff who ensure we deliver on our priorities. I know you are well placed to meet the challenges ahead under the leadership of Secretary General Henry Puna.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the Civil Society Organisations who have been a great support to me during my tenure, working with us at the Secretariat and the Members’ in creating an environment for a more inclusive dialogue on regional issues.  I encourage you to continue to engage constructively and robustly in regional policy development processes.”

At the February Special Retreat, Pacific Island Forum Leaders had expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Dame Meg Taylor, for her exceptional stewardship of Pacific regionalism and contribution to the Blue Pacific during her tenure. Leaders commended her strong leadership of the Secretariat, as well as her roles as Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific. Leaders noted with respect the strengthened relevance of Pacific regionalism, including the importance of the voice of Pacific peoples in regional policy development, particularly in the face of a dynamic and challenging geopolitical environment.

Secretary General Henry Puna started in the role on Monday 24th May. He is working from the Forum’s Pacific Trade Invest Office in Auckland, New Zealand, while he awaits flights to resume into Fiji. —ENDS

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