OPENING STATEMENT BY SECRETARY GENERAL HENRY PUNA
2021 REGIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM
28 June 2021
Kia Orana and warm greetings from Auckland.
I thank you all for joining us at this Annual Regional Civil Society Organisation Forum. I trust you are all keeping well and safe during these trying times – especially those of our colleagues and friends in Suva.
I would have hoped that our first meeting would have been in person, however, given our current circumstances, I do appreciate the opportunity to still engage and continue our dialogues on matters most pertinent to our region through this virtual platform.
At the outset, allow me to acknowledge the work of my predecessor Dame Meg Taylor. She has been instrumental in strengthening the inclusive element in regional dialogue and regional policy development in the Pacific which has brought about rich and robust discussions to topical regional policies, including the 2050 strategy and ocean governance.
As you will all agree, conversation and dialogue has always been the foundation of our decision-making processes in our cultures and societies. It is in this spirit that I encourage us all to continue to engage in a robust and respectful manner on issues of key concern to our region and our people.
I recognise the good relations between the Forum and our regional stakeholders and partners, CSOs and community groups including women’s and youth organisations – be assured that my intention is to build on this, moving forward.
If we are to reach our full potential, it is imperative that we all work together. The world, and indeed our region, is at an unprecedented juncture in our history. Now more than ever, we must rally together as one Blue Pacific Continent to face the multiple challenges before us – we must work together to address the impacts of COVID- 19; face the challenges of the ongoing climate crisis head-on and secure the future of our Blue Pacific Continent.
You, as CSO representatives, bring an authentic and realistic voice to the regional policy space. You have the unique opportunity of annual dialogues with our Economic Ministers and our Leaders – whilst these have been useful, there is room to strengthen these dialogues further. I encourage you to be innovative and strategic in deciding what and how you approach these political conversations.
As alluded to earlier, current regional priorities including the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, COVID- 19 response and recovery work both at the national and regional level, climate change and nuclear legacy issues require our collective efforts.
With Japans announcement to discharge nuclear treated water into the Pacific ocean, I was pleased to learn that a group of CSOs and concerned Pacific youths that attended last year’s CSO Forum wrote a letter addressed directly to the Prime Minister of Japan in June titled ‘Dumping Hemi Tabu’ – Dumping is illegal. I look forward to seeing more of these types of targeted advocacy on our shared priorities, from CSOs.
The Regional CSO Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen, understanding the regional policy landscape and regional priorities is no easy task and I commend you for taking on this challenge to ensure that your voices are heard through these collective, and often bureaucratic, processes.
This Regional CSO Forum provides a space for you to interact on emerging policy initiatives and to inform the required social, ecological and economic models that can work for the benefit of our Members and the Blue Pacific Continent.
You must use this opportunity to make your voices heard and sow the seeds of change that you would like to see in our region and I very much look forward to the outcome of your discussions.
Before I conclude, I must acknowledge the ongoing support of the European Union to the Secretariat and the Pacific Partnerships to End Violence Against Women and Girls. Their support has been instrumental in allowing us to continue to shape and enhance the engagement of civil society and their communities with the Pacific Islands Forum – I thank you.
I wish you all well in your discussions ahead.
Meitaki Ma’ata and I thank you.
Check against delivery.