PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARY GENERAL HENRY PUNA
VIRTUAL REGIONAL AVIATION MINISTERS MEETING
30 JUNE 2021
The Honourable William Samb, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure and Chair of the Regional Aviation Ministers Meeting
Honourable Ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum
Dr Fang Liu, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organisation
Heads of the CROP Agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Kia Orana and warm Pacific greetings to you all.
Allow me to welcome everyone to this 2021 Regional Aviation Ministers Meeting. Recalling the 2019 decision made in Tuvalu by Forum Leaders in my previous role as the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, you would agree that this meeting is long overdue, and we have COVID19 to thank for this delay.
It is also due to the pandemic that we are convening this very important meeting virtually. Nevertheless, this does not discount today’s significance but rather highlights the challenges we have ahead of us as a region when we look at navigating through unchartered waters of connectivity, particularly aviation safety and security, in the midst of a global crisis.
In 2019, Forum Leaders at their meeting in Tuvalu, agreed to convene a Regional Aviation Ministers Meeting to address aviation safety and security in the Pacific, not driven by our development partners but through a region led approach.
Furthermore, the onset and lingering presence of COVID19 in the world and especially within the Pacific has underscored the importance of regional aviation to our overall economic recovery post-pandemic. To discuss such issues with the current uncertainty surrounding the pandemic is a challenge in itself; however, I am confident that your meeting today will be productive and its outcomes will bring us closer to finding pragmatic and sustainable solutions for our region and its journey ahead.
The vision for the 2050 Strategy of the Blue Pacific is for a resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, equity, and prosperity, that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. Connectivity through a safe and secure aviation sector is critical to achieving this vision.
As the depository of the Pacific Islands Civil Aviation Safety and Security Treaty (PICASST), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat places great significance on a safe and secure aviation sector. Many of the issues on your agenda today are not new. In fact, many of you who have been involved in aviation for many years may carry a certain fatigue in discussing some issues. This, Honourable Ministers, is where the challenge herein lies. We need to shift our thinking and our approach from ‘business as usual’ and start to explore new and innovative approaches to create a more safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector for our region; and one which promotes the spirit of the Blue Pacific while respecting national jurisdictions and development aspirations.
Your deliberations today will therefore play a meaningful role in protecting the lives of Pacific peoples, and will undoubtedly shape the future of air connectivity as a core driver of sustainable economic growth and development for our region, particularly for our smaller island states.
I wish you well in your deliberations.
Meitaki Ma’ata, Kia Manuia. I thank you.