Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna
Welcome Remarks at the
Blue Pacific Talanoa Webinar Series 2021, August 27th event
Pacific History, Global Futures- Securing a Nuclear-Free Blue Pacific
Friday 27th August, 10am FJ
International Day against Nuclear Tests, 29 August 2021
Friday 27th August, Suva FIJI--Greetings to all our Pacific people and friends across our Blue Pacific Continent and beyond. I am honoured to welcome you all to this important Pacific event to commemorate International Day against Nuclear Tests. A special welcome also to our distinguished panellists.
At the outset, I join the Prime Minister of Fiji and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Honourable Josaia Bainimarama, in paying respect to all the victims and survivors of nuclear tests, as well as to their families.
I also recall and pay tribute to the strong leadership of all our Forum Leaders, past and present, who in unity and solidarity with those affected, have vowed never to allow these atrocities to befall our beloved Blue Pacific home again.
Nuclear testing is a legacy that no people, nation or region should ever have to endure. Indeed, nuclear testing was a key political driver for the establishment of our Pacific Islands Forum 50 years ago.
As alluded to by the Forum Chair, our Leaders have made every effort possible to overcome this plight. Key to our collective efforts is our Treaty of Rarotonga, which distinctly ensures that we are a “nuclear-free zone”, and not just a “nuclear-weapon-free” zone.
My home country of Cook Islands was not a testing site, but our people bore witness to what has been described as an “awesome glow in the sky”. Of course, the said glow was a mystery for our people of the North, who swooped to collect, share, and feast on the fish washing up along the shorelines.
In 1965, Premier Albert Henry said, “We are the closest to the French islands where the tests are to take place. If anyone has the right to speak out, then surely it is the Cook Islanders”.
That “right” was in fact a responsibility – our shared responsibility – and one we continue to carry today.
This responsibility is exacerbated by the continuing presence and advancement of nuclear weapons, and the susceptibility of our Pacific Ocean to illegal nuclear activities, including transportation of highly radioactive material and dumping of nuclear waste.
Unfortunately, the nuclear threat is mutating and is now more complex than ever, including the threat of the militarisation of space. In the current context of climate change, there is a growing trend towards nuclear energy, but nuclear energy poses major risks and consequences in and of itself, including disaster-related accidents.
As we face these ongoing threats, we must take heart from our victories and draw on some key lessons from our nuclear legacy such as follows.
Firstly, to enable lasting change, we must do it together. Secondly, we all have a role to play, at all levels in our societies, and through all means possible. And thirdly, we must claim and own our place in the world to strategically influence and shape global change.
These are lessons which have carried us through the past 50 years, and which remain very relevant to the threats we face today. As we look ahead, we must remain united and firm in our resolve to continue our advocacy.
As Secretary General, as Depositary of the Treaty of Rarotonga, and as Pacific Ocean Commissioner, I am fully committed to doing my part in our continued quest towards a nuclear-free Pacific and a nuclear-free world.
I thank you.--ENDS
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