REMARKS: Forum SG Puna At NUS Singapore Pacific Training on Current International Legal Issues



Remarks by Secretary General Mr Henry Puna

Wednesday 2 March 2022


His Excellency, Professor Tommy Koh, Chair of the Governing Board of the Centre for International Law (CIL), National University of Singapore, and Ambassador-at-large, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Co-Directors, Dr Nilufer Oral and Professor Patricia Teles,

Delegates and Participants from across the Blue Pacific,

Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ni sa bula vinaka, Kia Orana, and warm Pacific greetings to you all.

I am honoured to join you today as you set sail on this learning journey covering current international legal issues.

2. Let me begin by acknowledging the important partnership between Pacific Islands Forum Members and Singapore, who was recently welcomed to the Forum Dialogue Partner table. I am heartened by the opportunities crystallising through trainings such as this, and look forward to our continued active and constructive partnership.

3. I also recognise and express my heartfelt thanks to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, represented here today by the Head of its Pacific Regional Office, Ms Katy Greenwood. Thank you for the generous funding support for this event, and for your invaluable service to the region and to the world.

4. Let me also express my gratitude to the prestigious Centre for International Law and the National University of Singapore, for kindly accepting and organising this dedicated learning opportunity for the Blue Pacific. I am very honoured to share this platform with Professor Tommy Koh. Thank you, Excellency, for your inspiring and unwavering global service, leadership and legacy.

5. Ladies and gentlemen, before you is a highly topical and exciting set of subjects for the next four weeks – covering International Law, COP26 and Climate Ocean issues, Statehood, and International Human Rights Law.

6. These issues go directly to the heart of our Blue Pacific, in particular the complicated humanitarian challenges affecting our citizens at the front line of the climate crisis. A crisis which was pronounced more loudly by the latest IPCC Report released yesterday, noting our unique vulnerabilities in the Pacific.

7. We are no longer speaking about what if, but what now? About how can we preserve our homes, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and our political independence. What do we do now to determine our own future, and our Pacific identity?

8. A significant response was made by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2021 when they endorsed the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate change-related sea-level rise. This is indeed a turning point, a significant development fundamental to our collective effort to influence international discourse and responses to the issue of climate change-related sea-level rise.

9. Globally, we need to focus on the core issues that affect us all and how we should be working together rather than the issues that divide us. So it is with a heavy heart that I refer to the unfolding conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the millions of innocent people affected. It is a conflict that evokes a painful memory for us here in the Pacific. A memory, which we commemorated yesterday, of the victims of the scourge of war and of nuclear weapons; victims for whom justice continues to be evasive.

10. Indeed, the international legal order, rooted in the UN Charter, is under threat. But it gives me hope that our global family are united in enforcing the rules and accountabilities we have built together. The 11th Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly, which took place yesterday, echoed a chorus of international solidarity right across the globe against this threat.

11. Now more than ever, we must heighten efforts and engagement, at all levels. We must continuously promote the path of dialogue, of peaceful negotiation, cooperation, diplomacy, of respect for and implementation of international law, of treaties, and of international customs.

12. I am grateful that you will have deeper conversations about these contemporary international legal issues and systems over the next few weeks. I encourage all participants to make the most of this opportunity to equip yourselves with the tools and resources to defend the rule of law, in turn securing our nations and humanity.

13. Finally, I bid well wishes to the voyage ahead. It is my fervent hope that this pilot training programme sparks a long-term partnership to build the capacities and skills of our Pacific people.

Vinaka vakalevu. I thank you.



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