REMARKS: SG Puna to FIFA Partnership, MOU signing event, Doha

FIFA – PIF MOU Signing Ceremony, April 1, 2022

Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, Qatar

Remarks by Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna


His Excellency, Mr. Gianni Infantino, The President of FIFA

  • FIFA Council Members, delegates, Confederation representatives and all Member Associations here today

As-salaam ‘alykum — A very good morning and warm greetings from our Blue Pacific region.

May I congratulate you all for a successful FIFA Congress, which I was privileged to attend yesterday. Let me also congratulate New Zealand for winning the Oceania Qualifiers on Wednesday. To all our people of Oceania in this space today, you have made us all proud. Thank you for being such great football ambassadors of our Blue Pacific.

As I watched the Oceania Qualifiers final on Wednesday, I was reminded of this important truth. Success is more profound when its shared, when our individual talents become the unstoppable unity of a team. Together we achieve more. It’s as true on the football field as it is off it.

I feel the same about the MOU partnership we are launching today. Between the Pacific Islands Forum and FIFA. Between the world’s beautiful ocean and the world’s beautiful game—we are here today because of the power of unity and teamwork. These partnerships provide us with a fighting chance, working as a team, to help overcome the single greatest threat facing the Pacific and our Blue planet – Climate Change.

Friends, it would be remiss of me not to recognise the visionary leadership provided by the President of FIFA, Mr. Gianni Infantino in extending the footprint of FIFA beyond football to help improve the lives of people across the world, at all levels. Through the FIFA Sustainability and Climate Strategies which cover the scope of FIFA’s engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum.

This is a momentous occasion for our 18 Member countries already living through the drastic and life-changing effects of climate change – impacts that are destroying lives, communities, and economies daily. We also note with appreciation that this MOU with the Pacific Islands Forum completes the final frontier of FIFA’s outreach and engagement with all regions globally. It is an honour for the Pacific to fulfil President Infantino’s vision for FIFA to be an organisation that embraces inclusivity with sustainability at its core.

In his address to the FIFA Congress yesterday, President Infantino appropriately invoked Nelson Mandela’s mention of sport having the power to change the world. We want to be a partner to shaping that action in the climate action space.

We welcomed the launch at COP26 of a FIFA climate strategy — The strategy recognises that the right partnerships are key to moving forward. As Pacific nations, our moral authority draws from lived realities and experience. Today, climate change affects the lives of everyone and every living thing on earth. Without exception, the solutions to the crisis can only come when the interests of the planet come above self-interest.

Indeed, our Pacific islands may be small, but we are large Ocean States controlling a vast magnitude of the world’s ocean resources larger than many of the biggest countries in Europe and Asia. Therefore, we take the responsibility of being custodians of the largest ocean in our Blue Planet very seriously.

There is no mistaking the power of the world’s most high-profile sport. Everyone here is a living proof of that. And as you know, a single point can change history. A single game, the world cup final in July 2018 between France and Croatia, remains the most watched highlight in not just FIFA but world history, with more than 1.1 billion viewers.

For the Pacific, our number isn’t anywhere near that. Yet it is vital to the 1.1 billion and their quality of life right now. Our number is one point five degrees. For the Blue Pacific, 1.5 is not just a number. It is our survival roadmap. Climate change is not just a Pacific crisis, but a global emergency. And to assure our children — and all children, of a sustainable and resilient future.

We have made a conscious decision to focus this MOU on Climate Change because we recognise the power and influence of football, together with FIFA’s global footprint in more than 200 countries, as key opportunities to influence behaviour change from individuals, families, communities, businesses, and governments across the world to commit to urgent and stronger climate targets.

I am pleased that the MOU seeks to support the following three priorities– Firstly, to educate and raise awareness on climate change through sports diplomacy in the lead up to COP27.

Secondly, to improve access to global climate funds, leveraging on the Pacific Island Forum’s expertise, to ensure future football infrastructure in the Pacific could withstand category five cyclones. We have learned to cope with more frequent and intense disasters and our experience could assist FIFA climate proof its infrastructure.

And finally, to support the timely delivery of financing for resilience through a Pacific-owned sustainable financing mechanism – the Pacific Resilience Facility.

Excellency, whether we welcome you to our global pledging event planned in New York later this year or to the Pacific when your schedule permits, we know this is only the beginning of an exciting journey.

And we know this new partnership can help us drive action towards a 1.5 net zero future, a future where the beautiful game continues to thrive– in a world that is still beautiful.

I thank you. –ENDS



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