HENRY PUNA, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM
2ND Meeting of the China – Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers Meeting.
Monday 30 May 2022
• Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka and Dàjiā hǎo to you all.
• I thank you for the opportunity to join you all this afternoon, and to offer some brief thoughts and reflections, from a regional perspective.
• Indeed, as I had highlighted to the State Councilor at our discussion yesterday, China is, and continues to be, a long standing and important Forum Dialogue and development partner, to our Blue Pacific region.
• In saying so, being a Forum Dialogue Partner is not without its own expectations and responsibilities – chief among which, is to nurture a relationship that is respectful of our shared values, built on joint collaboration and partnership, works with and through our regional mechanisms and progresses mutually agreed priorities.
• From a regional viewpoint, I am very pleased that Pacific Leaders will soon be considering and endorsing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. This strategy will frame our collective action and engagement and will capture the collective vision and priorities of Pacific Leaders, for the next 3 decades.
• Indeed, I would hope that this political regional strategy will form the foundation, upon which our collective partnerships are brokered and strengthened, to progress the achievement of our agreed regional priorities.
• State Councilor, Excellencies, I would like to emphasise two key immediate priorities for our Blue Pacific.
• Firstly, urgent and ambitious climate change action.
• Our Forum Leaders have identified climate change, as the single greatest threat facing our Blue Pacific region. Action to keep our world below 1.5 degrees is vital, for the survival, future prosperity and wellbeing of our region.
• We welcome China’s climate change commitments, but as we look to COP 27 in Egypt, we call on China and our international partners, to submit enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions, in line with the 1.5 degrees pathway and net zero, by 2050.
• Being a true partner and friend to the Pacific, requires urgent and deep climate change action.
• Secondly, COVID-19 economic recovery. As our Pacific borders re-open, and we adapt to life with COVID-19, we invite greater engagement with China, to learn from, and connect with your economic innovation and your education, trade, and business development opportunities. As the Blue Pacific, we must build more diverse, resilient and digitally connected economies, that provide good jobs for all our people.
• Aligned to these key issues, and as I reaffirmed with the State Councilor yesterday, I welcome and commend the recent regional initiatives introduced by China, to support Pacific Island Countries in economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the management of the impacts of climate change.
• Excellencies, we are all well aware of the increasing intensity, of geopolitical maneuvering in our region today.
• Indeed, the recent influx of high-level visits to our Blue Pacific, demonstrates the increasing value that our partners, including China, must place on our collective ability to think, live, engage and deliver, as one Blue Pacific region.
• Many of these partnerships are not new, but have been re-invigored in recent years, often in direct response to geo-political positioning.
• As one Blue Pacific, the onus is on us, and our partners, to genuinely engage to better navigate these relationships in our best interest as sovereign countries, but more so, bearing in mind that as a collective, we are stronger and more effective.
• Indeed, we should not be distracted but rather, we should ensure that our Forum Leaders’ vision for our region, drives all our effort and our collaboration.
• I strongly urge us all, Members and partners alike, to recognise and harness our shared strengths in the Pacific – our culture and heritage; our island and ocean resources; and our natural environment, and forge a partnership based on mutual respect, and collaboration.
• In closing, allow me to encourage and invite China and all our international partners, to work with us, in taking forward our regional ambition, for a sustainable, inclusive future for all
• Meitaki Ma’ata, vinaka vakalevu, Xie xie.
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