PRE-FORUM SESSION OF THE FORUM OFFICIALS’ COMMITTEE
14 June 2022- Forum Fale, and virtually
Opening Remarks by Secretary General Puna
- Excellencies, Senior Officials and Representatives of our Forum Member Countries
- My colleague CROP Head, DG Tupou-Roosen of the FFA
- Representatives of CROP agencies
- Ladies and Gentlemen
- Kia Orana and ni sa bula vinaka to all of you – those of you who are present here in Suva with me and to those of you joining us virtually/ from our various Capitals across the region.
- I am so very pleased to welcome you all to this Pre-Forum Session of your Forum Officials’ Committee.
- I recognise that we have a very full agenda before us for the next two days, so I will keep my remarks very brief.
- At the outset, I wanted to register my personal appreciation to you all for your continued engagement, and participation in support of our Forum work programme. Your efforts are the basis for all we do together to advance our collective priorities and to progress our Forum Agenda.
- Indeed, our relevance and effectiveness as a Secretariat is dependent on how best we listen to you and how seamlessly we can work with you in support of the priorities that you have set to be achieved, together.
- When I addressed this Committee 11 months ago, I recognised and acknowledged the breadth and depth of skills that each of you brought to this Committee, as representatives of your respective Governments: to discuss, collaborate and settle collective recommendations for the consideration of our political leadership. That recognition still holds true today.
- In fact, the agenda for the meeting today and tomorrow are testament to your work, contribution, and collaboration over the last year.
- It would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge in particular, the considerable efforts and leadership shown by the Government of Fiji since it took on the mantle of Forum Chair in August last year.
- I must say, that words fall short when it comes to describing the effort that the Chair and his Officials have invested in leading and progressing a range of regional processes and initiatives over the last year, amidst a range of competing priorities – it has been an amazing feat of tenacity, determination and the single minded intention to keep this family united – to all of you, vinaka vakalevu and meitaka ma’ata.
- A little over 24 months ago, our strategic context was redefined by the onset of COVID-19. Since then, we’ve navigated a world that had been unravelled by a raging pandemic and worked through national capacities that were stretched with limited resources.
- And as we begin to grapple with economic recovery following long periods of border closure, we must contend with yet another context – one marked by intensifying geostrategic competition that has catapulted our region to the centre of global attention in 2022.
- We, as a region, have never held as much leverage and influence as we perhaps do, today.
- However, if we are to truly maximise our leverage to this increasing interest and attention on us, we must protect the sanctity of our solidarity – as Blue Pacific Continent. As one Pacific Forum Family.
- To that end, I congratulate the Forum Chair and our respective Leaders for their efforts in securing the Suva Agreement that was concluded last week recognising that further dialogue and work remains, particularly, on its operationalisation and related implications.
- However, in the context of strategic contest, this sends a clear message to the world of our Leaders intention to remain united as a Forum Family, and the promise that it carries for the realisation of our vision for 2050 – which will be tabled for final endorsement by our Leaders in the coming month.
[Securing our Future]
- Indeed, I do believe that it is timely that Leaders consider and endorse the 2050 strategy, particularly in the context of fierce geopolitical competition, as well as worsening climate change projections and impacts.
- These trends have the potential to shape our region in deeply fundamental and potentially irreversible ways. So, to have a strategy that sets out where we want to be as a region, is critically important at this juncture in our history.
- There is no secret that our key strength as a region lies in our ocean and its resources. How we secure it, protect it, leverage and benefit from it through regional political settlements, as well as regulatory, policy and legal instruments, will be core to the success of our 2050 Strategy.
- I am in no doubt of the collective wisdom of this committee to ensure that the recommendations and policy options that we will eventually take to our Leaders in the coming month will only serve to improve and strengthen our solidarity as the Pacific Islands Forum.
- Finally, before I conclude, allow me to also acknowledge and commend all of you who were party too or supported the initiative to establish and convene the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting which was successfully concluded last Thursday.
- It was for me, a great honour to be in this position for that inaugural meeting. I look forward to many great discussions emanating from that forum in the years to come.
- With those brief remarks, I wish us all well in our deliberations over the next two days. –ENDS
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