REMARKS: SG Puna to Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting, 8 July 2022

FORUM FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING
MR HENRY PUNA, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM

OPENING REMARKS
8 July 2022

 The Honourable Faiyaz Koya Chair of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting
• Honourable Ministers and Special Envoys of Forum Member States, Associate Members and Forum Observers
• My Colleague Heads and representatives of CROP Agencies
•Ladies and Gentlemen

Kia Orana and ni sa bula vinaka to you all – those of you who are present here in Suva and to those joining us virtually from our various Capitals across the region.
2. I am very pleased to welcome you all to this Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting. It is a poignant moment, given that we are able to meet in person after nearly three years due to the pandemic. It seems the worst is behind us and we
can begin to look ahead with some optimism, despite the current and evolving challenges we continue to face.
3. At the outset, honourable Ministers, let me acknowledge your individual and collective leadership in steering your respective countries through theCOVID-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic is not over, I must commend
members seated around the table today and those joining us virtually, you have all displayed over-whelming feats of leadership, planning and service to your people, tackling the challenges posed by COVID-19 that ravaged us all, pushed our health care systems to the brink and devastated Pacific economies.4. As a Pacific Family, we understand that recovery will take time. But, I see our region emerging from this pandemic with greater resolve, agency, and
solidarity. Now more than ever, we must rely on each other, pooling our resources together, united in our commitment to continue to serve and protect our people.5. Honourable Ministers, while the virtual meeting platform has been an effective means to an end during COVID-19, we acknowledge that our Pacific Way, and our unique sense of community, dictates that in person meetings and face to face discussions, are a much more effective and meaningful way to ensure constructive and inclusive engagement.
6. Therefore, Honourable Ministers, it is my greatest pleasure and honour to welcome you back to your Secretariat, we have been looking forward to this meeting, let me also assure you that we stand ready to assist and we are here to
serve you.

[Acknowledgements]
7. Honourable Ministers, on a personal note, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to you all for your continued engagement, participation and support of our Forum work programme. Your representatives and the coordinated efforts of your respective governments are the basis for all we do together, to advance our collective priorities, and to progress our Forum Agenda.
8. As we embark on what will be a full agenda and discuss a number of complex but crucial issues for our region, I would like to urge you all to engage freely as each of you bring years of experience that no doubt, will enable us to
further refine the advice that will be provided to Leaders, when they convene next week.
9. I also wish to acknowledge the considerable efforts and leadership shown by the Government of Fiji, since it took on the mantle of Forum Chair in August last year. The Forum Chair and his Officials have led and progressed a range of regional processes and initiatives over the last year, amidst a range of competing priorities – in particular, the single-minded effort to keep our family united.
[Strategic Context]
11. Over 24 months ago, our strategic context was redefined by the onset ofCOVID-19. Since then, we’ve navigated a world that had been unravelled by a raging pandemic and worked through national capacities that were stretched to
the limit.
12. And as we begin to work towards 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.
[Regional Solidarity]
13. However, if we are to maximise the opportunities that this increasing interest and attention presents for us, we must protect the sanctity of our solidarity and leverage – as the Blue Pacific Continent. As one Pacific Forum Family.14. To this end, I welcome the Suva Agreement that was concluded last month.
15. The Agreement provides us the course we must steer, to maintain our continued solidarity 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 Forum Leaders in the coming month.
16. Honourable Ministers, as part of our agenda today, we can look forward to hearing from the Working Group of Senior Officials, who with the help of the Secretariat, have been undertaking the arduous task of mapping out the
transitional arrangements for the implementation of the Suva Agreement.
[Securing our Future]
17. Over the last two years, your Secretariat, ably guided by the Co-Chairs Fiji and Vanuatu, with the support of all Members, private sector and civil society, have come together to develop the draft 2050 Strategy on Securing the Blue
Pacific Continent. This strategy is opportune for us, and the collective foresight of our Leaders to call for its development in 2019 has proved to be timely, taking into account the context of fierce geopolitical competition, as well as worsening climate change projections and impacts.
18. 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.
19. There is no secret that our key strength and our biggest resource as a region is the Ocean. Our Blue Pacific Ocean should be the central consideration as we look to the future. 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.
[Conclusion]
20. Honourable Ministers, finally, the issues you discuss today will be decisive for our region’s collective future. The decisions that you will take on the 2050Strategy, the Suva Agreement, climate change, the Rarotonga Treaty and related nuclear issues, and sea level rise and maritime zones, will inform the decisions that our Leaders will make. Honourable Ministers, we are in your good hands -and no doubt you will set us on the necessary trajectory to be able to deal with and manage these issues to an advantageous outcome for us as one Blue Pacific!
21. With those brief remarks, I wish us all well in our deliberations over the next two days.
22. Vinaka vakalevu.–ENDS

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