H.E. Ambassador H.E. Viliami Va’inga Tone of Tonga (For the Pacific Islands Forum) remarks at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate
(NEW YORK , Tuesday 14 February 2023)
Excellencies, Distinguished panelists, Ladies and gentlemen,
- It is a pleasure to join you all today for this important event. I am pleased to provide these remarks on behalf of the Member states of the Pacific Islands Forum with a presence at the United Nations.
- We continue to endorse this open debate, with a focus on the implications of sea-level rise to international peace and security, a topic well suited to the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council, being the maintenance of international peace and security. 
- Excellencies, climate change remains the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific, and in 2022, Pacific Leaders declared a “Climate Emergency” in our region.
- Indeed, climate change-related sea-level rise is a threat multiplier for our people on many levels. The international community will need to address important questions, including in relation to statehood, maritime zones, rights and entitlements.
- To safeguard international peace and security in the face of climate change-related sea-level rise, a major step that must be taken is the preservation and maintenance of our maritime zones established in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- Through their ground-breaking Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate change-related Sea-level rise, Pacific Leaders reaffirmed “the threats of climate change and sea-level rise as the defining issue that imperils the livelihoods and wellbeing of our peoples and undermines the full realisation of a peaceful, secure and sustainable future for our region”.
- Leaders proclaimed that our maritime zones, and the rights and entitlements that flow from them, shall continue to apply, without reduction, notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change-related sea-level rise.
- The Declaration emphasises the primacy and centrality of UNCLOS, which itself was adopted as an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples.
- Importantly, the Declaration is also rooted in the principles of legal stability, security, certainty and predictability that underpin the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- We welcome statements from States and organisations endorsing the Declaration and we extend the call once again to the international community to join the Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate change-related Sea-level rise.
- Further, we strongly support and endorse the work of the International Law Commission in its current study of the topic “Sea-level rise in relation to International Law”.
- From the 27th to 30th of March 2023 (next month), our region will assemble to unpack complex legal issues and implications posed by sea-level rise to statehood and the protection of persons affected by sea-level rise. This is our region’s concerted efforts to contribute meaningfully to the important work of the ILC Second Issues Paper, as the issues addressed are of critical importance to the future of our people facing the growing threats to their wellbeing, safety and security posed by increasing sea-level rise.
- Excellencies, we welcome the Security Council supporting these efforts and taking concrete measures as relevant. We stand ready to provide the necessary support, including through information sharing on matters raised today. In this respect we reiterate our call for a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Climate Change and Security, who would inform the work of the Security Council and the General Assembly.
I thank you – Malo ‘Aupito.
 Article 24(1), UN Charter.
 Paragraph 33, 51St PIF Leaders Communique (2022); See also: the 2019 Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now, where Our leaders have recognised calls for urgent action and bold and innovative regional solutions.