REMARKS: Forum SG at Regional Conference on Statehood, Protection of Persons Affected by Sea Level Rise


at the

Regional Conference on Statehood and the Protection of Persons Affected by Sea Level Rise: Legal options and institutional responses to the impacts of sea-level rise, in the context of international law
27 March 2023
Nadi, Fiji

• The Honourable Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu,
• Chairman of the Regional Conference, His Excellency Jim Armistead, High Commissioner of Cook Islands,
• Members of the diplomatic Corp,
• Distinguished guests, speakers, and panellists,
• Friends,

Kia Orana and Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!

1. It is my greatest honour and pleasure, as host of this event, to welcome you all to this 2023 Regional Conference on Preserving Statehood and Protecting Persons: Legal Options and Institutional Responses to the Impacts of Sea-Level Rise, in the Context of International Law.

2. At the outset, allow me to say how good it is, to see all the familiar Pacific faces in the room today, as well as online. I also extend a warm Pacific welcome to our distinguished experts, many of whom have travelled for the very first time, to our Blue Pacific. We are very excited to have you with us and thank you for making the time in your busy schedules, to contribute to this important Conference.

3. I am also pleased to acknowledge the generous funding support by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Pacific Community, which has made this gathering possible.

4. Ladies and gentlemen, as you are well aware, this Conference was mandated by Forum Leaders, at their 51st Annual Meeting held in Suva last July. Leaders recognised the many impacts of climate change and disaster, and their threat to the future of our people, and the statehood of many Pacific nations. Leaders noted that the complex issues of statehood, and persons affected by sea-level rise, should be guided and informed by applicable principles and norms, of international law.

5. This Conference aims to do just that, by bringing together some of the best and leading legal minds on these issues, to help us unpack, and map a way forward.

6. This Conference also signals an important juncture in the collective mapping, understanding, and innovative thinking of our Pacific family, in relation to complex legal issues that relate to our Blue Pacific Continent.

7. We had come to this juncture and risen to the challenge once before, in 2020, where we hosted a Regional Conference like this, focused on the impacts of sea-level rise on maritime zones. That Conference paved the way for the 2021 Leaders Declaration on Persevering Maritime Zones, in the Face of Climate – Change Related Sea Level Rise (Leaders Declaration).

8. On this note, I congratulate all Members, for the great progress on the international support for the Leaders Declaration. I want to encourage, as a matter of priority, that we continue to work with urgency, to conclude negotiations on all outstanding maritime boundaries claims and zones, as per Forum Leaders’ commitments.

9. The Regional Conference of 2020 was an amazing feat…and during the pandemic, no less… so I am excited to see what this Conference will lead to.

10. That challenge and opportunity to unpack, innovate, and lead on some of the most complex legal issues in the world, and in our Blue Pacific Continent, now presents itself here again, in this very room, and in the next few days here at this Regional Conference.

11. As we unpack the issues of Statehood and Persons Affected by Sea Level Rise, we must be mindful of the gravity of the task put to us.

12. The IPCC has recently released the Synthesis Report of its 6th Assessment Cycle, re-emphasising yet once again, the grim forecast on the effects that climate change, and sea-level rise, will have on our island states.

13. Therefore, our task here this week, is to collectively and courageously share our ideas, and skilfully weave a framework, that harnesses both a collective understanding, and innovative solutions, on a way forward for our region. We, on the front line of climate change, will inevitably pave the way on these complex issues.

14. On that note, in relation to climate change, let me add that we must not lose sight, and we must continue to reinforce our efforts, to keep global emissions below 1.5 degrees in accordance with the Paris Agreement. While we continue to champion a host of initiatives and developments in the Pacific, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture….climate change is an existential threat to our Pacific family…. and ensuring that we keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees, must always, remain a top priority for us.

15. In this regard, I must commend the Governments of Vanuatu and Tuvalu, for their hosting of the recent Ministerial Dialogue on fossil fuel non-proliferation, which led to a very robust outcomes statement, that I encourage Member countries to carefully consider and support. The discussions and outcomes of the Ministerial Dialogue in Vanuatu, clearly demonstrate that our region will lead the way, on seeking a just transition away from fossil fuels, in support of our broader climate change goals.

16. As we embark on the Regional Conference today, we must be mindful that we are also paving the way on international law, and it is one of my own priorities and that of my team, to create this forum for the brilliant, seasoned and learned Pacific minds like yours, to exchange ideas and be at the forefront of the narrative in this space.

17. Let me close by saying what an exciting 4 days this Regional Conference will be, and so I strongly encourage all of you present here to fully participate and make the most of this unique opportunity.

18. Ultimately, it is you that will shape the future of your own countries, your future generations, and of our region as a collective.

19. On that note, again I am proud to welcome you and host you once again to another Regional Conference, which I truly believe will be the beginning of another ground-breaking venture.

I thank you and all the very best.


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