Distinguished Guests, it is an honour to address you today at the 2023 Regional
Conference on Preserving Statehood and the Protection of Persons affected by
sea-level rise. As we gather here, we cannot ignore the stark reality of the
challenges that we face in the Pacific region. Climate change and rising sea levels
threaten the very existence of our island nations and the safety and wellbeing
of our people.
Rising global sea levels, resulting from human-induced climate change, present
an urgent threat to the territorial sovereignty of low-lying island states
throughout the Pacific region. The legal implications arising from the inundation
of a state’s entire land territory are complex and challenging, and presents
fundamental questions about statehood and sovereignty. Most pressing
amongst these concerns is whether a state loses its statehood status under
international law following territorial inundation, or whether international law
recognises statehood as enduring following territorial loss.
The threats of sea-level rise and the erosion of our statehood are not mere hypotheticals, but very
real and present dangers that we must face head-on.
Our purpose here is not to dwell on the problem. Rather, our aim is to identify
and implement effective solutions. We need to think ahead and prepare for the
worst-case scenario to protect our statehood and the citizens of the Blue Pacific
Continent. This matter transcends mere legal and political concerns; it is a moral
obligation that demands our immediate attention.
The Pacific Forum has been at the forefront of promoting regionalism and
advancing the interests of the Blue Pacific. The tenets of independence,
statehood, and self-determination have been central to our mission for over 50
years. But today, we face an unprecedented threat to our very existence.
This conference is a timely opportunity to address the long-term strategic
security, economic, and social objectives of the Blue Pacific. We must establish
a collective understanding of the challenges posed by sea-level rise and
prioritize policy and legal options to address them in the short, medium, and
long term. We must unpack these issues further and establish a pathway to
develop a Forum position on these critical matters.
The expected outcomes of this conference will guide the next steps of the work
of the FOC Specialist Sub-Committee on Sea-Level Rise in Relation to
International Law. We will make the necessary recommendations to FOC and
ultimately to Leaders.
As we commence this conference, it is imperative to remember the reason
behind our gathering. Our discourse is not limited to legal instruments and
policies, but encompasses the survival of our people and nations. We have the
power to make a significant impact by acting urgently and decisively. We must
take an active stance, anticipate worst-case scenarios, and protect our Blue
We must remember that the decisions we make today will shape the future of
our region for generations to come. Let us be courageous in our choices, bold in
our actions, and united in our efforts. We owe it to ourselves and to our children
to leave behind a legacy of resilience and hope.
Together, let us commit to working towards a future where our nations are
thriving, our people are safe and prosperous, and our Blue Pacific is a beacon of
peace and stability in the world. Thank you all for your dedication and your
passion, and may we continue to move forward with strength and purpose. I
wish all the very best in your deliberations this week.
Fakafetai Lasi, Tuvalu mo te Atua.–ENDS
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