Pacific Reflections & Leadership
Prime Minister and Pacific Islands Forum Chair Hon. Mark Brown
Friday 30 June 2023
“The Cook Islands has played a pivotal role in our Pacific Regional history, and we continue to do so in building emboldened legacies for a resilient Pacific people.”
TUROU KIA TATOU KATOATOA I ROTO I TEIA ROTAI ANGA, O TE KOPU TANGATA, TAEAKE E TE AU TUANGA TEI ROTO I TEIA TAOKOTAI ANGA.
KUA MATUAPURU MAI TATOU NO TE AKARAKARA MATATIO ANGA, I TO TATOU KAVEINGA NA ROTO I TE AU ENUA O TE PAE MOANA, PERA TO TATOU IPUKAREA, TE KUKI AIRANI.
KIA RAUKA UATU RAI IA TATOU TE PAKARI TE MARAMA I TE AKA MATUTU ANGA I TE ARATAKI ANGA TO TATOU ITI TANGATA MA TE MAROIROI KI TE MAROIROI.
TE TAPAPA ATU NEI TATOU NO TE AKARURU ANGA TE AKA AERE ANGA I TE RIMA NGAURU ANGA MA RUA MATAITI NO TE TAOKOTAI ANGA O TE AU ARATAKI O TE PA ENUA PASIFIKA.
Kia Orana and Welcome.
As Prime Minister, and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am honoured to have you all join us on this joyous occasion of family, friendship, community and partnership.
Today has a simple objective – to bring together our community of stakeholders that will play a pivotal role in delivering a successful hosting experience for our Cook Islands people, our Pacific neighbours, and our Friends and Partners to the region, as we prepare to host the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in November this year.
Before I continue, I wish to acknowledge Secretary General Puna for his words of wisdom and encouragement. His will surely be a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, I will try my best to end our morning formalities with the same level of encouragement and inspiration.
Many of you will fondly recall the Cook Islands previous tenure as the Forum Chair in 2012, and our hosting of the 43rd PIF Leaders Meeting here in our homeland. Convened under the theme of “Large Ocean Island States – the Pacific Challenge”, our vision was to strike a harmonious balance between sustainable development of our marine resources, and the imperative of preservation and conservation.
As we reflect on the remarkable journey we have undertaken over the past decade – a journey marked by trial, error, persistence, and ultimately achieving success on our own terms – I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for how far we have come amidst a highly dynamic and evolving terrain of traditional and emerging challenges.
At the same time, our focus remains firmly fixed on the future, brimming with anticipation for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead.
Some of you may be aware of the whirlwind of global engagements our small nation has embraced since assuming the Forum Chair role in February this year.
In May alone, the Cook Islands actively participated in high-level discussions at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, the first Pacific Island Country to ever be invited. We engaged in productive dialogues with Prime Minister Modi of India, held substantive talks with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and concluded with fruitful discussions alongside President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul Korea.
In short, it has been an exhilarating sprint for our small, yet mighty nation.
I mention these engagements for a number of reasons, but most relevant to today’s gathering, is to remind us all of the critical significance of Pacific leadership, and the relentless efforts that we as Pacific Island Nations, as Large Ocean Island States, and as equal Sovereign Countries, continue to invest to keep the regional machinery running smoothly.
Because it is through sustained efforts like these that our Blue Pacific profile and influence have grown stronger and more resilient over the course of our rich history.
It is through our unwavering commitment to regional multilateralism that our Blue Pacific Continent has undeniably been shaped, affording us significant political leverage and security.
And it is through embracing the ‘Pacific Way’ that each of us has been empowered to secure what matters most to our people.
I put this to you in the context of the unprecedented times we live in; in the aftermath of a global health crisis; and against a mounting geostrategic landscape – How we engage individually and as a collective matter.
This is why year after year, Pacific Leaders reaffirm our dedication to the regional political process, because we know the power that lies in unity.
It is in this spirit of unity and service that we have gathered today.
While these series of extraordinary diplomatic activity have played a key role in bringing us closer to achieving our shared aspirations, it is important to recognise that they represent just one facet of our responsibilities as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Setting that hat gently to the side…Today, is about our role as Host of this prestigious Forum. It is about our Cook Islands people, our national pride and national service.
As we stand less than 5 months away from hosting our Pacific brothers and sisters from across the region, it is essential that we as a nation take our preparations to the next level.
Centered around an overarching theme of “Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Pacific Way – Promote, Partner, Prosper”, this year’s Forum presents a valuable opportunity to not only showcase our natural environment and warm hospitality, but to also set new policy foundations, new rules of engagement, and new modes of partnership delivery.
Far too often, our Pacific narrative has been distorted and misrepresented, straying away from our values, principles, identities and cultures. Yet, we are expected to conform to frameworks that do not honour our ‘Pacific Way of Life’.
As Chair, we are determined to lay the groundwork that will reinforce our ownership over our development agenda, and propel our Blue Pacific Continent into a new era of Pacific Regionalism.
This path will be guided by our mutual respect for sovereignty and consensus, with implementation of our region’s 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy firmly in mind. This comprehensive blueprint will be supported by a carefully curated list of enduring Partnerships for Prosperity – As Chair, this our legacy to our Blue Pacific Family.
Our aspirations are ambitious, but they reflect the urgent need for meaningful, transformative and immediate action for positive change.
We acknowledge that achieving such change requires the collective efforts of all stakeholders present today, both within our region and beyond.
With these closing remarks, and as promised, I want to leave you all with a final message of encouragement.
PIFLM52 belongs to each and every one of us. This is a whole-of-society undertaking. When our government made the decision to embrace this privilege, we did so in recognition of a region in need of healing, and we possessed unwavering faith in our ability to safeguard and nurture that healing so that we could build back better in the interests of the entire Pacific community.
Almost a year has passed, and my belief remains steadfast. I have complete confidence that we will rally to deliver an extraordinary PIF Leaders experience that will leave a lasting impact on our region, because service is ingrained in our very nature, and we excel in it.
I therefore strongly encourage you to forge deep connections with those standing beside you – This is our team! Let us continue working hard hand in hand.
Thank you once again for joining us today, and I look forward to our continued collaboration and success.
In the words of the late Arapati Henry, Pioneer, Visionary and key architect of our region’s political establishment: “Let us begin”.
Kia Orana e Kia Rangatira ei tatou.– ENDS
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