5th Pacific Islands Universities Research Network
4 July 2023, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
H.E Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
• Honourable Prime Minister Brown
• The Vice Chancellors of the University of the South Pacific and the President of the University of New Caledonia – our convenors for this conference
• The Vice Chancellor of the National University of Samoa
• Distinguished Academics and thinkers of our region
• Ladies and gentlemen Friends
• Kia orana and warm Pacific greetings to you all.
• It is a rare occasion when we see academics and thinkers from across our Moana nui o Kiva come together to exchange views and perspectives on the range of issues, challenges, and opportunities in our Sea of Islands.
• I cannot underscore enough the importance of the role that each of you play in the future of our region. Indeed:
It is you who will shape and mould the minds of our future leaders.
It is your work that will underpin and shape the narrative of our region into the future; and
It is the innovation of your research work that can inspire mindset shifts in our region.
• Indeed, Epeli Hau’ofa’s work is timeless.
• He provided a new Oceanic way of thinking and identity as solwara people, or those of the sea. This was the foundation that transformed and led to a massive the perception-shift of our region – to see ourselves not as small islands and economies but as a sea of islands in one great ocean.
• We are not small, lacking in resources and dependent on the outside world – no, we are not.
• Rather we are Oceania – we are resource-rich sovereign countries – at the helm of navigating our own future where our Pacific Ocean is a pathway rather than a barrier.
• We are large ocean States.
• This very principle inspired the development of the Blue Pacific identity which in turn informed the Blue Pacific narrative and has today resulted in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
• This 2050 Strategy recognises that securing the future of the Pacific cannot be left to chance but requires a long-term vision, strategy and commitment.
• It sets the Pacific region’s collective vision for the next 3 decades.
• It is the Pacific’s opportunity to chart our own development course from a position of strength and solidarity, based on our needs and taking into account our faith, cultural and geographical context for the collective good of all.
• But, the ambition and vision of the 2050 Strategy will not be achieved if we do not have the capacity and human resources to achieve it.
• “Ideas” are what fuels and powers communities, economies and nations.
• Gathered in this room today are some of the greatest thinkers in our region.
• You are a privileged group.
• Because it is you who has the flexibility and dynamism to think outside the box in your different areas of expertise.
• You are not constrained by politics or political ideologies.
• Platforms such as this conference, are so crucial to exchanging and building ideas that will ultimately inform policy development in our region.
• We have seen how Epeli’s work has transformed the regional narrative.
• And I am certain that sitting in the audience today is a “regional thinker” whose work will transform policy directions into the future.
• So, I urge you all to be bold and innovative in your discussions and exchanges.
• We need to see more home-grown responses to the challenges we face.
• We need to draw more on the wealth of our own traditional and local knowledge.
• We need to explore the vast opportunities that exist in our region in a sustainable manner.
• Because of this I am certain – The future of our region is built on our shoulders and those who have come before us.
• It is our collective responsibility.
• The success of the 2050 Strategy depends on us, and how we all work together to achieve the vision that our Leaders have set for us.
• I wish you well in your deliberations over the next two days and again, encourage you all to be innovative, explorative and provocative in your discussions.
• Meitaki Ma’ata.–ENDS
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