REMARKS: Opening Remarks by Acting Director-Policy, Joel Nilon at the 6th Pacific Urban Forum

Opening Remarks by Joel Nilon, Acting Director Policy at the 6th Pacific Urban Forum

 Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Suva, Fiji


  • Excellencies
  • Distinguished guests,
  • Ladies and gentlemen,


  • Bula vinaka and warm Pacific greetings, on behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Mr Henry Puna. It is my pleasure to welcome you to this 6th Pacific Urban Forum, and indeed let me welcome you to your Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
  • This multi-stakeholder platform for discussion on key urban issues is timely. It is useful not only for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, but it is also useful in the context of the SAMOA Pathway Review, as well as for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
  • The Pacific Urban Forum’s emphasis on climate change resilience, social security, economic development and infrastructure is most relevant to our current situation across the Pacific – and particularly in the context of post-COVID recovery.
  • I say this, noting that the Second Quadrennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report 2022, indicates that many of our communities continue to struggle to recover from COVID-19 and natural disasters. I say this noting our weakening traditional systems, and a lack of comprehensive social protection mechanisms. And I say this noting generally rising levels of hardship and poverty; increased rural-urban migration; and strained public service delivery in urban settings; as well as an increased number of school dropouts and rising crime, and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Excellencies and Senior Officials, Pacific urban services are also under pressure due to broader structural trends such as population increase, chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, a general decline in public resources, and the increasing impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.
  • And within this general context, we are Pacific people with the ocean as the center of who we are culturally and geographically, and indeed the ocean for many of our rural and urban communities, is the provider of livelihoods and well-being. Any harm to our ocean disrupts our ecosystems and creates flow on for many of our people who sustain livelihoods and access basic services through this provisioning.
  • As further context, Pacific economies presently are not generating the quality and quantity of work opportunities required to meet the demands of young people. Youth unemployment and a lack of decent work are significant urban problems facing young people, with young women being disproportionately impacted.
  • Although organized labour migration schemes are beneficial economically, recent social issues and local Pacific labour shortages, now call for a holistic review and adjustment to these organized schemes, to ensure that the bad does not outweigh the good.
  • And in this context, the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent takes a thoroughly regional lens and approach to all of these issues. It recognises that resilience, sustainability and security all require a balanced approach to the demands of urbanization and economic development with the need for environmental conservation and resilience in Pacific cities and towns.
  • In addition, the 2050 Strategy also recognizes that we in the Pacific must work together – as countries, as businesses, as communities to address our common challenges and make the most of our common opportunities.
  • In this regard, the 2050 Strategy does not start from scratch, but builds on past decades of hard work and experience, from the sectoral to national, to regional to global. It takes a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, and issues such as sustainable urban development play a crucial role in the achievement of the strategy’s strategic and long-term objectives.
  • Because of this, the 6th Pacific Urban Forum will not only be of importance to yourselves colleagues, as experts and practitioners in urban issues, but also to those of us who work in other spheres.
  • Accordingly, and once again on behalf of Secretary General Puna and his team, I wish you all the best in your discussions over the coming three days.


I thank you all, Vinaka vakalevu!

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