3RD ANNUAL INDO-PACIFIC ISLANDS DIALOGUE
18 September 2023
Japan Society Building, New York
CLOSING REFLECTIONS BY THE HON. MARK BROWN
PRIME MINISTER OF THE COOK ISLANDS
• Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
• Kia Orana and warm Pacific greetings to you all.
• It is a wonderful honour to join a distinguished gathering of individuals this afternoon. To exchange views and learn from each other on the challenges faced and the solutions that we have trailed as ocean nations.
• Indeed, identity is a fundamental part of who we are as Pacific Islanders. We draw our identity from the Ocean that we share – Te Moana Nui a Kiva. It is the Ocean that has defined our identity as a Blue Pacific Continent.
• Our history is synonymous with the Ocean. We are a voyaging people who have migrated from island to island over the course of time.
• We are a resilient people, whose cultures and traditions form the very fabric of societies from which we hail and on the values of whom, we stand.
• Our history has shaped the journeys of the island countries in the Pacific – through the era of colonisation and self-determination, through the era of economic development and nation building, through the era of collective solidarity and collective identity to the era in which we find ourselves, of geostrategic posturing, positioning and influence.
[Regionalism and Cook Islands Chairing of the Forum]
• Therefore, when the Cook Islands saw the opportunity to assume the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I ceased it, recognising the importance of the time in which we exist and the lasting contribution that an island nation such as the Cook Islands can make to Pacific regionalism.
• It is no secret, that Pacific Islands Forum has faced some of the more complex challenges of its history, in recent years.
• But, true to our resilient values, and founded on our traditional ways and customs, we have emerged from these challenges reaffirming our commitment to regionalism and our collective advocacy and actions.
• In parallel to this, we have come through some of the most difficult phases in our development journey as a region – as we continue to grapple with the lingering impacts and devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic on a day-to-day basis.
• In addition, we continue to witness increased strategic interest and geopolitical positioning in our region by external partners and interests. This has materialised through heightened levels of engagement both nationally and regionally. But whether this interest and engagement is in our favour as a region, or aligned to our interests and priorities, is another matter.
• It was with this in mind, that my government settled on the theme: Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Pacific Way: Promote, Partner, Prosper.
• The theme reaffirms my intent for the focus of the meeting. The upcoming Leaders Meeting is an invaluable opportunity to reaffirm that our voices, our choices and our pacific way are at the forefront of our region’s journey to safe, resilient and prosperous Pacific.
[The Climate Emergency]
• As we continue to work navigate the interest of partners in the region, we simultaneously manage the ongoing climate emergency in our Pacific region.
• As a region, our position has been clear on this issue: climate change is the single greatest existential threat to our region.
• We have taken steps as a region, to prepare to protect our sovereignty and the future of our people into perpetuity.
• We have advocated actively at all levels to call on partners and major emitters to respond to and address the threats that we face on a day-to-day basis.
• What may be rhetoric for the many is a reality for us in the islands.
• Our sea levels are rising. The intensity and frequency of extreme climatic occurrences are a norm in our region. Saltwater intrusion into our water tables and arable lands are very real threats for us at the cold face of the climate emergency.
• We have said this time and again.
• We call on partners to hear us – we call on partners to support our adaptation needs – we call on partners to recognise the loss and damage that we increasingly contend with as a result of this climate emergency.
• I have a young granddaughter, who I hope will have the opportunity to enjoy life in the Cook Islands as I have. To bring up her own children in the customs and ways of life of our people on our land.
• Indeed, our efforts today is not for us or our generation. It is for our future that we work hard today to ensure that they have a fighting chance.
[Pacific Partnerships for Priority]
• With this in mind, and in consideration of our geostrategic environment, the time is ripe for the Pacific region to drive the progress of its priorities and aspirations.
• For far too long, we have been at the mercy of our partners – receiving what has been allocated us and contending with the challenges that we have had to face over the course of our history.
• Today, we stand at an unprecedented juncture in our history – the stars have aligned on three key areas essential to advancing our Pacific interest:
the current geostrategic environment;
our political will as a region, including our efforts to define our collective vision and direction; and
a visible and vocal Pacific leadership
• The alignment of the three essential elements underpin the importance of our strategic and efficient efforts to collectively progress our priorities in the interest of our people.
• To this end, I have conceptualised the Pacific Partnerships for Prosperity as part of my initiative as Forum Chair to shape and drive partners interests in our region, to align with our priorities and integrate through our national and regional systems and processes.
[Efficacy of Multilateral Processes advocating our interests]
• Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
• Put simply, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
• But at the core of our success is, and always will be, our solidarity as a region – because it is only in our unity that we will remain effective globally.
• Indeed, the power of our advocacy, if strategically aligned, can influence and manoeuvre our multilateral processes in our interest.
• The world has seen the strength of the Pacific region’s advocacy through the multilateral processes on climate, especially at COP 21 in Paris, France.
• We have seen it on nuclear legacy issues, including the Rarotonga Treaty.
• Today, we are looking to our multilateral processes to overhaul and strengthen what has become a complex and overly bureaucratic development financing architecture.
• Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
• I hope that through my reflections this afternoon, I have offered some food for thought on some of topical issues at hand.
• That being said, I recognise that we will also have the opportunity of a moderated conversation after this to touch on issues that I may have missed in my remarks.
• Again, I thank you all for the opportunity to be here.
• Meitaki ma’ata and I thank you.–ENDS