DIPLOMACY, TRADE, AND OUR COLLECTIVE JOURNEY TO PACIFIC 2050
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM
Hosted reception on the PTI Board member’s AGM
Thu 12 October 2023, Auckland, NZ
• E nga iwi, e nga mana, e nga reo
• Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou, Tena koutou katoa
• • Excellencies, Partners, Friends of the Pacific –
• Kia Orana,
• I am very pleased to join this distinguished gathering this evening, and indeed, to share some reflections with you all, particularly on the back of a series of fruitful Forum Meetings, including with Ministers of trade, economics and foreign affairs.
• Indeed, we live in a world that is evolving rapidly on a daily basis – politically, economically and socially.
• We increasingly find ourselves having to contend with the complexities of new and emerging challenges that come with the advancement of the digital economy and technology, geopolitical manoeuvrings, and economic fluctuations – just to name a few.
• In amidst this, we continue to navigate the multiple challenges posed by the climate emergency in our region – the single greatest existential threat of our age.
• There is strengthened recognition and appreciation that the key to our success in overcoming these complexities, lie not in our individual strengths but that of the collective.
• And there is no better blueprint for our collective priorities and vision than the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
• The 2050 Strategy represents our collective vision for the future that we want to create for our children and grandchildren.
• It is a strategy that will require the support, investment and partnership of all stakeholders – governments, private sector, development partners and non-governmental organisations.
• Central to this Strategy is our very prosperity as a Pacific people.
• A recurring narrative that has emerged from the recent suite regional discussions is the need to invest in and deepen Pacific regionalism.
• Pacific regionalism was borne out of the intention of our founding fathers, to increasingly strengthen integration with a view to achieving economies of scale in our unique Pacific region.
• Looking back on our history, we have experimented with multiple forms of integration including:
o on connectivity through the Forum Shipping Line and Air Pacific; and
o on trade, through preferential and regional trade agreements such as SPARTECA (pronounced: Spa-tea-car) and the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement.
• However, performance across these initiatives were, at best, mixed.
• Our Economic Ministers questioned, and rightfully so, if we were doing enough, as a region, to nurture and strengthen regionalism towards integration.
• It posed an important point of reflection members around the table because at the very core of regional integration, is the principle of incrementally ceding one’s sovereignty on related issues.
• If there is one thing that I have taken from the various ministerial conversations in the last month, it is a conviction that our economic prosperity lies in our ongoing unity and solidarity.
• There was recognition around the table that if we were to truly seize our economic potential, we must do so together as one region.
• Indeed, a key sentiment that was raised was that a fully integrated Pacific region should comprise all members of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Australia and New Zealand.
• Together, we are stewards of the largest ocean on this planet, and with it, some of the healthiest oceanic resources available.
• As a region, we represent some of the most diverse and rich cultures in the world and are custodians to 15% of the world’s languages.
• We have jurisdiction over some of the most extensive biodiversity in the world and indeed, as pointed out recently, the bio-origins of medicine and health products of the future can be found in the resources that lie here in the blue pacific continent.
• And of course, we are custodians of the largest healthy fish stocks in the world, supplying 40% of the global tuna supply – and yet, we are not the price setters in this industry or market and are still price takers and suppliers of the primary resource.
• To truly capitalise on economies of scale, we need to work together as a region to step up our engagement from mere suppliers of the primary resource to value-adding products on a regional scale and exporting to markets.
• We need to invest in regional supply chains that consider the comparative advantages of our respective states.
• We need to invest in building resilient value chains in the region that are supported by stable and affordable connectivity.
• Through these small but firm efforts will we truly begin to transform the nature of our engagement as a region from a collective of island states to an increasingly cohesive bloc of nations, who together, are custodians of land and oceanic resources that have a large stake in the future of humanity.
• But what must we do to realise this economic and political potential?
• The answers are all there in the 2050 Strategy – and articulated across the 7 thematic areas that the strategy has identified.
• Put simply:
o We need strong Political leadership and strengthened Pacific regionalism towards integration;
o We need to operate from a secure and peaceful stand-point, not divided by conflict in and amongst ourselves;
o We need to ensure that we collectively address the climate-related threats we face on a daily basis;
o We need to capitalise on our oceanic and environmental resources’;
o We need to sustainably develop said resources;
o We need to reap the advantages of technology and connectivity;
o Finally, we must ensure that our sustainable efforts address and respond to the needs of our people.
• Excellencies, friends, we are in a world where statecraft and diplomacy—and a mindset that can embrace and lead change, have never been more critical.
• We know from our own history that the solutions that work best are those grounded in our lived realities.
• You diplomats and statecraft masterminds in the room know the power of being in a suitable space at the right time, with the right people, and – most of all—the right words.
• This aspect of diplomacy, perfected by Pacific leaders and arguably one of the critical cornerstones of the Pacific Way, has been a trump card for keeping faith through challenging times for a Pacific family of nations who can disagree yet remain together and united on what matters most.
• It is what worked for a group of seven founding leaders of what would become the Pacific Islands Forum when they gathered in Wellington in 1971.
• And it is what rallied in recent years, when our Pacific family weathered our own political challenges.
• But more so than this, I would like to think that it was the ultimate belief in the strength of the collective and the power and potential of a united region, that reweaved our solidarity as a region.
• I cannot underscore enough my belief that together as a bloc of nations, we have the potential to be an influential player on the global stage – and we see this already in the climate change advocacy arena.
• The onus is on us: as political leaders, policy makers, private sector operators, civil citizens – across all sectors of our economy – to work together to realise our true economic potential.
• As I prepare for my final Forum Leaders meeting as the Secretary-General, I am encouraged by the theme that the Cook Islands has set for the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings: Our voices, our choices, our Pacific Way: Promote, Partner, Prosper.
• Through the partnerships this forum session wants to highlight, our host is especially keen to ensure common interests bring you closer to our Pacific development aspirations.
• We all share, and all have a part in the Pacific future.
• And very clearly, the opportunities can only grow when we promote, partner with, and prosper what works for us and for our Blue Pacific future.
• The mana of the Pacific Way lies in resolving conflict through common ground, focusing on connection, trust, and relationships.
• The mana of the Pacific Way is in leaving no one behind, embracing an inclusive approach, allowing conversations that ensure people can speak and, more importantly, can be heard.
• The mana of the Pacific Way is in the ocean and in us. It’s about setting sail from known shores to a beckoning new horizon.
• It’s about being strategic about being heard. So that we all act and impact — for all peoples, of all nations.
• Nga mihi nui, –I thank you.