The commentary below takes its cue from remarks led by Forum Secretary General Henry Puna, at the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo Pacific in Paris, France, on February 22, 2022. SG Puna spoke to a ministerial roundtable on Health, Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans.
Taking our Pacific challenges- and solutions to the world has always required coherent, clear messaging on the issues close to our collective heart. Whether we are talking about household families, villages, or national populations, if we are not speaking to the realities of everyday people, all the policy and high-level language is unable to connect.
Brest, France, Feb 11th, 2022- Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna has called on all States to play their part when it comes to maintaining the health of the ocean. SG Puna made the plea as he attended the One Ocean Summit conference in Brest, France, also attending in his capacity as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.
Commissioner Puna drew attention to the priorities of the Blue Pacific including the importance of finalizing and adopting the agreement for marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions commonly known as BBNJ. In addition, he outlined the ground-breaking Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise, recently adopted by Forum Leaders. (Click headline for full article)
Our Blue Pacific, like the rest of the world has had to reassess the way we do business, public service, and everyday life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges in our sea of islands, but it has also presented us the opportunity to build on our strengths-which lie very much in our kinship and relational ties as well as our ability to live of our land and sea. If anything, the pandemic has highlighted our need to continue to reflect on our dependence on imported goods, especially food and how we can live a more healthy and sustainable life. (Click headline for full article)
Every journey has four distinct features.
A point of reference, a starting line, sign posts, and a final destination.
My point of reference for the Rarotonga Treaty was the establishment of the Pacific Islands Forum as a separate entity from the South Pacific Commission 50 years ago in August 1971. It was significant because it provided space for Pacific Leaders to discuss peace and security and political issues freely which they couldn't do within SPC because the metropolitan powers were present, and some of the issues were sensitive and directly affected some of them.
So issues like Independence, Decolonization and Nuclear testing became the Pacific Forum's DNA.
Climate change is our Pacific reality.
Climate-induced disasters in the Pacific are now more frequent and severe. We are more at risk than any other region in the world. Five major cyclones have swept through the Pacific since 2015, causing losses of up to two-thirds of our GDP. In a matter of hours, one disaster wipes out a generation of development gains. Vulnerable communities, particularly women and girls, are most affected.
Basically, if we can start at the beginning and your role in the early days of PNG coming out of colonialism and into independence where was the late Grand Chief in all of this and how did you end up working in the role?
SG Dame Meg Taylor If I may Leyann first of all, I would just like to extend my deepest sympathies publicly to Lady Veronica Somare and of course to Betha, Sana, Arthur, Michael and Dulcianna, all the family for the loss and our nation's loss. I first met Sir Michael Somare when I was at university at UPNG in 1970, with Rabbie Namaliu and Leo Hannet and several others, he had a PANGU party branch at UPNG and that's it in terms of the the interactions that I had with Chief. And then I joined the board of the National Museum, and art gallery, and he was also a member and I was a young, a very young person to be on that board. But we worked together. And that's how I knew him.
This year marks 50 years since the founding of the Pacific Islands Forum. Six sovereign nations and the Cook Islands came together in Wellington in 1971 to form what was then the South Pacific Forum. The small island states of the Pacific were newly independent, and soon more would join as new nations formed from the rapidly diminishing colonial presence in our part of the world.
Today we are 18 full members, plus associate members and partner states. Our success, however, is not just measured by our membership, because this is not a club; it is measured by our accomplishments, because we are a forum of sovereign nations confronting serious challenges in our region.
With the support from the larger countries of Australia and New Zealand and other partner states and organizations, Pacific Island states have boldly and unashamedly asserted our interests and exercised our rights as sovereign nations through this forum. We have never assumed that our size should relegate us to a back seat in determining the future of this region—or indeed, the world. And we never will.
So as we mark our golden anniversary this evening, we must take the opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved together, as one collective through the Pacific Islands Forum—and celebrate those achievements.
Together, we fought for a nuclear-free Pacific and committed to the Rarotonga Treaty.
Together, we negotiated and advocated what became the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—and we are asserting our rights under that convention.
Together, we have refined and committed to a region of democracy, peace and strengthened regional security.
The new year began on a solemn note for the people of Papua New Guinea, who spent the first week of January paying respects and tributes to former prime Minister the late Sir Mekere Morauta, who was laid to rest on Independence Hill, Port Moresby on January 8th, 2021. As part of their coverage, PNG's first TV station EMTV did tribute interviews remembering 'Sir Mek' --amongst them, Online Editor Ruth Rungula spoke to Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor. Listen to the interview, transcript below.
Ruth Rungula EMTV --Dame Meg- we know Mekere contributed, (as ) the chair of the Pacific plan review and with you at the helm of the Pacific Island forum now, what regional legacy will Sir Mekere Morauta be most remembered for?
Dame Meg --I believe that the reform of the Pacific plan and the inception of the framework for Pacific regionalism, which I was asked to implement, this came from the work that Sir Mekere Morauta did, in consultation with people through the Pacific and governments. That will be his legacy here in this region, that what he emphasized was that it was important that the conversations and deep conversation about regionalism continued, that politics be brought back into the region, and that the voice of the people be heard-- that their concerns be listened to, by leaders and by governments...
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat conveys its deepest condolences to the people of Papua New Guinea on the recent passing of Sir Mekere Morauta, former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, on Saturday 19th December 2020.
“A formidable individual, Sir Mekere led and was instrumental in the comprehensive regional review, the 2013 Review of the Pacific Plan, which birthed the Framework for Pacific Regionalism – a visionary mandate for regional cooperation, political settlement and inclusive regional policy development,” said Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
“It is important that we continue to reflect on Sir Mekere’s review, because the concerns he raised in relation to the region’s vulnerabilities and dependencies - and the need for us to work together to overcome these – are as urgent today as they were at the time of writing.”
The first ever Economics graduate from the University of Papua New Guinea, Sir Mekere served as PNG’s 7th Prime Minister from 1999 to 2002.