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.
MESSAGE FROM THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARY GENERAL, DAME MEG TAYLOR
This is to advise that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat will be closed today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday 17 - 18 December 2020 due to Tropical Cyclone Yasa ( Image from www.met.gov.fj on Thursday 17 December ) which is tracking towards Fiji over the next 12 - 36 hours.
Should you require any urgent assistance, please note the following contact points who will have continued access to power will therefore be available and online to assist with any urgent queries and clarifications:
Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General: email@example.com
Sione Tekiteki, Director Governance and Engagement: firstname.lastname@example.org
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We have endured disasters on a recurring basis since the first navigators to this region explored and settled our sea of islands. Now, that endurance is being further tested as climate change exacerbates storms, flooding and other hazards that are harsher, more frequent and less predictable. Climate change impacts and natural disasters have destroyed lives and livelihoods across our Blue Pacific continent and has reset the clock on decades of hard-fought development gains in nation building.
Marginalised people in vulnerable communities have no doubt fared the worst. Women, children, the elderly and the disabled especially continue to be disproportionately affected. In 2015, Cyclone Pam left a trail of destruction in Vanuatu—with economic losses estimated at 64% of its gross domestic product. A generation of development gain, built up over decades of progress, was decimated in a matter of hours. In 2016, Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc in the Fiji Islands, with the resulting economic cost estimated at one third of the country’s gross domestic product. This phenomenon was repeated in Tonga in 2018, when Cyclone Gita caused untold destruction....
About the author: Hon Seve Paeniu FEMM 2020 Chair, is Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
Funafuti, TUVALU (04 September 2020) -The COVID-19 pandemic is causing havoc around the world on three counts. First, it was totally unexpected until reality hit home in the early weeks of March, triggering hard and fast border closures and lockdowns across the region. Second, the scale of its impact on human life, livelihoods, and the entire social and economic system is far beyond any other crisis; and third, it is still unfolding, with the full magnitude and an endpoint yet to be discerned.
The 2020 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) held on 11 – 12 August 2020 was held virtually. It discussed this crisis, that has unleashed socio-economic damage of an unimaginable scale in most Forum member countries.
In the Pacific we aspire to endurance and sustainability. But progress is difficult to sustain when we face multiple threats that reverse decades of development gains in a matter of hours or days.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the integrity and prosperity of our Blue Pacific peoples, our communities and our economies. I respect and admire the leadership demonstrated by Members of the Pacific Islands Forum and the global community in their responses to this evolving crisis. Many Forum and other countries have put in place unprecedented measures to protect the health and livelihoods of their people, including major economic stimulus packages.
Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum warmly welcome the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, to our Blue Pacific region - to witness the everyday reality of climate change and drive momentum in the lead up to his Climate Action Summit in September.
As we approach the 25th iteration of the Conference of the Parties, it is difficult to find new words, new anecdotes, new experiences to press our Blue Pacific message - but our commitment to multilateralism is unwavering, as is our commitment to continue the fight for a safer climate for a safer world.
At the Climate Action Summit, platitudes and repackaged commitments cannot be the substance of our deliberations. We need transformational change at scale, and courageous leaders prepared to deliver on it.
Leaders of the Pacific commit to doing all we can to make the Climate Action Summit a global turning point for ambitious climate change action.
We ask the United Nations Secretary-General to share our message with the world:
The Blue Pacific – our great ocean continent, our thousands of islands, our strong and resilient people – is running out of time.
We need to act now. Our survival, and that of this great Blue Pacific continent depend on it.