Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to collective action for a strong Blue Pacific region that is secure, peaceful, and prosperous, enabling its people to live free, healthy and productive lives.
The 2018 Forum Leaders Communique, released following the Forum Leaders Retreat in Nauru, commits the Forum to working for sustainable development in the region on its own terms and in ways that recognise its rich culture, national circumstances, and oceanic resources.
The Communique identifies regional security, climate change and disaster risk resilience, fisheries, ocean management and conservation, and childhood obesity as the priority areas for collective action by the region.
In response to the region’s increasingly complex and evolving security environment, Forum Leaders endorsed the Boe Declaration on regional security. The Declaration highlights climate change as the greatest threat to the security, livelihood, and wellbeing of Pacific people.
Building on, and complementing the Biketawa Declaration (2001) and other regional security declarations and policy instruments, the Boe Declaration emphasises an expanded concept of security that includes human security, humanitarian assistance, environmental security, and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change. The Declaration is named after the Boe district in Nauru, where the Declaration was officially agreed to by the Leaders.
Forum Leaders were very clear about the importance of immediate urgent action to combat climate change. There was a commitment for sustained, high level representation and collaboration in the lead up to, and during, the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (COP 24). This collective advocacy will be targeted to ensure the Pacific region’s priorities are heard, particularly with regard to the development of the Rule Book and Guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement.
The Forum Leaders called on countries, particularly large emitters, to fully implement their Nationally Determined Contribution mitigation targets. They also requested the U.N Secretary General to appoint a special adviser on climate change and security, and a special rapporteur to review global, regional, and national security threats caused by climate change.
Ekamowir omo! The people of Nauru welcome all to the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting.
Some know Nauru as the smallest island nation in the world, but we have never felt this way because we are a large ocean state and a member of a much bigger family, the Pacific Islands Forum. Together, we are one ‘blue continent’ covering more than 35million square kilometers of oceanscape.
The theme for this year’s meeting is Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will. I believe it captures the spirit and aspiration of the Pacific Islands Forum’s Agenda.
The Forum Agenda aims to secure the health and wellbeing of all our people, particularly the most vulnerable among us. It promotes strong collective action in areas such as regional peace and security, and enhancing the resilience of our communities, our ocean, our resources, and our economies. The Agenda is underscored by our desire to manage our own development in our own unique Pacific way.
Today we face many challenges including the effects of climate change and disaster, rising inequality, depletion of natural resources, regional and global conflict, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, changing multilateral relations, and an increasingly crowded and complex diplomacy in the region.
There has never been a greater need for our ocean of islands to strengthen their resolve to work together for the benefit of our people and our environment.
The future of the Pacific must be determined by its people. I have no doubt that this Blue Pacific region contains enough riches to ensure that we continue developing in sustainable ways that promote our Pacific Vision of a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives.
The fish that thrive in our waters are of great importance to Pacific Island countries. Shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean and maintaining regional solidarity as one “Blue Continent” will ensure this resource continues to make a significant contribution to the sustainable development of our people.
For decades we have been successful in managing our fisheries and have surpassed other regions of the world in terms of sustainable practice. Regional cooperation on management of our tuna resources by Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, supported by fisheries science from the Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC), has ensured that our collective efforts in managing the four main tuna species – skipjack, bigeye, albacore, yellowfin - are paying off, with all currently being harvested within sustainable levels. Effective sub-regional fisheries management arrangements, such as those adopted by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), have been integral to the outcomes achieved.
Effective regional security underpins the vision outlined in the theme for this year’s Pacific Islands Forum: Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will. The security of our people and their environment is crucial for sustainable growth and development, and the way we organise ourselves to protect and nurture our Blue Continent must be something we decide for ourselves.
“Securing the wellbeing and potential of The Blue Pacific is at the centre of the Forum Agenda”, said Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Samoa, the Hon. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi at the Korea-Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in Seoul last December.
“Protecting The Blue Pacific will require a collective security architecture that recognizes, promotes and provides security in the broadest sense of the term. There is commitment to working together to ensure the security of our shared ocean geography, resources and ecosystems therein, from unsustainable exploitation and illegal activities, including illegal fishing and transnational crime.
This is a time of profound change; and this change is taking place at an unprecedented pace. Geo-strategic competition between major world powers has once again made our region a place of renewed interest and strategic importance. Climate change increasingly affects our people in a variety of ways including increased severe weather events, scarcity of food and water, and displaced communities. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are burgeoning and with them issues relating to cyber security and cyber enabled crime.
Within this context, at the Forum Leaders meeting in Apia last year, Leaders directed the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to engage in consultations to refresh our existing security arrangements to meet the regions current and future security challenges.
This week we are all encouraged to know our ocean as the world marks World Ocean Day on the 8th June. As Pacific Islanders, we have a strong connection to our oceanic continent. Our totems are largely sea or land animals, and our coastal communities practiced ‘taboo’ over their fishing grounds way before the outside world entered our sphere. We can be proud of our intimate connection with the natural world around us.
However, humanity has not treated our oceans well. They are in great trouble and urgent action is required.
As stewards of the Pacific Ocean, the largest of the planets ocean systems, we have a great responsibility to take up this challenge – for ourselves and for our children and future generations.
To the children and youth of our Blue Pacific continent, I say know your ocean. It is the source of life for so many of us. Human activity is damaging our marine resources and we must act now.
Garbage in our ocean
Each year, humanity pours its trash into waterways and rivers without a second thought of what happens after they discard their rubbish. Much of this ends up in the ocean, where, for example, more than eight (8) million tonnes of harmful plastic waste ends up annually.
The world’s five ocean systems have been likened to “lungs” for our planet. For our community of ocean states, the Pacific Ocean is a source of both food and income; it has connected us in the past, and continues to do so today. The ripples of our ocean reach the shores of four continents. These connections are essentially pathways through which rubbish end up in our ocean of islands.
The repercussions of a warming planet are increasing both in intensity and in frequency. This is the case whether they are extreme, sudden, or slow onset weather and climate events. Either way they demand nothing less than innovative actions, and strengthened collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders.
Key to how our region responds to climate change and extreme weather events and their impacts on our island homes and our resources is the nature and extent of our resilience.
It requires Pacific Islands Forum members to invest in pathways towards economic, social, and environmental resilience. It requires our Governments to complement their respective approaches with input and contributions from development partners, including the private sector, who are key to resource mobilisation and to implementation. It also requires civil society to play a key role, to ensure effective links between policies and practice are well established and they endure.
Suva, Fiji (March 29, 2018) - Increasing population movements, economic progress, human security and governance have been identified by participants at the annual regional Civil Society Organisations’ (CSO) Forum last week as thematic priority policy areas for consideration by the Pacific leadership.
These priority policy areas were agreed to by representatives from across the Pacific following national consultations prior to their participation at the regional CSO Forum held at the Forum Secretariat in Suva last week. They will be presented to the Forum Economic Ministers meeting in Palau in April, and the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Nauru in September, by representatives selected by CSOs during the Forum.
Specific issues under these thematic priority areas include youth entrepreneurship and women’s financial inclusion, migration and finance in relation to the impacts of climate change Pacific communities are grappling with, and the importance of regional policy recognition for issues including effective border control and support for indigenous people’s rights.
We must be relentless in our efforts to end violence against women and girls. With the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence coming to an end for 2017 we must maintain our focus on the work that needs to be done.
The past 16 days has seen a flurry of activities related to the issue of gender-based violence and personally, I was reminded of a question posed by a woman journalist in Samoa at the end of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum who, acknowledging the beginning of my second term as secretary general, of the Pacific Islands Forum asked if I felt my position has made any difference to women in the region.
I had to tell her: No. I didn't think that I'd given as much as I could during my first term. Implicit in my remarks is a commitment to do a lot more in this particular area, building on the momentum of access to civil society at forum leaders' decision-making tables.
This week the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the UN Women Multi-Country Office co-hosted a talanoa exploring effective Pacific approaches to address the issue of violence against women and girls.