Pacific Leaders welcome Japan’s assistance to the region

Prime Minister of Japan, H.E. Mr Yoshihiko Noda, has committed assistance of up to US$500 million to the Pacific over the next three years.

Prime Minister Noda made this announcement through the “Okinawa ‘Kizuna’ Declaration” released at the Sixth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 6) held last week in Okinawa, Japan.

Leaders and representatives of Japan, Pacific Island Forum members including, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as the United States, gathered for PALM 6 on 25 and 26 May 2012 in Okinawa, Japan.

The Summit was co-chaired by the Prime Minister Noda and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Hon Henry Puna.

Building on previous commitments of the PALM process, including Japan’s support in line with the Pacific Plan, the Leaders discussed ways of enhancing cooperation with particular focus on response to natural disasters, environment and climate change, sustainable development and human security, people-to-people exchanges and maritime issues.

“At a time of significant global financial uncertainty, together with your own significant challenges experienced over the last few years, we are extremely grateful for your continued significant contributions to our region,” said Prime Minister Puna.

Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo of the Solomon Islands thanked Japan for its past assistance to the Pacific amounting to US$493 million over the last three years. Prime Minister Lilo further welcomed Japan’s renewed commitment including the support to the principles of the Forum Compact. He also supported the replenishment of the PEC Fund, with an expanded scope as it complements the work of Forum Island Countries in very important areas.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa reiterated the Pacific Islands Forum’s sympathy and solidarity with Japan following the tragic tsunami of 2010. He recounted his own country’s experience of a similar nature in 2009 and outlined the practical lessons learnt in that process.

“It is easy to slip into complacency if there are wide gaps between disasters,” said Prime Minister Tuilaepa. “We must maintain vigilance in preparedness measures for disasters and the need for development partner support in that regard is of vital importance to our region.”

President Anote Tong of Kiribati spoke passionately about climate change and the realities facing the most vulnerable in the region. President Tong commended the presentations by youth at the Young PALM meeting, noting: “They will inherit the problems we have created. This burden Leaders must take very seriously.”

Premier of Niue, HE Toke Talagi, spoke frankly about the need to change the old fisheries business models inherited by the region.

“It’s not a secret that these resources create huge wealth for our neighbours and we must look at means of improving the fisheries business model to more effectively share these proceeds.”

Supporting this, the President of Kiribati stated that if the region received its fair share of returns on fisheries it would not need Overseas Development Assistance to effectively respond to the region’s many challenges, including climate change.

“Pursuit of a green economy is important for the Pacific based on the sustainable use of our ocean resources, otherwise known as a blue economy,” highlighted the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, HE Christopher J. Loeak.

President Loeak also underscored the need to strengthen and reform the region’s technical education capabilities in key areas such as fisheries to effectively equip Forum Island Countries to pursue sustainable development.

The President of the Federated States of Micronesia, HE Manny Mori spoke about the importance of people-to-people exchange and commended Japan for its significant efforts in this regard including initiating the “Young PALM” as a part of the PALM process.

“Young PALM is a testament of the growing Kizuna (Japanese for ‘strong bond’) between our region and yours,” said President Mori.

All Leaders expressed their support for the Young PALM and made statements about how this had practically affected their respective countries.

In closing, the PM of Cook Islands stated: “Your pledges of developmental support to our countries are sincerely appreciated and will assist greatly in addressing our own challenges and more importantly creating opportunities for, and between our nations.”

Prime Minister Noda expressed his intention to pay consideration to the special needs of each Smaller Island State, highlighting his commitment to pursuing the shared vision of a more secure, resilient and prosperous Pacific region in line with the Pacific Plan in cooperation with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and other development partners and international organisations.

(Ends)