The Governor General of Papua New Guinea, His Excellency, Sir Michael Ogio
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Honourable Peter O’Neill
The Honourable Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers
The Honourable Chief Justice and members of the judiciary
Honourable Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum and their good Ladies
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the National Parliament
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Provincial Governors, traditional leaders and the people of Papua New Guinea Heads of Delegations of our Post-Forum Dialogue Partners and our regional organizations
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the clergy, civil society representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
Performing my final duties as the Outgoing Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am honoured and pleased to address you all today. I thank you for bestowing upon Palau, and indeed, my government and I, the honour and privilege of leading the Pacific Islands Forum for the last 12 months.
While we are here to work, as well as to enjoy this beautiful and vibrant country, I want us to remember the extreme hardships that our brothers and sisters are enduring in the Highlands at this time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to families who have lost loved ones. The damaging effects of a strong El Nino, as well as the increasing vulnerabilities of our countries to a range of natural hazards, which often lead to disasters, provide us with added impetus and urgency to address one of the factors of this devastating drought – climate change.
Fellow leaders, at the outset, let me take a brief moment to recognize the historic significance of the appointment of Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor, and offer on our behalf, our congratulations.
Framework for Pacific Regionalism:
At our meeting in Palau a little over a year ago, Forum Leaders endorsed the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Please note that the Forum Secretariat has begun the implementation of this work, and under the stewardship of Secretary General Taylor, this work has progressed to the extent that we will have a number of key issues to consider over the coming days – issues which will form part of the basis for a high level regional agenda.
You may recall that the Framework for Pacific Regionalism was adopted following the endorsement of the findings of the Pacific Plan Review. This encouraged the political leadership of the Pacific to agree upon a high-level regional agenda, make game-changing decisions for the region, and oversee the prosecution of this agenda – an agenda which may take years to fulfil.
In order for this to occur, we as Leaders need to enter into discussions with a spirit of frankness and courage, recognizing of course that the outcomes of our discussions should have the potential for doing much good for the people of our region.
Difficult but important conversations around sovereignty, the pooling of resources, and agreement on particular positions at the international level are taking place already. These are hard conversations about regionalism that need to take place – and what the Forum is about if we are to make any meaningful progress on this front in the Pacific. As the Pacific Plan Review Report noted, we need to recapture the ‘regional politic’. We will be facing tough decisions that will require a strong political solidarity in order to make real progress.
I want to again emphasize the role that regionalism has to play for Smaller Island States (SIS). In fact, Smaller Island States have the most to benefit from regional approaches to addressing key issues. We continue to look to a spirit of good-will and of the Pacific Way of “looking out for one another” from Forum Leaders and peoples as we enter into discussions – particularly as we in SIS countries face clear and present and existential threats with regards to climate change.
3rd International Small Islands Developing States Conference:
Not long after we met in Palau last year, we turned our attention to issues facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and met again at the Third International Conference for SIDS in Samoa last September. I want to congratulate again the Government and people of Samoa for hosting this successful event – which I believe is the biggest international meeting our region has hosted to date.
The SIDS Conference was an important opportunity for the global community to articulate support for the diverse needs of SIDS. We welcomed this global attention to highlight our challenges, our priorities, and our achievements. It spurred a renewed spirit for action and support for SIDS, and we should not falter in our continued efforts in this regard.
The high priority regional initiatives identified through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism mirrors the priorities of the SAMOA Pathway on climate change, oceans and seas, health and non- communicable diseases and technology. The SAMOA Pathway also reaffirmed the importance of freedom, peace and security, and respect for all human rights and also provides an impetus for partnership and cooperation coming out of Samoa. The three Ps cannot be over emphasized – Partnership, Partnership, and Partnership.
Smaller Island States:
The SIS has, for the Forum, become its barometer of impact in its efforts to build and sustain a region of peace, harmony and prosperity. It is for this reason that more targeted attention is needed from our region and development partners in addressing the unique vulnerabilities of the SIS.
But leadership by the Smaller Island States is central for this to occur. Earlier this week my fellow SIS Leaders met and decided that the first steps to ensure a clarity of purpose and to drive a more strategic regional agenda that gives special attention to the SIS, must be set by the Smaller Island States themselves. We have therefore directed the Forum Secretariat to work closely with all SIS members and all Forum members in formulating an SIS Strategy.
As Large Ocean Island States, the ocean is our way of life. The ocean is one of the few things that literally connects us. It is our livelihood, our culture and our economy. It is the basis for our future and our choice of theme for the 45th Forum hosted by my government – The Ocean: Life and Future. This was reflective of growing international recognition of the important role the ocean plays in sustainable development, but also our growing concern regarding threats to ocean and coastal resources.
Last year, Leaders unanimously endorsed the Palau Declaration, The Ocean: Life and Future, Charting a Course to Sustainability. The Declaration called for action to address, amongst other matters: fisheries conservation and management, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; maritime boundaries delimitation; potential environmental impacts of extractive industries; unequal distribution of the costs of ocean management; biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and reporting and knowledge sharing.
Many of our countries have already made great strides towards preventing illegal fishing through the creation of large scale marine protected areas and the enhancement of maritime surveillance and enforcement capacities. Kiribati launched the Phoenix Island Protected Area back in 2006, the Cook Islands initiated Marine Spatial Planning through the Cook Island Marine Park, and Palau is in the process of expanding the existing Micronesia Challenge area with the declaration of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. All of these MPA’s are innovative responses rooted in tradition, and in line with the global community’s call to protect at least 10% of our total Ocean by 2020. These bold steps complement our own Forum Fisheries Agency’s progressive efforts to combat IUU activity. Other countries in our region are choosing to take a stand on Illegal Unreported Unregulated fishing with stricter fisheries management to achieve similar goals.
Our Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Leaders and communities, with the support of our regional organizations, have advocated and are implementing many significant initiatives across all aspects of sustainable ocean management. Creation of marine protected areas and sanctuaries; measures to enforce fishing limits; increasing the rate of return from fishing activities; formalizing maritime boundaries; reducing pollution and tackling climate change have all been key components of the region’s efforts. I am proud to say our unified and concerted efforts to protect and promote our ocean have been recognized, and the ocean is now set to be a stand-alone goal in the Post 2015 Development Agenda that will come before the United Nations in the next few weeks.
Fellow leaders, we are caretakers of the Ocean and custodians responsible for its ongoing well-being. We hope that the Palau Declaration will continue to inspire increased, sustained action and integrated approaches to ensure sustainable development, management and conservation of the Ocean.
Launched at the Samoa SIDS Conference was the Pacific Ocean Alliance. The Alliance has gone on to convene its inaugural meeting earlier this year to discuss the region’s priorities and interests as they relate to areas beyond national jurisdiction. It was encouraging to hear that such a broad range of stakeholders from governments, international and regional organizations, the private sector and civil society, including our youth, came together to take this partnership forward and address an issue of great importance to the region.
We are exceedingly pleased to see our brothers and sisters from Fiji back in our regional organization, recognizing, after careful review and observation, that they have indeed held a fair and monitored election by and for the people of Fiji. We congratulate Fiji and are pleased to welcome them back to the Forum.
As I pass on the baton of regional leadership to the incoming Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Honourable Peter O’Neill, I ask that we all support the Prime Minister and this great country in propelling us forward. Excellency, you have my full and ready support, and I wish you and the government and people of Papua New Guinea the very best of success.
Kom kmal Mesulang and tankyu tru.