Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
This week has been about a celebration of commitment and effort by many Governments, organizations and individuals in their leadership and dedication to the conservation and preservation of the oceans, and the effective management of the resources therein, in particular, our Pacific Ocean.
A shared Ocean means a shared responsibility and shared benefits for our environment, our economies and our communities. Though separated by vast distances, the Pacific Ocean unites our islands in common purpose – it is our home, and our key to a future of infinite promise. Therefore as guardians of the largest portion of the Pacific Ocean, our leadership matters.
As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific we have played a significant leadership role in advancing global Ocean policy. At the multilateral level, we have negotiated a global common cause on Oceans that has resulted in global best practice as reflected in the SAMOA Pathway, as well as a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans – Goal 14.
These efforts and outcomes are due to the high priority that we as the stewards of our Pacific region, attach to the sustainable management, use and conservation of our ocean resources. This focused prioritisation is elaborated in the Forum Communiqué and Pohnpei Ocean Statement – “A Course to Sustainability” issued at the 47th Forum Leaders Meeting convened in Pohnpei, FSM in 2016. It is also reflected in decades of policy development including the establishment of a Pacific Islands Regional Oceans Policy (PIROP) and the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape. the latter giving rise to the establishment of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC).
While as Pacific nations we rightly identify ourselves as stewards of the Ocean, the fact is we cannot save life in the Ocean on our own. Collective global effort is required and that is what this Ocean Conference is based upon.
The Pacific communities will work with other partners to promote the application of compatible policies by those partners in areas subject to their jurisdiction and surrounding waters, and with all other countries having interests in the region. The readiness to provide voluntary commitments is testament to that.
We acknowledge with appreciation the support by our willing partners such as the fact that UNCTAD is supporting countries in understanding the options and implications of the fish subsidies negotiations in the WTO and in the design and implementation of Oceans Economy and Trade Strategies. The Commonwealth Secretariat has recently completed a report on, “A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050”, which, among other thematic areas, examines Ocean Governance issues in maximising ocean resources in a sustainable way. The Commonwealth has worked closely with the Pacific’s regional organisations to provide member countries legal, technical and policy services and solutions such as in the area of maritime boundaries delimitation.
The Oceans Conference has presented and presents a unique opportunity for policy-makers and leaders from small islands developing states, alongside our development partners, to discuss the mainstreaming of Ocean policy into national and regional development plans and priorities. Let us make use of the opportunity for experience sharing and the showcasing of effective leadership through innovations developed and adapted to the Pacific. Let us also look at the opportunity to explore potential partnerships that could be built on to promote innovation and development through the ocean economy.
Thank you for your attention.