STATEMENT BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL
Dame Meg Taylor
Opening Ceremony for the 49th Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings
3 September 2018
- The Honourable Chief Justice and the Judiciary
- His Excellency Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of the Republic of Nauru and Forum Chair
- The Right Honourable Tu’ilaepa Sa’ilele Fatiaalofa Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa and outgoing chair of the Pacific Islands Forum
- Excellencies and Honourable Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum
- The Honourable Speaker of Parliament of Nauru and Members of Parliament
- Honourable Cabinet Ministers
- Members of the clergy
- [Traditional Leaders of Nauru]
- Heads of CROP agencies, regional and international organisations
- Members of the Diplomatic Corp
- Forum Dialogue Partners
- Forum Observers
- Distinguished guests
- The youth of Nauru
- Ladies and gentlemen
- It is an ongoing privilege to serve the Forum Leaders and our Pacific people. To be in Nauru for this 49th Pacific Islands Forum, particularly on its 50th year of independence is quite special.
- I am confident that you will all join me in thanking our Host, the President of the Republic of Nauru, His Excellency Baron Divavesi Waqa, his Government and the people of Nauru for the hospitality that has been afforded to us all since our arrival.
- I would like to acknowledge the outgoing Chair, the Honourable Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa. Under your tenure as Chair, we have made vast strides in advocating the Blue Pacific identity and strengthening regional solidarity in the face of a fast evolving geopolitical landscape. Over the past 12 months, the Secretariat has benefited tremendously from the guidance and counsel of Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Office.
- President Waqa – I congratulate you on assuming the role of chair of the Pacific Islands Forum for the next 12 months. I understand, Sir, that this will be the third time that Nauru has chaired the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting and I look forward to working with yourself and your colleagues Leaders to progress our Forum’s collective priorities with the support of your Secretariat.
- Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen; your Secretariat has worked very hard to deliver on the matters that you requested of us at your meeting in 2017, including: the development of a regional security declaration; the development of a Forum strategy on international engagement and advocacy; advancing the proposal for a Pacific Resilience Facility; and, undertaking comprehensive regional consultations in each of our Member States.
- These achievements demonstrate that with discipline and a focused and prioritised regionalism agenda, your Secretariat is ready and able to respond with the high quality and agile policy advice and support required to take forward your decisions to build a strong Pacific.
- Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the extensive consultations undertaken with Member States; with our regional agencies and with Development Partners on 2 specific policy issues, namely, the 2018 Pacific Sustainable Development Report and the regional consultations under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism have brought to the fore persistent development challenges that face Our People. In particular, social development issues such as food and water security, non-communicable diseases and growing socio-economic inequalities.
- The theme for this year’s Forum emphasises that these persistent insecurities and gaps in development are underpinned by a range of issues that speak to our region’s fragility. Therefore, ensuring the resilience of Our Islands and Our People is crucial if we are to realise our collective development ambitions and aspirations.
- I recognise, at this juncture, the value that the Biketawa Declaration has afforded our region. The 2003 – 2009 Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru, in particular, is a strong example of regionalism realised under the Biketawa Declaration. The negotiation of a new regional security declaration, underpinned by an expanded concept of security, will strengthen the enabling environment we need for stronger and cohesive regional security cooperation and coordination to address such multifaceted insecurity, vulnerability and fragility.
- In addition to fragility, this year’s theme recognises that key challenges for overcoming our development deficits include our dependency on others for financial aid and the recognition that conventional development strategies borrowed from other parts of the world have not delivered effective results for the people of the Pacific.
- The theme’s call to exercise Our Will in order to build a Stronger Pacific signals the need to begin to break this dependency and take greater control of our destiny. The Pacific Resilience Facility is one important example of how we can assert Our Will and be the driving force and determinant for our own resilient future.
- The foundation for asserting Our Will remains the Blue Pacific narrative. Over the past 12 months the Blue Pacific narrative has provided the basis for our solidarity on a number of different occasions, perhaps most notably during the PALM 8 meeting between Forum Leaders and Japan’s Prime Minister.
- It is vital that the Blue Pacific narrative continues to provide the impetus and basis for Pacific solidarity as we seek to advance our regional priorities such as at the BBNJ negotiations that are underway, COP24 at the end of the year, and within the WCPFC.
- Excellencies, the past 12 months has seen heightened geopolitical competition globally and around our region. A key question for the Forum is how do we maintain and strengthen our own strategic autonomy within this context? One result of renewed global competition is an increased interest and engagement in our region by traditional and non-traditional actors.
- This creates both challenges and opportunities for us. In particular, it challenges us to maintain our solidarity in the face of those who seek to divide us.
- Therefore, increasing the value proposition of our Blue Pacific is absolutely vital to exercising Our Will in order to secure the wellbeing and potential of Our Islands and Our People.
- We are at a critical juncture in the history of our region and of the Forum. The decisions and actions we take now and in the next couple of years will have important implications for building a Strong Pacific for Our peoples and place – now and in perpetuity.
- This context demands a range of focused political conversations, including with our Forum Dialogue Partners, and the agenda for the Forum Leaders deliberations this week seeks to do just that.