This year marks 50 years since the founding of the Pacific Islands Forum. Six sovereign nations and the Cook Islands came together in Wellington in 1971 to form what was then the South Pacific Forum. The small island states of the Pacific were newly independent, and soon more would join as new nations formed from the rapidly diminishing colonial presence in our part of the world.
Today we are 18 full members, plus associate members and partner states. Our success, however, is not just measured by our membership, because this is not a club; it is measured by our accomplishments, because we are a forum of sovereign nations confronting serious challenges in our region.
With the support from the larger countries of Australia and New Zealand and other partner states and organizations, Pacific Island states have boldly and unashamedly asserted our interests and exercised our rights as sovereign nations through this forum. We have never assumed that our size should relegate us to a back seat in determining the future of this region—or indeed, the world. And we never will.
So as we mark our golden anniversary this evening, we must take the opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved together, as one collective through the Pacific Islands Forum—and celebrate those achievements.
Together, we fought for a nuclear-free Pacific and committed to the Rarotonga Treaty.
Together, we negotiated and advocated what became the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—and we are asserting our rights under that convention.
Together, we have refined and committed to a region of democracy, peace and strengthened regional security.