Samoa put on a spectacular show last night to officially open the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, being held in Apia this week.
The rain did not dim the excitement as a dazzling display of Samoan dances and a cultural show greeted Pacific leaders and development partners, from all over the world, who are congregating in Apia.
Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, officially opened the meeting at the famous Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
“Putting the Blue Pacific at the center of regional policy making strengthens collective action to advance the implementation that has been reflected in the regional initiatives,” Tuilaepa said.
He acknowledged that as incoming Chair, his responsibility is to drive the implementation of their priorities and is willing to work with Pacific leaders to see their agenda through.
“The theme of the Pacific Islands Forum is ‘Blue Pacific -- our sea of islands, our security through sustainable programs, management and conservation.
“For the Pacific region and its island countries, the ocean is crucial, and exercising the sense of common identity has been critical for protecting and promoting the potential of our shared Pacific Ocean.
“It is the commonality of the fundamental essence which has the potential to empower the region through its collective and combined agendas and actions.
“Blue Pacific will strengthen the existing policy frameworks and harness the ocean as a driver of transformation of social, cultural, and political development of the Pacific.”
The Prime Minister highlighted efforts to address climate change.
“Collectively, we as Pacific leaders successfully persuaded the world to see the high end change through the lens of small island communities most vulnerable to climate change,” he said.
He paid tribute to a Pacific leader and climate change activist, the late Tony deBrum.
He said the Pacific long term commitment of acting together as one blue continent ensures the sustainable security, resilience and peaceful blue journey, as well as blue Pacific diplomacy to protect the value of our ocean and people. He also congratulated the Smaller Island States Leaders and Polynesian Leaders Group who came to the successful conclusion of their meetings.
More than 600 guests, including Pacific leaders and delegates, attended the special event.
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, spoke briefly and welcomed the delegates to the P.I.F.
She congratulated Prime Minister Tuilaepa, noting that this is the fourth time Samoa has served as Chair.
“You clearly have a special relationship with the Forum and we can all benefit from your leadership, insights and wisdom,” she said.
“Honorable Prime Minister, I am very inspired by your choice of theme for this year’s forum. I believe the Blue Pacific has great potential to strengthen our sense of commonality. We are all connected by the Pacific Ocean.”
The opening started with a traditional Ava ceremony.