Blue Pacific a strong expression of Pacific Regionalism
Dame Meg Taylor
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Statement at Media Workshop, Vailima
I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all. Allow me to offer my gratitude for your efforts to travel, from near and far, across the Blue Pacific Ocean to be here to cover the 48th Pacific Islands Forum.
This coming week is an important one for the Forum and for Pacific Regionalism.
As journalists, your role in shaping and sharing the story of this region’s collective efforts to ensure a healthy, safe, and prosperous environment, for all its people is a vitally important one.
As I have said before, the Pacific people must be the recipients of the common good delivered by the policies and initiatives that the Forum and its Secretariat work on. This means engaging in ongoing dialogue and discussion with our many communities – from community and church groups, and business owners to non-government organizations, public servants and students. An independent, well informed, and passionate Pacific media can, and do provide an immensely valuable space for these conversations to take place.
So I’d like to take this chance to thank you all for the work you have done in the past and encourage you to continue following the “regional” stories. Stories like managing the effects of climate change and disaster risk for our communities, growing the economic benefits that flow to our people from our fisheries, maintaining security, upholding human rights, promoting gender equality, and opportunity for those who are living with disability. These are stories that speak to a few of the biggest challenges facing our people today.
I believe that the Framework for Pacific Regionalism has provided the platform for a reinvigorated regionalism over the last two and a half years. A regionalism that is increasingly inclusive, innovative, adaptive, and producing results. We now have a regional policy agenda that it is both focused and political.
Let me give you some examples:
o Sustained and collective regional diplomacy around climate action from our Pacific countries was instrumental in getting the Paris Agreement signed and then ratified.
o The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, and the Pacific Resilience Partnership that will implement it, are ground-breaking world first regional initiatives that will guide our approach to addressing climate change and disaster risk management into the future.
The Forum’s Smaller Island States have a new joint strategy that is focussed on addressing a handful of key issues that are mutually specific to their well-being and prosperity.
PACER Plus has been signed by 10 Countries, demonstrating ongoing commitment by Members to trade and economic integration as a driver of economic development.
Though its history stretches beyond the Framework for Pacific Regionalism I would also like to mention RAMSI - the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands which concluded in June. It is a shining example of regionalism at its best. When the Solomon Islands were in internal conflict, every country from the Pacific, no matter how small sent somebody in their capacity as a police officer to come and be part of the regional team that assisted Solomon Islands to rebuild itself, to maintain peace, to strengthen its own police force so that they could maintain law and order within their own community.
I mention RAMSI also because its spirit, one of ‘helpem fren’ is something that I believe is thriving at the moment. It was the Biketawa Declaration that enabled RAMSI and in recent weeks the Forum Foreign Ministers began discussing the potential to strengthening/expand Biketawa so it can address the evolving security related issues we face today.
Finally, there has been substantial cooperation across the region to influence and progress the Sustainable Development 2030 Agenda and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
In particular, this year there has rightly been a concerted and collaborative focus on SDG14 and ocean management and conservation, because, as the Prime Minister of Samoa said at the Ocean Conference in New York in June – the Pacific “is the one natural asset that all our islands have in common, and in abundant supply.” The Honourable Prime Minister spoke earlier about the Blue Pacific, his theme for the Forum this year.
The Blue Pacific is a strong expression of Pacific Regionalism. It’s about reclaiming that identity that we are ‘one oceanic continent’ – and that as Big Ocean Stewardship States we can do more together than we can alone. It encourages us to see the collective potential of harnessing the energy and opportunity that lie both above and below our Pacific Ocean.
It is an empowering identity that can spur us to greater ambition when it comes to building the secure future our people pray for. It also puts forward a clear portrait of Pacific Regionalism that our people and partners can see and interact with.
I am sure the Leaders and our many stakeholders will explore the myriad possibilities of the Blue Pacific as the week unfolds and I look forward to hearing the fruits of those discussions.
Before concluding let me flag with you a few of the key events that will take place over this coming.
On Monday the SIS Leaders will convene to discuss the implementation of their strategy. Fair and equitable air service agreements, labour mobility and the potential for joint proposals for to access climate finance will be important parts of those discussions.
On Tuesday, when the PACP Leaders meet they will be focussed on preparations for a successor to the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP countries and the EU which concludes in 2020.
The Private Sector and Civil Society dialogues which take place on Wednesday will both be informed by the Blue Pacific theme of this week and it will be interesting to see where those discussions take us.
Thursday marks a change in the way we are structuring the Forum week. There will be a series of four dialogue panels comprising Members, Associate Members, Observers and Forum Dialogue Partners.
Each panel will be looking at a different theme: Two will focus on Maritime Domain Awareness Issues, one will look at Strengthening Pacific Regional Ocean Governance, and the final one will consider the Blue Pacific as a pathway for resilient development.
It is going to be a busy but exciting week. Thankyou.