Building a strong Pacific: Our people, our islands, our will
Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi
Prime Minister of Samoa
Outgoing Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum
3 September 2018, Nauru
It is a great pleasure to be in Nauru again, and to be here for the forty-ninth annual meeting of Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.
I congratulate Your Excellency, as well as your Government and the people of the Republic of Nauru for hosting this meeting. Thank you for your warm and generous welcome to us all.
I had the privilege earlier this year of joining other Pacific Leaders and distinguished guests in Nauru to celebrate her 50th anniversary of Independence. Mr President, I extend to you and your government, and people of Nauru our warmest congratulations on this important milestone.
Forum theme: Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will
The theme for this year’s Forum - ‘Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will’- is both fitting and timely. Building a stronger Pacific is at the heart of the calls for inspired leadership and a long-term commitment to maintaining a strong, collective voice and action on issues vital to our Blue Pacific.
Under your chairmanship, Mr. President, the Forum will no doubt continue to capitalise on opportunities that advance the regional agenda of the Forum Leaders.
Samoa as Forum Chair, and the Blue Pacific
My government and country were privileged to host the forty-eighth meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Apia last year.
A key decision taken was to reaffirm the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and promote the Blue Pacific identity as the core driver of our collective action.
We are faced with many challenges. These include climate change, sustaining our fisheries and tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, promotion of good governance, improving the lives of those who still live in poverty, reducing non-communicable diseases and of promoting a healthy Pacific, border security, the youth bulge, pollution and waste disposal … the list goes on.
Our Blue Pacific narrative recognises that we cope better when facing these challenges together. The Blue Pacific encourages strong and stable Pacific leadership for a strong Pacific region. The Blue Pacific sees our shared geography, culture, and resources as great strengths. We must draw on these common riches to build opportunities for the sustainable development of our people and our region.
Over the past 12 months, I have taken every opportunity to advocate for enhanced strategic engagement among our membership to inspire stronger Pacific regionalism. The collective positioning of our members during crucial meetings with the Republic of Korea, Japan, United Nations Secretary General, and Commonwealth Heads of Government, resulted in wide acceptance of our regional agenda.
Genuine, durable, and transparent partnerships are very important to our region. Partnerships that respect the integrity and sovereignty of our members to decide freely on who their partners are and whose contribution is provided on a non-interventionist basis.
Geopolitical issues of a complex nature are for the powerful to sort out. Small island countries have very genuine focus on the social and economic needs of their small populations who also aspire to share in the enjoyment of the necessities of the modern world.
We must continue to encourage our partners to support arrangements that will help us achieve the national and regional ambitions outlined in the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, the SAMOA Pathway and the Paris Agreement.
Before coming to Nauru, I had the privilege of opening the ‘Research Week’ at the University of the South Pacific as one of the commemorative events of the 50th anniversary of our regional University. I also accepted an invitation to speak at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia on the topic of “Pacific perspectives on the new geostrategic landscape”.
The University of the South Pacific has often been cited as one of the few examples of success in Pacific regionalism. As a provider of higher tertiary education and research in the region, and as a regional organisation, USP has contributed towards shaping the Framework for Pacific Regionalism through intellectual dialogue and interface with people who are actively engaged in re-defining the way the Pacific Framework should work.
At the Lowy Institute in Sydney, I observed that while many countries are reshaping the global rules and institutions into ways that might not always support our interests or reflect our values, we as Pacific countries, remain resolute to assert such. Under the Blue Pacific identity, we are asserting our common values and concerns, and building our collective voice amid the geopolitical din on the existential threat of climate change that looms for all of our Pacific family.
The full potential of the Blue Pacific to drive sustainable economic growth is not yet fully utilised - we must unlock this economic potential to support the modern development of our countries and people while ensuring good governance, and the sustainable development and management of our Ocean, and conservation of its resources.
Key Achievements in 2017
It is pleasing to see that the agenda items to be discussed by Forum Leaders this year, is the culmination of work that originated from 2017 in Samoa.
Last year for example, we agreed to ‘build on the Biketawa Declaration and other Forum security related declarations …’ on the recognition of the importance of an expanded concept of security inclusive of human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritising environmental security, and regional cooperation to building resilience to disasters and climate change.
CROP agencies, regional law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders must be emboldened in their continuing efforts to strengthen our regional security architecture to bolster strategic future regional responses within the expanded concept of security.
Similarly, we all have key roles to play in seeking the greatest level of ambition from all parties to the Paris Agreement – building on our existing efforts.
We understand that there are challenges for all countries, but we can overcome these through sustained cooperation, understanding and good faith.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the leadership shown by the Government of Fiji through its chairmanship of the COP23 and its role as High-Level Climate Champion, A fine example of Pacific leadership on a global issue.
The impacts of sudden extreme events such as cyclones, floods and tsunamis and slow-onset events such as sea-level intrusions and droughts are taking their toll on the health and wellbeing of all our peoples, particularly the most vulnerable among us. The importance of urgent action to combat climate change cannot be understated. The Paris Agreement Work Program must be completed at COP24.
I was also pleased to deliver the keynote address at the 2nd Climate Change Conference, an international event organised by Victoria University of Wellington NZ and SPREP further highlighting our adaptive approach to the impacts of climate change.
Beyond the Forum
The prosperity of our respective nations is linked to the prosperity of the Blue Pacific. We must remain united in the face of shared challenges as well as in our shared aspirations for a better future for all of our countries and Pacific peoples.
If we are to deliver on the regional agenda we set over the coming days, our collective action and cooperation in fora beyond the Forum will be essential, and our advocacy robust and confident.
In a few years’ time, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our organisation. We have come a long way since 1971 – then, we looked to the future with anticipation and were open to change. As we ‘grew up’, we continue to challenge the present to prepare for the future, respecting also the lessons that our past teaches us.
The Pacific Islands Forum, as the pre-eminent political grouping of the Blue Pacific, has a key leadership role in helping to ensure the prosperity and security of our Pacific Islands countries. The complex challenges that face our Blue Pacific cannot be addressed by any one sector, organisation or country alone. But the exchange of experience, skills and resources of governments, private sector, civil society and regional organisations are critical to developing practical solutions to enduring regional challenges, including sustaining peace and security and enhancing prosperity in our region.
These partnerships are vital for the Pacific and are deeply valued, and I wish to acknowledge in particular the invaluable cooperation and contribution of the Pacific regional organisations, private sector and civil society representatives who are here today, as well as our partners.
I wish to also acknowledge with much appreciation and respect the invaluable services to the region by Mr James Movick, Director General of the FFA, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director General of the Pacific Community, and Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of the South Pacific. Let me also offer warm congratulations to Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen on her appointment as Director-General-designate of the FFA.
Thank you, Dame Meg and the Forum Secretariat, as well as the Pacific Leaders for supporting Samoa in the chairmanship of the Forum. Without your strong personal commitments, much of what we have achieved these past 12 months would not have occurred. This is testimony to the strength and effectiveness of the Forum, and our shared sense of regional purpose.
Finally, I would like to stress the importance of the use of the Troika and that it is a window of opportunity to discuss issues for which distance and rudimentary connectivity prohibit wider consultations.
It is now my honour to hand over the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum to the President of the Republic of Nauru, His Excellency Baron Waqa.
I wish Nauru all the best for the next year as Forum Chair. Thank you.