Forum Leaders Urged to Make Progress

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretary General Meg Dame Taylor.

NAURU, 4 September – PACIFIC Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretary General Meg Dame Taylor has urged respective Pacific Islands Forum leaders to ensure they make a collective progress to help build a strong Pacific.

In a official keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting held in Nauru yesterday (3 September), the Secretary General told Pacific leaders to ensure more collective progress in their priorities.

“In particular, social development issues such as food and water security, non-communicable diseases and growing socio-economic inequalities.

“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,” she told Forum Leaders.

The Secretary General also highlighted the vision behind this year’s Forum theme, which aims to build a strong pacific that is crucial for sustainable growth and development.
“The theme for this year’s Forum emphasizes 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 realize our collective development ambitions and aspirations.

“I recognize, 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 realized 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,” she stated.

The Biketawa Declaration is a declaration agreed to by all the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum constituting a framework for coordinating response to regional crises.

The declaration was agreed to at the 31st Summit of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, held at Kiribati in October 2000 in the regional context of the 2000 Fijian coup d’état and ethnic tensions in the Solomon Islands. The Biketawa Declaration has led to military and police forces as well as civilian personnel of Forum states, chiefly Australia and New Zealand, participating in regional peacekeeping and stabilization operations in Solomon Islands (2003-), Nauru (2004-2009) and Tonga (2006).

The Secretary General further stated that in addition to fragility, this year’s theme recognizes 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,” she said.

She told leaders that 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 solid Parity 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 well-being 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,” she added.

The official closing of the Pacific Islands Forum Meeting is scheduled for Thursday 6 September 2018.