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49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting opens in Nauru

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04th September, 2018 The 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting was officially opened yesterday evening in Nauru under the theme Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will.

President of the Republic of Nauru and Chair of this year’s Forum His Excellency Baron Divavesi Waqa told leaders and officials that the founders of the Forum envisioned that Pacific Regionalism would build a strong Pacific.

“The overarching goal? Bring the Pacific closer together – closer through trade, through shipping and civil aviation, and through telecommunication. Central to this project would be our ocean, with tourism and the export of marine resources driving our economies forward and opening up new possibilities for our sustainable development.”

He said that as the Pacific Islands Forum approaches its 50th anniversary, Pacific Island countries might want to consider how the founders “would judge our progress towards a Strong Pacific.”

“I think it is fair to say that the results have not been terribly encouraging. A 2017 report by the PIF Secretariat on the State of Pacific Regionalism concluded that performance across the region with regard to the Millennium Development Goals was weak.”

He stated that only two countries had achieved all of the eight MDGs while most of the Pacific Island Countries achieved less than half.

“I think it is incumbent on us, as leaders, to ask whether we have stayed true to the original vision for a strong independent Pacific. Or if we have strayed, then why?”

He stated that the Pacific Island Countries challenges are widely recognized, challenges such as small land mass, limited natural resources, geographic isolation, vulnerability to natural disasters and economic challenges.

“We have been grappling with these challenges for decades. But in the face of climate change, developing effective strategies for dealing with them has become much more urgent. ‘Security’ has become the watchword for the region, and it is essential that Pacific Island Countries define precisely what the word means to us.”

President Waqa called upon leaders to summon their will and plan a clear vision for building a strong Pacific.

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Dame Meg Taylor said the Secretariat has worked on the requests made at the 2017 meeting including the developing a regional security declaration, the development of a Forum strategy on international engagement and advocacy, advancing the proposal for a Pacific Resilience Facility and initiating regional consultations with each member state.

“The theme for this year’s Forum emphasises 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 realise our collective development ambitions and aspirations.”

“This year’s theme recognises that key challenges for overcoming our development deficits include 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.”

She said 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.”

Leading the Tongan delegation to the Forum is the Prime Minister Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.


ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change & Communications.

 

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