Forum Secretary General Henry Puna says the Pacific ‘must protect the sanctity of our solidarity’ – as Blue Pacific Continent, as the interest of geopolitics in the region grows.
Addressing pre- Forum session of the Forum Officials Committee(FOC) meeting in Suva, Puna said the Pacific have never held as much leverage and influence until now.
“A little over 24 months ago, our strategic context was redefined by the onset of COVID-19. Since then, we’ve navigated a world that had been unravelled by a raging pandemic and worked through national capacities that were stretched with limited resources.
“And as we begin to grapple with economic recovery following long periods of border closure, we must contend with yet another context – one marked by intensifying geostrategic competition that has catapulted our region to the centre of global attention in 2022.
“We, as a region, have never held as much leverage and influence as we perhaps do, today.
However, if we are to truly maximise our leverage to this increasing interest and attention on us, we must protect the sanctity of our solidarity – as Blue Pacific Continent. As one Pacific Forum Family,” Puna told FOC officials.
Puna also congratulated the Forum Chair, Fiji and respective Leaders for their efforts in securing the Suva Agreement that was concluded last week recognising that further dialogue and work remains, particularly, on its operationalisation and related implications.
He said the Blue Pacific vision for 2050 will be tabled for final endorsement by Forum leaders in July.
“However, in the context of strategic contest, this sends a clear message to the world of our Leaders intention to remain united as a Forum Family, and the promise that it carries for the realisation of our vision for 2050 – which will be tabled for final endorsement by our Leaders in the coming month.
“Indeed, I do believe that it is timely that Leaders consider and endorse the 2050 strategy, particularly in the context of fierce geopolitical competition, as well as worsening climate change projections and impacts.
“These trends have the potential to shape our region in deeply fundamental and potentially irreversible ways. So, to have a strategy that sets out where we want to be as a region, is critically important at this juncture in our history.
“There is no secret that our key strength as a region lies in our ocean and its resources. How we secure it, protect it, leverage and benefit from it through regional political settlements, as well as regulatory, policy and legal instruments, will be core to the success of our 2050 Strategy,” said SG Puna.
Puna said the collective wisdom of FOC is to ensure that the recommendations and policy options that they will take to the Leaders in the coming month will only serve to improve and strengthen ‘our solidarity as the Pacific Islands Forum’.
“Indeed, our relevance and effectiveness as a Secretariat is dependent on how best we listen to you and how seamlessly we can work with you in support of the priorities that you have set to be achieved, together,” he said.
SG Puna also praised the leadership of the Fijian government since it took on the mantle of Forum Chair in August last year.
“It would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge in particular, the considerable efforts and leadership shown by the Government of Fiji.
“I must say, that words fall short when it comes to describing the effort that the Chair and his Officials have invested in leading and progressing a range of regional processes and initiatives over the last year, amidst a range of competing priorities – it has been an amazing feat of tenacity, determination and the single minded intention to keep this family united – to all of you, vinaka vakalevu and meitaka ma’ata,” said Forum SG Puna.
He also acknowledges and commend all those who were party too or supported the initiative to establish and convene the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting which was successfully concluded last Thursday.