Geo-strategic competition could create disunity in the region: SG Puna


By Pita Ligaiula in Port Vila

Forum Secretary General Henry Puna says geo-strategic competition is intensifying and playing out in our region and if not handled carefully, could easily create disunity and conflict among our people and communities.

Puna made the statement at the opening of the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) currently underway in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Puna emphasised the importance of solidarity within the region.

“Solidarity and cooperation are necessary for us to move forward together. These are the dreams of our Leaders of the Blue Pacific Continent. We have to work together to emerge more unified, safe and resilient as one Blue Pacific Continent in dealing with our challenges like the pandemic, climate emergency, and geopolitical competition.

“Our Blue Pacific region faces significant challenges. Most of these challenges fall directly under your responsibilities as Finance and Economic Ministers. The ongoing climate change crisis our region faces, and the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our economies. This is being exacerbated by geo-political tensions such as the Russia-Ukraine war and its impacts on the global economy.

Puna said these are issues that Ministers deal with at national level on a daily basis.

“We are interested to hear your experiences, especially any success stories you may have on how you have addressed these challenges. Sharing experiences, priorities and lessons learnt help strengthen regional cooperation to support economic recovery, resilience and stability in our region.

“In times like this, we all need to work together, collaborate, assist our people and our grow our economies to ensure that no one is left behind. It is critical that all key stakeholders, including government, private sector, civil society organisations, women’s groups and our young people to work together to collectively address our challenges,” he said.

Puna said region need a plan, a roadmap to guide their pathway to deal with these challenges now and into the future.

“Key items on the agenda are, the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, regional initiatives to support economic recovery, climate risk and disaster risk financing, the Pacific Resilience Facility, a Concept Note on the Blue Pacific Economic Strategy (BPES) and an update on the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“That is why the launching of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent last month by our Leaders is a very important milestone. The 2050 Strategy provides that roadmap and an important pillar of Pacific regionalism. It will help us chart our future vision and collective action. It is a Pacific developed and owned framework to secure and protect our people, their cultures and traditions, resources and the future of our Blue Pacific Continent.

“As we chart our course as a region and as an organisation for the next three decades, the 2050 Strategy will take us forward, embed our ambition and determination for a sustainable and inclusive future for all our people and region.

“You have a role to play in driving the economic thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy. The Blue Pacific Economic Strategy (BPES) Concept Note to be presented during this meeting for Ministers consideration is anchored to the Resources and Economic development thematic area of the Strategy,” said Puna.

He also called on development partners and friends to work with them to ensure that the Minister’s programmes and activities in the region are aligned with the Strategy.

“I thank the UN for starting this process and I believe; we will discuss this further tomorrow afternoon in the Dialogue Partners Roundtable discussion.

“Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to consult and dialogue with our key stakeholders: the private sector, civil society organisations and our development partners. I hope we will use this meeting platform to frankly discuss and collectively find solutions to the priority issues facing our region,” said Puna.