Our thoughts this afternoon are with our island sisters and brothers in the Caribbean in the crosshairs of Hurricane Fiona. We know from experience the devastation you’re enduring, and we call on the world to rally to your aid.
Thank you to Leaders, Partners, Observers, and Members who are here with us as we set course for the future of our region as we launch the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, this time in view of the world.
This strategy is more than a framework. It is more than the sum of its words and, let’s be frank, a fair bit of development jargon. It is a vision. It is hope. It is wind in the sails of our drua for a sustainable Pacific and it is a defiant and unified message of resilience that represents who we are as proud Pacific people.
So why this launch today? And why here in New York, an ocean away from our island homes? The answer is simple: We are here because our future is tied to the entire world; and the entire world needs to hear our message. The larger high-emitting countries cannot tune out or turn away from what we are here to say. Together, we are an oceanic superpower. We are the guardians of the world’s largest ocean, ecosystem, and carbon sink. We know the power we wield, and we will not go willingly toward the catastrophe of two degrees or more of global warming. We will not be stalled or intimidated into inaction. And we will not be quiet about what is necessary to save us. We have a game plan for our best possible future –– and that future is worth fighting for.
As a father and as a grandfather, this strategy reflects the type of future that I want for my children and grandchildren. A future where we are safe, secure, and prosperous despite the challenges of climate change. A future where our reefs and marine ecosystems are healthy. A future that is built upon the traditions we hold dear and which leverages the best practices, technology, and knowledge the world has to offer.
As Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I can personally attest to the work and effort that has gone into the development of the 2050 Strategy. For two years, our governments, communities, and people from all walks of life have contributed to the making of this document. This is their strategy as much as it is anyone else’s. They have sat together, shared ideas together, and raised questions together, and we, their leaders, have listened to the voices of many who attended in-country workshops, virtual seminars, committee meetings, online submissions, and countless consultations.
We listened to experts, the young, the elderly, women, girls, boys and men, persons with disabilities, people from faith-based organisations, and ordinary citizens from every imaginable walk of life. This is their strategy as well.
In developing the strategy, we scanned the horizon, we identified our region’s drivers of change, we distilled thematic priority areas and strategic pathways, and our people identified the future that they want for themselves and our region by the year 2050.
And what a future the region has mapped for itself. A future refined and developed through a global pandemic, setting a vision and a strategy that truly reflects all things that matter to us as Pacific Islands people.
As you may have seen in the document, and as Forum Leaders declared earlier this year, climate change is now at crisis levels, representing a code red situation for our region and our planet. Every year in our region we are bracing for once-in-100-year storms. We are writing the year 2050 right now through actions we do or do not take to limit global warming and adapt to its impacts. . We need major emitters to curb their carbon emissions now. We need access to climate finance for adaptation now. We need technology and innovation to support economic transition now. Really, we needed it 20 years ago. Seeking it today is a compromise we have already made.
To our friends from around the world who are with us – there is a section of this strategy that states clearly that in the event of extreme sea level rise the citizens of our lowest lying members will continue to serve as stewards of their ocean areas. That is where we are; that is what this crisis has forced us to consider. And every day between now and 2050 that possibility will weigh heavily on our minds. Again I implore you: Act now. Cut emissions. Save us and yourselves.
Excellencies – the 2050 Strategy is about our people – who are both the drivers and beneficiaries of this vision. In this regard, education and skills development, a holistic focus on our youth, an embrace of the best of our cultures and traditions, and the assurance of healthy peoples and healthy communities are all part and parcel of our pathway to 2050. I believe that our progress can only be measured by the well-being of those most vulnerable among us. So I am glad to see that a focus on gender equality, persons with disabilities, and the most marginalised members of our society is part of the fabric of this strategy.
The strategy also places a central focus on our ocean. As we Leaders alluded to at the 2nd UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon, the ocean is central to our identity, our livelihoods, and our future as large ocean states. It is what unites us. It is what defines us. It is what sustains us. And it is what sustains
the world –– every third breath of air that every person breathes comes from the Pacific. The strategy, therefore, emphasizes preserving, protecting and securing the ocean. But it also seeks to ensure that we, the custodians and stewards of the Pacific Ocean, can benefit from our immense ocean resources through sustainable blue economic development.
Excellencies, we are sovereign countries. We need economic independence that matches our level of political independence. Our development aspiration cannot be tethered to that of other nations, even within our region. We need resilient, sustainable, and prosperous economies that can keep themselves afloat and that can provide good jobs – based both in nature and new technology. As I’ve shared during national consultations, my vision is that by 2050 our debt levels are well managed, our economies are strong; that through our natural resources, tourism and broader trade we are a prosperous region that can set and drive our own development agendas.
Because ultimately, this strategy is about ensuring that by 2050, we the peoples of the Pacific., are able to support and sustain ourselves. That we are not dependent on others. Or susceptible whenever there is a global shock. That we are truly resilient – in all forms: socially, economically, culturally, and strategically.
All of these things together reflect, as I said in Suva during the Leaders meeting, the “strategy within the strategy”.
To our invited guests, to our dialogue partners, to our donors and development partners, I warmly invite you to join us on this voyage. Align yourselves to our strategic direction and priorities, and work with us, as we strive to secure our future.
To the people of the Blue Pacific Continent – I thank you for this strategy and invite each and every one of us – young and old – to cast our eyes to the north star, as we begin our collective voyage into the future.
Excellencies – thank you for being part of this Pacific moment of the UNGA 2022, and for your support of this global launch of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.