“It is our desire that we as a country, and we as a Blue Pacific Continent, continue to seek opportunities to influence the global mechanisms to materialise the priorities, we have set ourselves as the Blue Pacific Continent– we owe it to ourselves, and to our generations yet to come.”

For Vanuatu’s High commissioner to Fiji, Ambassador Viranria Brown, a message penned by Prime Minister Kalsakau in his 43rd Anniversary speech formed the key remarks to her 2023 Vanuatu independence celebration statement in Suva, Monday night.

PM Kalsakau had quoted from the national anthem – “Plante fasin blong before istap, plante fasin blong tedei, be yumi iolsem wan nomo- hemia fasin blong yumi” – which talks about the unity of coming together as one people” – despite our alluding to the differences, many languages, different cultures which must unite the people of Vanuatu as a resilient nation.

“This is who we are,” Brown urged those gathered at the Forum Fale for the joint commemoration event of Vanuatu independence on the 30th of July and Cook Islands independence on August 4th. The joint commemoration was hosted by Secretariat staff and SG Henry Puna at the Forum Fale on Monday 7th August, in the leadup to FEMM 2023.

“Yumi wan Pipol! Yumi wan Solowora! Yumi wan Blue Pacific Continent!”, High commissioner Brown told the audience.

She noted the first seven months of the year for the government, with Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, attended his first High Level Regional engagement – the Special Leaders Retreat in Nadi in February, which saw the formal handover of the Forum Chair role from Fiji to the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown.

Less than a week later, Vanuatu was devasted by Cyclones Judy and Kevin, which affected more than 43,000 households and resulted in post disaster assessment of a staggering VT91.6 billion (US$766 million).

High Commissioner Brown thanked Forum members and development partners for their support in the wake of the cyclones. “We are planning and implementing our recovery as we also plan and brace for the next cycle of the cyclone season. That is our reality- the same for most of our countries within our region,” she noted.

Vanuatu and a handful of other developing islands are amongst the most vulnerable in the world to extreme weather events.

The High Commissioner also acknowledged fundraising efforts of PIF social club staff, who raised most than FJD10,000(US$5,000) in the margins of a senior official’s event in Nadi. The funds were shared between two of the most remote island communities in Vanuatu- to Erromango communities-for their food security projects and to Aniwa island- off shore islands of Tanna.

Less than two weeks after the cyclone event, Vanuatu and Tuvalu co-hosted a Ministerial Just Transitions meeting in Port Vila, amidst clean- up crews, the deafening sound of chain saws and hammering- The meeting was attended by 7 member countries and resulted in the Port Vila Call to action for a Just transition to a fossil fuel free Pacific.

“15 days after the cyclones hit Vanuatu, our Prime Minister in New York, called on the United Nations for the endorsement of the resolution to the ICJ for an advisory opinion on state obligations relevant to climate change. This resolution was passed by consensus. We pause to acknowledge the solidarity and the unity of the Forum Family in their support and commitment in this journey.”

Vanuatu has also continued to host other regional meetings key to its energy and climate ambitions and focus on cultural solidarity. The nation has just hosted the 10-day Melanesian Arts Festival which culminated in the 43rd Anniversary celebrations in Port Vila.