Cook Islands Prime Minister and Forum Chair, Mark Brown says in consideration of the region geostrategic environment, the time is ripe for the Pacific region to drive the progress of its priorities and aspirations.

Brown said the Pacific continue to witness increased strategic interest and geopolitical positioning in the region by external partners and interests.

“This has materialised through heightened levels of engagement both nationally and regionally. But whether this interest and engagement is in our favour as a region, or aligned to our interests and priorities, is another matter.

“For far too long, we have been at the mercy of our partners – receiving what has been allocated to us and contending with the challenges that we have had to face over the course of our history.

“Today, we stand at an unprecedented juncture in our history – the stars have aligned on three key areas essential to advancing our Pacific interest:

*the current geostrategic environment;
*our political will as a region, including our efforts to define our collective vision and direction; and
*a visible and vocal Pacific leadership

“The alignment of the three essential elements underpin the importance of our strategic and efficient efforts to collectively progress our priorities in the interest of our people,” PM Brown said at the Ocean Nations 3rd Annual Indo-Pacific Dialogue in New York, on the margins on the United Nations General Assembly.

I have conceptualised the Pacific Partnerships for Prosperity as part of my initiative as Forum Chair to shape and drive partners’ interests in our region, to align with our priorities and integrate through our national and regional systems and processes, he said.

“Put simply, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“But at the core of our success is, and always will be, our solidarity as a region – because it is only in our unity that we will remain effective globally.

“Indeed, the power of our advocacy, if strategically aligned, can influence and manoeuvre our multilateral processes in our interest,” PM Brown stressed.

He said the world has seen the strength of the Pacific region’s advocacy through the multilateral processes on climate, especially at COP 21 in Paris, France.

“We have seen it on nuclear legacy issues, including the Rarotonga Treaty.

“Today, we are looking to our multilateral processes to overhaul and strengthen what has become a complex and overly bureaucratic development financing architecture.

“We call on partners to hear us – we call on partners to support our adaptation needs – we call on partners to recognise the loss and damage that we increasingly contend with as a result of this climate emergency.

“Our sea levels are rising. The intensity and frequency of extreme climatic occurrences are a norm in our region. Saltwater intrusion into our water tables and arable lands are very real threats for us at the cold face of the climate emergency,” PM Brown.

He said as the Pacific continue to work and navigate the interest of partners in the region, the region simultaneously manages the ongoing climate emergency in our Pacific region.

“As a region, our position has been clear on this issue: climate change is the single greatest existential threat to our region.

“We have taken steps as a region, to prepare to protect our sovereignty and the future of our people into perpetuity.

“We have advocated actively at all levels to call on partners and major emitters to respond to and address the threats that we face on a day-to-day basis.

“What may be rhetoric for the many is a reality for us in the islands. We have said this time and again.

“I have a young granddaughter, who I hope will have the opportunity to enjoy life in the Cook Islands as I have. To bring up her own children in the customs and ways of life of our people on our land.

“Indeed, our efforts today are not for us or our generation. It is for our future that we work hard today to ensure that they have a fighting chance,” PM Brown stated.