Pacific Islands Forum Chairman and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says the time is ripe to consider what role they see the Smaller Islands States (SIS) playing both now and into the future.

Brown made the statement at the opening of the Smaller Islands States (SIS) in Rarotonga on Monday ahead of the opening of the 52nd Forum Leaders meeting official this evening.

“I am hopeful that we, as SIS Leaders, can use this opportunity to discuss and shape the future we see for this grouping in the Pacific Islands Forum, in amidst our evolving strategic context.

“We have invested a significant amount of time and resources over the last few years in the development of the 2050 Strategy and its Implementation Plan.

“Together, these will support a strategic collective approach to the achievement of our long-term vision. This is and should always be our collective priority as the Forum.

“What are our expectations of this grouping and of each other? How do we galvanise support addressing our unique vulnerabilities? PM Brown asked.

“Whatever we decide, one thing is for certain, we must commit to and undertake our SIS objectives together and continue to support our shared aspirations,” PM Brown told SIS members.

Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna said it is the SIS who stand at the frontlines of the climate emergency.

“It is the SIS that continue to contend with and navigate challenges that continue to impede their development trajectories. But more often than not, it is also the SIS that continue and consistently punch above their weight in international engagement and advocacy the world over.

“Your meeting today is the first in a series of opportunities this week for you and fellow Leaders to reflect, assess and engage on critical decisions in pursuit of wider and deeper regionalism.

“Personally, I can attest to the fact that for far too long now, the SIS have expressed much intention and hope in addressing the unique vulnerabilities that you all share, but unfortunately with little or varied results,” Puna stressed.

He said the agenda before them provides an opportunity as well as the space for frank discussions amongst themselves and as political leaders, on the direction that they want to see the SIS take, moving forward.

“As a region, we currently have a strategic leverage that we have never had before but as I continue to say, it is a time of opportunity that will not last forever.

It is imperative that we organise ourselves to ensure that we can take full advantage of this strategic environment and reap sustainable outcomes for our people,” said Puna.