With the region increasingly the focus of an intensifying contest for influence between super powers, China and the U.S, Cook Islands Prime Minister and Forum Chair Mark Brown urged all dialogue partners to respect “Our Voices, Our Choice, Our Pacific Way”.

“The Pacific Way is to respect each other’s sovereignty knowing it was hard fought by our forefathers.

“May this Forum reflect our Pacific Way and lead us all to prosperity,” PM Brown said at the official opening of the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders last night in Rarotonga.

“The Blue Pacific Continent – Te Moana Nui a Kiva – is our home. It is our oceans, our lands, our common heritage, and our Pacific people.

“This gathering is about you, our Pacific Leaders, and it is my great honour to welcome you all,” Brown told fellow leaders.

The Forum Chair said the Forum Leaders Meeting is not just an event; it is a milestone in our collective journey as stewards of our Blue Pacific Continent.

“Our Voices, Our Choice, Our Pacific Way is not just a theme it is a call to action. As leaders we are duty bound to strive in service for Pacific people to ensure prosperity and security for our sea of islands.”

“The value of partnerships lies not in what we receive, but in what we build together” said Brown as he noted the return of dialogue partners to Forum Leaders meeting this year.

Brown said that as host for the PIFLM52, the Cook Islands look forward to working with all delegations to achieve our Pacific Leaders vision for ‘a resilient Pacific Region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy, and productive lives’.

Guided by the theme “Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Pacific Way: Promote, Partner, Prosper,” more than 600 delegates, including Forum Leaders, Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) representatives, regional private sector and civil society delegates, Forum Associate members, Forum Observers, and Forum Dialogue Partners are attending this year’s Forum, from 6-10 November 2023.

The Pacific Sub-Regional Meetings and the Smaller Island States (SIS) Leaders Meeting on Monday started a host of meetings scheduled for the week as Leaders engage in discussions aimed at fostering genuine Pacific Partnerships that will ensure the resilience and prosperity of Pacific communities.

Aitutaki, referred to as a ‘gem in the Pacific,’ will host the Leaders Retreat on Wednesday.

At the heart of PIFLM52 is the Pacific Partnership for Prosperity (PPfP), encompassing existing and new initiatives and proposed regional collective actions with transformative potential. This will be launched on Friday.

The sounds, drums, chants, dancing, vibrant colours and the beautiful way of the people of the Cook Islands was showcased to Pacific Leaders and delegates attending the opening of the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting (PIFLM52) and beamed across the world on Monday.

As the sun was setting at the National Auditorium in Rarotonga, more than 200 Cook Islanders, consisting mostly of students, lifted their Pacific Voices through Cook Islands drumming and showed their Pacific way through dancing, to welcome the dignitaries.

The opening ceremony impressed the hundreds of visitors who have gathered in Rarotonga for PIFLM52. Chants from different parts of the Cook Islands, from the north to the south, greeted the leaders as they were escorted into the Stadium.

The opening ceremony was a celebration and a showcase of the proud and lively Cook Islands culture, her people, and a coming together of our Pacific cultures and the Forum family.

As the sound of drums, the pu and singing rung out loud in the stadium, footages and pictures from the opening ceremony were beamed across the Pacific and the world, to be remembered for years to come.