Summing up the Pacific Leaders meeting earlier this month in Rarotonga, Tonga’s Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni said the meeting reassured the Pacific leaders commitment to its 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific continent, and also allowed leaders to be in one mind, especially for the upcoming COP28.

In a media briefing the PM held last Friday, he said the issues of climate change remained one of the most important concerns that were raised in the Pacific Leaders meeting.

Hu’akavameiliku noted, “Lack of funding is a major setback for the Pacific Island countries in dealing with the issues of climate change.”

He said there had been previous dialogues about developing a fund facility that would respond to the climate issues in the Pacific Island countries.

Saudi Arabia has donated USD$ $50 million to the initiating of this “funding facility”, the Prime Minister said.

On Rarotonga Treaty, about five countries in the Forum have not signed into the Rarotonga treaty – a treaty that contributes to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament by preventing the placement of nuclear weapons within the South Pacific by member states.

Hu’akavameiliku said those countries were invited to join the treaty. He said that it is important for the members of the Forum to enter into the Rarotonga treaty, especially at times like these.

The Treaty of Rarotonga, (the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty), opened for signature on 6 August 1985 and entered into force on 11 December 1986. The Treaty was born of the South Pacific’s first-hand experience with nuclear weapons testing and was only the second NWFZ to enter into force in a populated region following the Treaty of Tlatelolco in Latin America. A further and quite distinctive feature of the Treaty is its emphasis on keeping the region free of environmental pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter (Article 7).

The current States Parties to the Treaty are: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

The PM also stressed the importance of fisheries in relation to food security and economic benefits for the Pacific island countries.

He noted the Pacific leaders were aware of the Fukushima radioactive water discharge, and had advised its members to closely monitor its ocean and marine organisms.

“Our monitoring mechanism needs to be timely,” he said.