Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Baron Waqa today highlighted the importance of Pacific unity in addressing critical security issues affecting the region.

“We gather here to discuss issues of paramount importance to Pacific peoples. Issues that affect the core of what the Forum was established to protect and promote—issues of peace and security,” SG Waqa said in his keynote address at the Pacific Regional and National Security Conference(PNRSC) in Suva.

SG Waqa acknowledged that peace and security are often perceived as complex and challenging.

He said the Pacific Islanders’ perspective on security, as outlined in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent is straightforward.

“Forum Leaders’ vision is 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.

“Pacific peoples are peaceful, god-fearing, and community-minded.

“We work together, as communities, bound together like the woven mats that adorn the walls of this great room, to support each other.

“Each Pacific Islands Forum Member forms a strand of our great and powerful Pacific regional mat, around which we gather, much like you are doing here today, to share our experiences, share our challenges, and share solutions,” SG Waqa explained.

Waqa also reflected on the significance of the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, which he helped launch in 2018 in Nauru.

“I mention this because I remain very proud of the message that the Forum shared that day, which was as true then as it is today: While the security of nation states is always a paramount concern for Governments, in the Pacific, the peace and wellbeing of Pacific peoples – the human element of security, must always be at the forefront of our minds.”

SG Waqa emphasised climate change remains a critical issue for the Pacific.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to the peace and security of Pacific Islands peoples.

“We are making great progress against our climate security goals, especially with the development of the Pacific Resilience Fund, which has received over US$100 million of support so far.”

Waqa also highlighted ongoing efforts to address other security concerns, such as transnational crime and cyber threats.

“We continue to prioritise climate security, human security, environmental security, cybersecurity, and countering transnational organised crime”.

He mentioned the recent launch of the Pacific Transnational Crime Disruption Strategy and the forthcoming Pacific Partnership for Prosperity on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime.

Waqa also touched on international conflicts and their impacts on the Pacific.

“The impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the conflict in Gaza, and tensions in the South China Sea continue to reverberate across the globe, and the Pacific is not immune. These conflicts have caused supply chain disruptions and inflationary pressures that have made basic goods difficult to obtain for many Pacific peoples,” he said.

In addressing geopolitical competition, Waqa called for adherence to the rules-based international order and peaceful resolution of disputes.

He emphasised the Pacific’s focus on resilience and local priorities.

“Geopolitical maneuvering means nothing to Pacific peoples who have cyclones coming over the horizon.

“Geopolitical maneuvering means nothing to Pacific peoples who have water lapping at their doorsteps due to sea level rise.

“Geopolitical maneuvering means nothing to Pacific peoples who are focused on building resilience, peace and prosperity for our families, communities, nations and our region,” Waqa stressed to security experts from the region.

Waqa also referencing the historical significance of the Nasonini Gun Battery, a reminder of the dangers of foreign conflicts.

“Those guns, now thankfully long-since operational, serve as a reminder of the mess we can find ourselves in when foreign powers use our region as a theatre for their grievances,” he observed.

“By being here this week, you are showing your commitment to peace and security in our Blue Pacific Continent. You are showing your commitment to being the peacemakers. Thank you for that commitment. May it live on for many years to come,” SG Waqa stressed.