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Keeping unity within a tough one: Dame Meg

Dame Meg Taylor enjoys her moment with Pacific journalists this afternoon. Photo: GARY HATIGEVA


Suva, Fiji – May 6, 2019: 9pm (Nuku’alofa Times):  Ensuring that bilateral interest does not pull apart regional unity is one of the biggest challenges faced by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor told the media in Suva this afternoon.

Speaking to regional and local journalists at the Forum Secretariat Dame Meg said the challenge is tougher now with the different actors who are offering different bilateral packages within the region.

“Holding the collective together is a big challenge,” she told journalists attending the Pacific Journalists’ Dialogue at the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting (FEMM) at the Forum Secretariat in Nasese.

“Aspirations are not always in synch with each other.”

Dame Meg said it is critical that the Pacific solidarity is intact, especially in dealing with issues like climate change.

The continuing rising influence of China in the region has been a major issue as has the growing geopolitical tension as traditional partners react to China.

”What I am most anxious about in the region is ..what has happened with the influence of certain governments trying to focus on some countries, not other countries. Influencing some countries and not thinking. Dividing the collection,” Dame Meg said.

“If the Pacific starts working against each other it is like family, nothing happens of any great worth.

In the meantime the region should work to maintain its unity.

Dame Meg said the Pacific Islands Forum, and its Secretariat, belongs to every Pacific people.

And as citizens of a Blue Pacific oceanic continent, this is where we come together as a region.

She said all 18 member countries of the Forum  have a long history of working together to nurture and protect our people and our environment.

“We ended driftnet fishing, created the South Pacific nuclear free zone, and as a collective assisted the people of the Solomon Islands restore security and stability through RAMSI,” she said

“The Forum’s Pacific Vision is for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives.

“Recently Forum Leaders have reinvigorated their commitment to the development of the region in a manner that reflects their shared Pacific values and concerns. In 2017 Forum Leaders endorsed the Blue Pacific narrative as the core driver of collective action for advancing the Leaders vision under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.

“The narrative explicitly recognises that as the Blue Pacific, we are custodians of some of the world’s richest biodiversity and marine and terrestrial resources. The Blue Pacific narrative is the embodiment of our collective aspirations and how together we can achieve great things for our Pacific people and for our place.

“To date, the Blue Pacific narrative has been successful in building solidarity and, importantly shifting the prevailing narrative away from dependence, smallness and vulnerable. “

Dame Meg said although the Pacific countries face challenges this has not stopped the Forum from collectively charting our own path.

She highlighted the fact that our region faces multiple challenges, environmental, social and political.

Forum Leaders have stated that climate change and its associated impacts present the greatest threat to the security and wellbeing of Pacific people.

“We are experiencing increasing impacts year on year. On our infrastructure, on our food and water security and livelihoods, as well as our economies,” she said.

The economic costs of natural disasters increased from 3.8 percent of regional GDP in 2012 to 15.6 percent of total regional GDP in 2016. However, the costs were as high as 30 percent of Fiji’s GDP in 2016 and 64 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP in 2015.

“Our collective response to these issues, and our shared desire to build a resilient Blue Pacific is at the heart of our discussions this week,” she added.

The FEMM agenda, and the discussions Finance Ministers will have are focused initiatives that seek to strengthen and secure a resilient and sustainable future for the Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Dame Meg said the media is a key partner in development achievement and acceleration.

Public engagement and increased knowledge around issues will help achieve the Forum’s aspirations as a Blue Pacific continent, build a more resilient region, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Media are a key conduit, not only for reaching the public and telling our Blue Pacific stories, but also for driving transparency, holding to account and encouraging reform in institutions – public and private,” she said.

“This workshop, and our desire to bring you to FEMM and assist your reporting is a reflection of our support for your work.

“You are the voice of for our Blue Pacific, and I encourage you to work hard here and join us to secure a safe and prosperous future for the people of the Pacific.”

The FEMM meeting will be held this week at the Forum Secretariat.

(Iliesa Tora’s participation at FEMM2019 has been made possible by PACMAS and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat)

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