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STATEMENT AT THE PINA WORKSHOP 2-3 SEPTEMBER SPREP TRAINING CENTRE BY THE HON PRIME MINISTER TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI

Manager, Pacific Islands News Agency
Members of the Regional and Local Media
Ladies & Gentlemen

I thank you for the invitation to open your workshop as well as speak generally on the theme of the 48th Pacific islands Forum and related meetings; with a  specific  focus on "putting the Blue Pacific at the Centre of Policy making."

The concept of the Blue Pacific is not new. In 1949, Albert Norman – writing in the wake of the establishment of the South Pacific Commission – wrote, "the trends of powerful national policies, originating outside the region, beset the desire of Oceanic peoples to improve their over-all economy. It will be the task of the South Pacific Commission to find means of resolving such problems and to activate latent economic resources and so promote the social reclamation of the world's seventh 'continent' and its people".

A first step towards 'reclamation' would be to overlook the divisions and restore the essential regional viewpoint and unity.

The Pacific Islands are characterised as small, lack resources, isolated from centres of economic growth and are often not seen to be able to rise above their present condition of dependence. This portrayal stems from the relatively recent creation of national and economic boundaries that criss-cross an ocean that was previously without boundaries. One poignant perception by Epeli Hauofa is that we are a 'sea of islands ' peoples and cultures in a boundless  environment.

 

For the Pacific region and its island countries, the ocean is crucial. Exercising a sense of common identity and purpose linked to the ocean has been critical for protecting and promoting the potential of our shared Pacific Ocean. It is this commonality of the fundamental essence of the region which has the potential to empower the region through collective and combined agendas and actions. The Blue Pacific will strengthen the existing policy frameworks that harness the ocean as a driver of a transformative socio-cultural, political and economic development of the Pacific. This approach also gives renewed impetus to deepening Pacific regionalism.

The Framework for Pacific Regionalism, endorsed by Leaders in 2014, state, "Pacific peoples are the custodians of the world's largest, most peaceful and abundant ocean, its many islands and its rich diversity of cultures" This resonates with the Blue Pacific concept of recapturing  the collective potential of our shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean, based on a shared geography, ocean identity and resources. Putting The Blue Pacific at the centre of regional policy making strengthens collective action to advance the Forum Leaders' Vision for the Region as has been reflected in the following regional initiatives.

  • The Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy endorsed in 2002 promotes "sustainable development, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Pacific region" through five guiding principles based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
  • The Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape endorsed in 2010 catalyses regional action and initiatives covering an area of approximately 40 million square kilometres of ocean and island ecosystems as well as strengthens the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy
  • Forum Leaders have collectively promoted peace and security within our shared ocean space. Most notable in this regard, is the establishment of the Rarotonga Treaty in 1985 in which Leaders emphasized ownership of the bounty and beauty of the land and sea in the Pacific region and in doing so, asserted  their shared ocean geography to establish a nuclear free zone across the South Pacific
  • While Oceans diplomacy has also been a key feature of the Forum's engagement internationally, wherein Forum members' leadership and advocacy for a Sustainable Development Goal  on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their marine resources – SDG 14 is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda
  • The preparatory committee process relating to Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) and advocacy to consider the strong links between the Ocean and Climate under the UNFCCC – could be seen as the hallmarks of a renewed, invigorated interest and commitment by Forum member states to recover their traditional stewardship of the Blue Pacific.
  • Fisheries continue to be an integral part of the region's ocean policies. In 2007 Leaders' endorsed the "Vava'u Declaration on Pacific Fisheries Resources: Our Fish, Our Future". In 2015, Leaders, under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism called for regional, priority action, to increase economic returns from the region's shared fisheries resources, endorsed the Fisheries Roadmap as well as emphasized coastal fisheries for the sustainable management of coastal fisheries resources that are critical for the wellbeing, livelihoods, and resilience of Pacific Peoples in 2016.

The Blue Pacific however is also more than this. By the sheer fact of our geography, such as trends associated with shifts in the centres of global power, this places the Pacific at the centre of contemporary global geopolitics. Embracing this as a unique opportunity in the history of the region, The Blue Pacific provides a new narrative for Pacific regionalism and how the Forum engages with the world.

This new narrative calls for inspired leadership by the Forum and a long-term commitment to the benefits of acting together as one Blue Continent, has the potential to define a Blue Pacific economy, ensures a sustainable, secure, resilient and peaceful Blue Pacific as well as strengthens Blue Pacific Diplomacy to protect the value of our Ocean and peoples

Implementing The Blue Pacific will require a 'whole of Forum' commitment to the benefits of acting together as one Blue Continent. Above all else, it will require a different way of working together that prioritises The Blue Pacific as the core driver of Forum policy making and collective action. The Forum political dialogue needs to be informed by The Blue Pacific which in turnsupports Forum actions in a manner that empowers the region.

I wish you all a successful workshop.

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