REMARKS: OPOC Ocean Governance and BBNJ workshop - Opening remarks from SG Waqa

Remarks and Speeches
03 July 2024

Opening Remarks 
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Baron Waqa
Ocean Governance and BBNJ Regional Workshop
3rd July 2024

Senior Representatives of our Pacific Islands Forum Members;
Representatives from UNDOALOS 
Development Partners, Friends. 
Ekamwir Omo, ni sa bula, and warm Pacific greetings to you all.


1.        It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you all to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
2.         I have recently taken on the responsibility of leading our Blue Pacific Vaka guided by the directions set with our Forum leaders and people of this vast continent. 
3.        I can already see that ocean governance is of great importance for decision-makers, policymakers, and experts, many of whom are present in the room today.
4.        The Secretariat, in collaboration with the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, regional organisations, and other stakeholders, has been actively involved in shaping the Ocean and Environment Pillar of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. These efforts are particularly relevant to the discussions on ocean governance and biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, or BBNJ, that will take place this week and next.
5.        These BBNJ workshops are vital for capacity building, and a key aspect of people-centred development. 
6.        Your participation, as experts from our member countries, is not just essential, it's integral for bridging the gap in coherence and information sharing. 
7.        I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Pacific Ocean Commissioner-- my esteemed colleague, Dr. Filimon Manoni and your team, for the invaluable contributions to this event. I am confident that this workshop will provide a platform for sharing perspectives and learning how to effectively implement the BBNJ Treaty domestically after ratification. 
8.        We only have one ocean, so it's important to protect and manage our resources sustainably for future generations of the Blue Pacific Continent. 
9.        Finally, we have a legal framework that ensures proper conservation and management of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions. The BBNJ Agreement is significant. It recognizes traditional knowledge and the special circumstances of Small Island Developing States as core principles of the framework.
10.        As a region, our leaders have made it clear --we must focus our efforts on protecting the identities and interests of our members, especially as large ocean states.
CROP and the POA
11.        I thank OPOC for its important role in the region and in leading the coordination and advocacy on Ocean matters for the Pacific Oceans Alliance, which tracks its ownership across many of our Forum member countries. 
12.        I also wish to encourage our CROP members represented here today, to continue to work closely with OPOC and the Forum on ocean and environment matters. 
13.        Having coordination and coherence puts less burden on our member countries so I look forward to the work that our Pacific Ocean Commissioner and his team will lead in this workshop and on the support and relationship we share delivering to Members as tasked by Leaders last year. 
14.        No work in the ocean can be done alone. Therefore, we need genuine partners in this important area who will enable unity, not foster division. 
15.        I am confident that common ocean solutions will unify us around the common ocean challenges we face. 
16.        Let’s not be blind to opportunities for frank and honest discussion on the matters before us. Let’s recognise on some issues, consensus is a work in progress, and respect for our common goal will always hold us together. Let us ensure we are genuine and intentional in our protection of the ties that do unify, for our Pacific Ocean of peace fought hard to give the world the Law of the Sea. 
17.        Our Pacific voices raised the introduction of World Oceans Day, and World Tuna Day. Our Pacific negotiators worked tirelessly for two decades to deliver the Pacific Tuna Commission, or WCPFC. 
18.        Our Pacific negotiators helped bring the BBNJ ship to the shore.  We know nothing is impossible. And with that in mind, I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of this meeting and workshop.
19.        I wish you all the best in the coming days and commend the Ocean Commissioner and his team for progressing our shared Ocean mandate for SDG14 and BBNJ, and our Ocean priorities for a 2050 future. 
20.        Tubwa kõr. Thank you all very much and God bless. --ENDS