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My fellow Fijians,

Today we commemorate Commonwealth Day - a celebration of our membership of the unique organisation to which 53 nations belong covering 2.4 billion of the 7.5 billion people on earth.

Next month, representatives of those 53 nations, including Fiji, will gather in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The theme of that meeting -“Towards a Common Future” - reminds us all that we face a common destiny and must join hands to ensure sustainable development for our peoples and our planet.

From Fiji’s perspective, the most important challenge the world currently faces is climate change. Many Commonwealth nations are highly vulnerable to its impacts, whether it is flood-prone countries such as Bangladesh, those African nations battling drought and the encroaching desert and, of course those of us in the Pacific.

There are 11 Commonwealth member states in the Pacific and all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, are grappling with the extreme weather events, rising seas and changes to agriculture associated with climate change. Two of our number - Kiribati and Tuvalu - face the prospect of being submerged altogether. So climate change is a critical part of the discussions in London next month, in which Fiji intends to take a leading role as the President of COP23 - the ongoing UN climate negotiations.

Our Prime Minister, the Honourable Frank Bainimarama, will assume leadership of a number of Commonwealth side events in which he will stress the importance of maximum ambition and maximum action to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age. He will also be holding important bilateral meetings with a range of Commonwealth leaders including the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and prominent Commonwealth climate campaigners such as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

Our Prime Minister carries the prayers and good wishes of all Fijians as he continues our COP campaign, not only at CHOGM but all the way to COP24 in Poland in December. Even when we relinquish the Presidency to Poland, Fiji will continue to partner the important Talanoa Dialogue on climate ambition - based on the Pacific concept of inclusive decision-making devoid of finger pointing - and we are urging all Commonwealth countries to join this effort. It is vitally important through the Talanoa Dialogue for all nations to examine ways in which we can accelerate climate action through more ambition in our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce carbon emissions.

Fiji is leading this effort because we know that the world must achieve zero net carbon emissions as soon as possible if we are to have any chance of averting the more extreme impacts of climate change such as Tropical Cyclone Winston.

In London, we will also be stressing the inextricable link between climate change and the health of our oceans. Plus the urgent need to reduce the acidity and coral bleaching that threatens to make our reefs extinct within the lifetimes of Fijians being born today.

We led the way with our Ocean Pathway at COP23 and intend to support and strengthen the Blue Charter initiative on the health of our oceans that will be a centerpiece of CHOGM.

Our commitment to the Commonwealth remains strong. There is not only the sense of belonging to a great global family that we witnessed recently when Fiji hosted the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Denarau. The Commonwealth is also a powerful force for good in the world and an important vehicle for sustainable development and improving the lives of its 2.4 billion citizens and, in turn, every person on earth.

Today we celebrate the importance of the Commonwealth and also give thanks to Almighty God for the unparalleled service to us all over nearly seven decades of the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The London meeting of CHOGM is likely to be the last Her Majesty presides over as she scales back her international travel. And every Fijian joins the rest of the Commonwealth family in saluting her for her achievement and sending her our love.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications