Distinguished delegates from our Pacific Island Countries,
Representatives of the Civil Society and Private Sector,
Ladies and Gentleman,
Bula vinaka and a warm welcome to you all.
I’m delighted to offer a few remarks at this officials segment of the regional preparatory meeting.
We gather here today as people of the Pacific, united by our concern for the declining state of our ocean. Oceans provide a common thread that unites our region, and when we consider that collectively our combined Exclusive Economic Zones amounts to more than 30 million square kilometers, it helps to frame for us in a sobering way, the enormity of the discussions that await us in the coming days.
No doubt, we all want clean beaches with pristine waters, healthy fisheries and safe seafood, abundant wildlife, vibrant coastal communities and resilient coastal economies. Regrettably, scientists have revealed that we have reached the tipping point for our ocean and its resources, and we must act now to reverse this grave trend.
The 2030 Agenda, with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans represents our last chance. It provides a global roadmap that paves the way for humanity to once and for all salvage our ocean from its current cycle of decline. SDG14 is something we in the Pacific can take pride in, as it is through our dedicated efforts in New York that SDG14 was adopted. And now we must make SDG14 work. Through the Ocean Conference we have an opportunity to achieve it. Let us maximize on this opportunity!
For the Pacific, it is our chance to save the main source of our sustenance and the lifeblood of our economies and peoples. It is in this context that this event is so important.
As Co-President of this Conference, Fiji is particularly honored to host this regional preparatory meeting. The objective of this regional meeting is to allow us to consolidate our regional perspectives that will be taken up to the Ocean Conference in June. In saying this, we also recognize the role of relevant stakeholders in the room. In the next few days, all of you here in this room, including Governments, Regional Agencies, Civil Society, Private Sector and Academia will be deliberating around a common perspective and approach. The challenge for us is to get clarity on how we will journey together with a common voice on our shared priorities, after this week’s meeting.
As representatives of all sectors of society in the region, we all have a major role to play in the implementation phase leading up to June, and equally important in laying the ground-work for the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda.
All our roles are equally important and crucial to ensuring the integrity of the delivery of SDG14 in the build up to June and beyond, to the year 2030. The purpose of this regional meeting is to harness all the energy, knowledge and resources of the Pacific towards fulfilling the targets outlined in SDG14.
We should also be cognizant of the expectation that has been set out in the Conference modalities resolution 70/303. The Conference will result in a three tiered outcome which includes a ‘Call for Action’, List of Voluntary Commitments and the Co-Chair’s summaries of the seven partnership dialogues.
The discussions you hold this week, and the networks and partnerships you build will lay the foundations upon which our participation at the Conference will stand. Your work on the ‘Call for Action’ declaration that will capture the universal political commitment of the Conference must focus on our common purpose of faithfully implementing SDG14.
The substantive and concrete contributions this preparatory meeting could make to the Conference is the establishment of partnerships that enables the various stakeholders and actors on Ocean issues to collaborate even more closely in the implementation of SDG14. We need to establish firm commitments for actions, scale up efforts and forge partnerships and alliances. This is not merely aspirational but a permanent and key ingredient to the achievement and operationalizing of the SDG partnerships between governments, private sector and civil society. This inclusive approach to partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the center will be critical to accelerating the implementation of SDG14.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Now is the time to make a difference. We all carry the hopes of our Pacific people to the Ocean Conference. Let’s do justice to them and to the process we have dedicated immense amount of time and resources to. I hope you will all be inspired during this week’s meeting, and we will all attend the Ocean Conference in June, armed with initiatives, partnerships, voluntary commitments and, above all, dedication to action to support the noble aims of SDG14. It will be a Conference of commitments, solutions and partnerships. We cannot afford to achieve less.
To conclude, Fiji attaches great importance to this Conference and in doing so, we remain adamant that a healthy ocean can be achieved through this unique opportunity presented by SDG14 and by the Conference.
Let us dedicate this decisive moment of purposeful work to our children, grandchildren, and all future generations. With your active engagement and contributions, I am confident that this Pacific preparatory meeting and ultimately the Conference in June will be a success.
Thank you and vinaka vakalevu