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Bula Vinaka and Good morning everyone. And what a morning it is. While hundreds of delegates pack this room today, thousands more are tuned in to watch on television or over social media all throughout Fiji and across the globe.

There's intense interest in this morning's seminar, and deservedly so. We're here at the front end of the Asian Development Bank's Annual Meeting, a landmark event that, as Fiji's largest international conference to date, is already making history, before any presentations or discussions even take place.

Meanwhile, the sheer size of an event alone isn't worth celebrating –– for that, we need to ensure that the week's events are fruitful, are engaging, and leave lifelong impressions on those thousands of delegates in attendance. As your hosts, we in Fiji have taken this mission to heart, with the panel we have planned for this morning as case in point.

Every year, the Asian Development Bank holds its Annual Meeting somewhere different, and whichever nation plays host is given the freedom to shape what we call a "host country seminar" the focus of which is left wholly to them to decide. As a nation with an especially young population –– half of our population being under the age of 27 –– we knew from the start that we wanted to use this seminar as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our nation's young people.

While we're a proud Small State, Fiji's not one to do anything small. Simply having a presentation or lecture centred on youth's role in development wasn't enough. Instead, we decided to enlist the help of the entire nation, working in partnership with the region's leading lifestyle magazine, maiLife, to launch a nationwide search for success stories of rising young trailblazers across business, government, and civil society. Our goal in all of this was to identify 30 leaders under the age of 30, and honour them with a first-of-its kind recognition that would serve as the foundation for today's host country seminar.

To be totally candid, when we called for nominations from the public, we weren't sure what to expect –– it's difficult to predict what lacks precedent. But after announcing our plans, it quickly became evident that there were countless stories of young achievement, just waiting for a stage to be told.

The outpouring of support has been overwhelming, with hundreds of nominations sent in by Government Ministers, CEOs, colleagues, and peers spanning across well-established industries and innovative new ones. I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the nominees, and their nominators, who submitted applications.
As a whole, I can tell you that this is a generation to watch in Fiji –– the true barometer for success has been elevated not by a few solitary actors, but by the collective progress of what is proving to be a golden era of opportunity in Fiji. And that wave of generational momentum is already transforming the country as we know it.

The 30 winners portray a cross-sampling of the Fijian economy as a whole –– an economy that, with each passing year, is becoming more modern, more dynamic, and more diverse. When we went searching for "the faces of Fiji's future", we wanted a true representation of the many key professions that play an integral role in cultivating economic prosperity. Among today's honourees, you'll see that the winners are having real, on-the-ground impact in their communities. A special education teacher from our more sparsely-populated Northern Division stands shoulder-to-shoulder with a businessman from Suva overseeing millions of dollars in manufacturing operations. A rising surgeon stands alongside a twelve-year-old climate activist. A medal-winning-boxer is joined by a software-engineer-turned-hydroponics farmer. These young leaders are truly role models who are at the forefront of a revolution in their communities, the region, and the world.
While their backgrounds are diverse, what they share is an unlimited power of potential –– not just for themselves, or for Fiji, but for the world. All nations should look to their young people as the ultimate investment in their long-term social, political, and economic stability. They say that a rising tide lifts all boats –– and that's certainly true as it applies to creating new opportunities for our youth. Fiji's recent economic prosperity has allowed us to invest unprecedented amounts in our education system, and foster new, more innovative industries that will prepare our national economy for the future. From this "30 Under 30" class, it's clear that we're starting to yield the fruits of that investment. Just a decade ago, many of the professional paths that are held by these young leaders didn't even exist in Fiji.

But from where we stand today, what was once seemingly impossible is now within reach for a generation of unmatched talent and limitless horizons. In the words of the late aerospace scientist and President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam, our young people must have the courage to think differently, the courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, discover the impossible, conquer their problems and, through all this, the courage to succeed.
The overarching theme of this year's Annual Meeting is "Prosperity Through Unity". So, when we speak to rising tides, let us ensure that the progress we achieve is grounded in inclusivity. Because in truly achieving a sense of unity, the voices of our young people must be at the decision-making table. When it comes to inclusive development, their perspective provides an indispensable part of the dialogue. After all, this is the generation that will take the baton of leadership and run with it; they will inherit the future that we are working together to create.

In the coming days, the seminars of this Annual Meeting will encompass new technologies, new industries, and new multilateral strategies that guide our future cooperation and development. In the spirit of this host country seminar, where the voices of young people resonate front and centre, let us carry that theme of visionary inclusivity throughout the entire week of this Annual Meeting.

Because as the world's markets ebb and flow, and we navigate through an age of heightened uncertainty and new challenges like climate change, we should never act in a way that is short-sighted, or lose the perspective of the generations that come to take our place. For when the waters recede –– when the global economy inevitably loses steam –– then will come the true test of what we've built.

Through this week, we'll often talk in dollars and cents. You'll hear about the massive capital projects that ADB helps to facilitate in countries like Fiji. But perhaps the greatest value of this conference comes from a capital infusion of a different kind –– of our intellectual capital. The lessons and connections we take home stand to benefit attendees, and the countries they represent, for years to come.

The new ideas and fresh perspective that is sparked through dialogue like this are exactly what nations of the world need in order to remove the blinders of unilateralism. No one nation, and no one person, has every solution; the invaluable worth of collaboration, and of welcoming new worldviews, shines through in events like the ADB Annual Meeting. That's what "prosperity through unity" is all about. Let us follow the lead of our young people, who see the world through a lens of innovation, of cooperation, and of raw potential.

I look forward to the discussion that will follow, and to the days of relationship-building we have planned ahead. I implore you to make good use of your time here in Fiji –– and by doing so, take lessons home with you that will inspire stories of success like those we'll hear this morning.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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