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Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Pacific Island Development Forum, it is my distinct pleasure to join the host country in welcoming you to this important gathering. Our warm thanks and appreciation go to the Hon Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Mr. Manasseh Sogovare, his Government and the people of Solomon Islands for the warm hospitality they have extended to us all.

I would also like to acknowledge Mr. Francois Martel, the Secretary General of the PIDF, and his capable staff for their excellent work in organising this annual meeting.

We are gathered here today not just as governments, but as one Pacific people, because the PDIF was founded as a place where governments, NGOs, the business community, foundations, the academic community and ordinary citizens can freely exchange ideas—all with the goal of solving our region’s most pressing problems.

Our organisation is maturing rapidly, with a membership that reflects the breadth and richness of Pacific island cultures, economies and experiences. From the first day, we have been organised for action. We have focused very specifically and practically on finding solutions for green growth and sustainable development. And we have had the wisdom to know that government cannot achieve that alone.

And we are also a political voice. In our short life so far, PIDF has established itself as a worthy and respected international institution that honestly represents the interests of its members to the world. This is our organisation, our forum, and our collective and undiluted voice.

As usual, we have come to Honiara to not just talk. We are here to work—to understand the difficult problems confronting us and to develop the most practical and immediate ways to solve them.

During our last Summit, we produced the Suva Declaration, which became our Pacific-island appeal to the world’s conscience. And that appeal came with our demand--that we would take on our shoulders more than our fair share of the burden of arresting global warming, but that temperature rise must be limited to one-and-a-half degrees centigrade, because a two-degree limit was inadequate and unacceptable.

We made ourselves heard, but we are only at the beginning of a long and gruelling uphill struggle. We in the Pacific have chosen to lead that struggle. It is an honour, but it was never a choice. Our very existence depends on the decisions the world makes, and we can’t leave those decisions in the hands of others.

We are in Honiara today to build on that commitment. The goal to limit temperature rise to a 1.5 degrees seems very difficult to achieve under the current predictions, so our mission is more urgent than ever. We need to redouble our efforts, unite more closely, and set an example for the world. Ironically, our efforts, and our leadership, will not just be for our benefit and our children’s future; they will be for the benefit of the entire planet.

Next June, Fiji will co-host, with Sweden, the World Conference on Seas and Oceans. So we are dedicating time in this Summit for a vigorous discussion of the very lifeblood of our region: the ocean that weaves our islands together, the ocean that our ancestors sailed to reach our shores, that feeds us, that sustains our economies and is part of our culture. Our oceans are threatened, and with them all the life that depends on them. We must take action now, for ourselves and for our children’s children.

This year’s Leader’s Summit is also significant because the Chair will pass from Fiji to Solomon Islands, the first country to hold the chair besides Fiji. This shows that our organisation is evolving and maturing. We are a positive force, and we are meeting a very important need in the regional architecture.

Our Pacific unity and our Pasifika spirit are our strength. Let the Pacific voices be heard.

Welcome all to the Honiara PIDF Leaders’ Summit 2016.

Vinaka, Thank you.

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