His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Fiji;
Honourable Ministers;
Your Excellencies;
The Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

It’s an honour and a privilege to be here with all of you to close this symposium on Fiji’s commitment to UN Peacekeeping Operations, especially as we mark the 40th year anniversary of Fijian peacekeeping efforts around the world. Your theme “Fiji’s Sacrifice for Global peace” could not be more poignant or more appropriate, as Fiji has indeed given a great deal for the sake of global peace. As a result, countless of vulnerable people have been kept safe the world over, and that legacy has been the pride of generations of Fijians.

For the past 40 years, Fijian Peacekeepers have defended the defenceless, protecting innocent civilians and children in areas around the world fraught with danger and conflict.

Our Peacekeepers carry on a proud Fijian legacy that stretches as far back as the First World War. As for over a century, Fijians have answered the call of the vulnerable; bravely risking their lives for the sake of peace, wherever and whenever the need has arisen.

Driven solely by the pursuit of peace, Fijian soldiers have braved some of the most dangerous and volatile regions on Earth; their service spans both decades and continents. They have served in the Middle East, from the Sinai Peninsula, to Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria. In Africa, from Darfur, to South Sudan, Liberia, and Namibia. From as far as Eastern Europe in Bosnia and Kosovo, to as near as our fellow Asia-Pacific nations like Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and the Solomon Islands, Fijian peacekeepers have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the finest military forces on the planet, working to build a more harmonious future for the world’s children to inherit. No matter how different the region they serve, throughout these 40 years of service, one thing has remained constant: our Fijian Peacekeepers have sacrificed, they have persevered, and they have brought immeasurable honour, glory, and pride to our great nation.

No matter where they have served, or what odds they have faced, our UN Peacekeepers have been an unyielding shield that has protected the innocent from forces that would seek to destroy them. Through their sacrifice, they’ve brought peace to people in peril. They have helped heal regions of the world that have been deeply scarred by violence, terror and division. And they have shown the great strength of the Fijian spirit to the world through their courage, their discipline and their commitment to the mission of global peace and security.

The legacy of Fijian peacekeepers continues to this day through the nearly 900 brave Fijians currently serving as UN Peacekeepers around the world; all of whom are worthy successors to the proud legacy of excellence forged by the 30,000 Fijian peacekeepers who have served over the past 40 years.

Their legacy has not been built without sacrifice, as we have paid a high price–especially for a nation of our size–for the sake of spreading peace around the world. This afternoon, I also ask that we remember the more than 60 Fijian Peacekeepers who laid down their lives to protect those who could not protect themselves. That sacrifice is shouldered by every member of their families who have mourned their passing and who cherish their memories. As we look back on this history, it is with great sadness and profound gratitude that we remember those Fijians who have died in the line of duty; as their ultimate sacrifice has given countless people the chance to live in peace and prosperity.

As Fijians, we look out for each other–it’s in our nature. The care and concern that we hold for the safety of our community defines who we are, as a nation and as a people. Though our Peacekeepers, that community, and that duty of care, is extended to the world stage. Our commitment says to every global citizen that, for us Fijians, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we believe you deserve to live in peace, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to keep you safe and bring you the immeasurable benefits of lasting security. And it says a great deal about the Fijian spirit that there are so many women, men and children around the world – the vast majority of whom will never see Fiji – but who, nonetheless, have been protected by the strength and the sacrifice of Fijian Peacekeepers.

Thanks to the decades of dedication of our Peacekeepers, Fiji is looked to with respect and admiration by the international community. Through our Peacekeepers, nations far and wide can see that Fijians are willing and able to look far beyond our own borders. They see that Fijians are not short-sighted, and we are not selfish. They see that Fijians are concerned for not only the welfare of ourselves, but that we are fighting for the welfare of the world.

Because, while we may be a small country, our commitment to securing a more peaceful, brighter planet for future generations is not small by any measure. The respect that Fiji enjoys on the global stage has given us a voice and the platform which we have used to take the lead on some of the great issues confronting humanity; combatting climate change, protecting our oceans and preserving our planet. And I acknowledge the United Nations support of our peacekeepers aboard, and of Fijian leadership on the global stage on some of the great challenges facing our secure future, and the future of every global citizen.

Fiji’s willingness to commit to the global cause for peace is stronger than ever. Our women and men peacekeepers will continue to wear the blue beret with pride and represent our nation with distinction in conflict areas around the world. And the global community can know that they can count on Fiji, they can count on our commitment to peace and our readiness to protect the lives of others, in troubled places, far from our own shores.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank the brave Fijians who have taken up the call to serve in UN Peacekeeping Operations. They represent the very best of Fiji. They, and all of their family members, will always have the support of their fellow Fijians, and they will always have our gratitude.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.