President of the Republic of Fiji


FMF Gymnasium Monday, 8th July, 2013
SUVA 9.00a.m..
• The President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong who is not here with us physically but is with us in spirit;
• The President of the Pacific Science Association, Dr Nancy Lewis;
• The President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of the South Pacific, Professor Rajesh Chandra;
• Distinguished Plenary and Keynote Speakers - and I wish to mention Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Professor NordinHasan, Professor Elizabeth Holland And Ms. Judith Francis, among others;
• Members of the Pacific Science Association;
• Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
• Distinguished Guests;
• Participants;
• Students;
• Ladies & Gentlemen

Good morning, nisabulavinaka, asalamalaykum, namaste.

It is an honour and equally a great pleasure for me, on behalf of Fiji and her people, to welcome you all to the 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress.

The presence of international, regional and local participants including an impressive list of academics, scientists, researchers, practitioners, teachers and students from around the Asia-Pacific rim demonstrates commitment on your part and on the part of the Pacific Science Association as well as The University of the South Pacific, to the advancement of science, technology and engineering.

Moreover, this gathering and your presence here in numbers also reflects your profound desire to apply these advances in finding solutions for the great societal challenges facing the world and the Asia-Pacific Region in particular.

It is most appropriate to acknowledge your undoubted commitment which is clearly captured in the Theme: "Science for Human Security and Sustainable Development of the Pacific Islands and Rim."

The term human security came into popular use following the publication of the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report in 1994, in which seven key threats were identified as contributing to an overall measure of human security.

These were economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. All these threats were categorized as issues of great concern to humanity. They were then and now after over a period of some 20 years, still classified as threats to the survival of our planet and our very own people, so they must be always addressed.

And the due concerns of the organisers of this inter-congress mirroring like concerns of the rest of us - have been demonstrated by their inclusion in the broad sub-themes of the agenda for this week.

I am happy now as I was then to accept the invitation to open the Science Inter-Congress because I wanted to briefly share with you some of my observations on science and to try to relate to them in the context of the Pacific.

To be honest with you, I have always admired science and how this body of knowledge has developed over the generations to address the myriad of issues, many of them complex and unknown to the ordinary person, that are affecting humanity and the world.

Earth science, for instance, has put man on the moon; chemistry science has and continues to make in-roads into exploring and understanding micro-organisms; medical science has developed and continues to discover solutions to ailments affecting humans - a classic example is the announcement only days ago of a break-through for a cure for the HIV virus when two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and, after several months, still show no signs of the HIV virus.

As Fiji's special representative on HIV and aids, I am grateful for this uplifting news which I welcome with caution, as it is one of the few highs in a seemingly endless global response campaign to find a cure. But I remain as ever, quietly optimistic.

Among the many other branches of science, we also have the science of evolution which has tried to tell us a totally different story about our origins.

Much of these developments in science are absolutely fascinating, some for their real and tangible results and others for their ability to change perceptions and beliefs.

I am exceptionally pleased to know that the Pacific Science Association, which was established in 1920, has made it its aim to facilitate science that focuses on major issues and problems in the Asia-Pacific region, and to engage science in the service of the region especially to improve both the environment and the quality of life for all our people.

I am advised that the Association is now consolidating its focus on developing the quote: "Science of the Pacific", which essentially seeks to advance science and technology in support of sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region and, amongst other issues, aims to develop scientific capacity; foster effective communication between scientists, policy makers and the public; and to actively involve the Pacific Island States in regional and international scientific activities.

As part of my research on whether or not it would be possible to quantify the outcomes of the many congresses that the association has held over the years, I was advised, and was quite surprised to learn that advances in scientific knowledge do not always proceed in a linear fashion, but instead are the result of serendipitous interactions and efforts that are borne of cross-fertilization across scientific disciplines.

Thus, one of the major purposes, and value, of Pacific Science Congresses and Inter-Congresses like this one is to encourage greater cross-disciplinary interaction, which is essential to advancing scientific understanding of critical and complex issues.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the next few hours we will have the privilege of hearing from the President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong - one of the region's outspoken Heads of States on sea level rise. I can almost imagine that His Excellency's message will evolve around the issue of climate change, specifically on sea-level rise and how this is already affecting our brothers and sisters in the atolls of Kiribati, and might I add of Tuvalu and the other islands including some right here in Fiji.

I empathize with His Excellency Anote Tong in the same way that I wish the best for all our other brothers and sisters in the Asia-Pacific region.

The threats that I mentioned earlier are already beginning to affect our people. They are real and imminent.

About six weeks ago I attended the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Thailand at the invitation of Prime Minister YingluckSinawatra.

About 50 countries were represented at the summit either by their respective head of state, head of government, cabinet ministers responsible for public utilities, academics, scientists, students, and non-governmental organizations and, of course, the various United Nations agencies.

The Summit heard of the problems countries throughout the region faced with the access to clean drinking water, among others issues surrounding water sources, supply, storage and sustainable practices.

A key message brought to the fore was the fact that the world now has more hand-held mobile devices than water taps.

In short, the world has advanced technology, but it has not used it to address the basic necessities of life.

I, therefore, implore you the participants of this science inter-congress and the Pacific Science Association to not only discuss the advancements in science, technology and engineering, but more importantly to also ensure that these advancements are used to address the real issues facing the region.

In your efforts to develop the "Science of the Pacific" I encourage you to explore solutions and be results-oriented; to translate the outcomes of your meeting into easily understood messages that can be used by our people to improve their everyday lives now and in the future.
I also encourage you to form greater and stronger partnerships with governments in the region so that your findings can be translated into policies that can have real and tangible impacts on our people.

It goes without saying that you need to collaborate fully to develop and implement realistic and practical solutions to the threats against a backdrop of sustainable development including: biodiversity, ecosystem services, and resilient societies; information and communication technologies; food, water, energy and health; society, culture and gender; governance, economic development and public policy; climate change, impacts and climate science; and oceans, among others.

I realize that you have a full week of deliberations ahead. I, therefore, challenge you all to use this time wisely, and to take the emerging ideas and the new technologies and put them into practical forms so that they can be used easily to find the solutions that we need to ensure human security and sustainable development for the Pacific Islands and its Rim.

I sincerely wish you a fruitful exchange of ideas.

And I now take great pleasure in declaring the 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress open.

Thank you, vinakavakalevu,sukria, bahootdhanyavaad.