Remarks by Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Honorable Prime Minister of Samoa
the Security Council Open Debate on “Peace and Security challenges facing Small Island Developing States
30 July 2015, Security Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York.
Mr President of the Security Council,
Members of the Security Council,
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today’s dedicated debate addressing peace and security challenges facing Small Island Developing States is a rarity in this chamber.
The Government of New Zealand is to be commended for this timely initiative. And we are grateful to members of the Security Council for providing a platform so that peace and security issues from the perspectives of Small Island Developing States are given center-stage focus of the Council’s time, even if for just a day only.
The exceptional political capital demonstrated by the high-level participation of SIDS this morning is strong reaffirmation that important issues entrusted to the Security Council are of equal priority and importance even to the smallest UN member states. SIDS message to the Council is unequivocal. No region, no group of countries and no selective security issues should continue to have a monopoly of the Council’s time, attention and resources. SIDS are important constituents of the Security Council in their own right, irrespective of their sizes, economic influence, political clout or military strength. Their concerns matter like everyone else in this Chamber, their voices deserve to be heard, their views need to be understood and their challenges considered and addressed.
The ‘SAMOA Pathway’ is our global pact. It is a blueprint of SIDS needs and aspirations together with opportunities and means to implement them. The agreed outcome of the International Conference on SIDS last year categorically reaffirmed the importance of peace and security issues for this special group. This is a matter of UN record and we are not inventing something new.
To contextualize these challenges from the perspective of the Pacific region, one can reliably say that we have largely maintained a peaceful and secure environment. On the surface of it, because we don’t belong to the world’s troubled spots or homes to any of the current conflicts, it is tempting to equate this perceived tranquility as the absence of any security challenges for our islands.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
The Pacific’s security concerns are varied, complex and many. A great external threat stems from globalisation. The global context is changing rapidly. Relative isolation and remoteness no longer shield us from globalisation’s reach and impacts. Our vast ocean adds to our security vulnerability and the difficulty of providing effective maritime policing and surveillance compounds this further.
We have witnessed significant serious transnational organised crime activities in the region. These include drugs and firearms trafficking, financial crimes and money laundering, human trafficking and people smuggling, labour and sexual exploitation.
Some organised crime groups and networks are gradually becoming entrenched in our region which will continue to test the ability of our capacity-constrained law enforcement agencies to combat organised crime groups. International crime is unlikely to decrease in the immediate future and if allowed to take a firm foothold, it will not only be detrimental to those Pacific Island countries currently affected but the entire Pacific.
In response, the Pacific has adopted a regional approach as the only viable means to coordinate the efforts of national and regional law enforcement agencies to facilitate information sharing and avoid duplication of efforts and resource wastage.
For Samoa, our Transnational Crimes Unit works closely with the law enforcement agencies of our regional and international partners to help seize illicit drugs, arrest criminal fugitives, confiscate money laundering proceeds and halt the misuse of social media to name some.
Global interconnectedness through fast, efficient transport links and information technology have brought undoubted and many benefits to our region. However even the internet now also comes with a cautionary note of risks to peace and security through dangerous content and its use for criminal activities and for inflammatory purposes, against which our small islands jurisdictions and societies are not currently well equipped to handle. For Samoa, we have started steps to try and address the risks of the internet, but we will need the support of our partners to obtain fully successful solutions.
It is therefore imperative that the UN and its member states commit to tackling threats to international peace and security, especially through the UN Security Council.
Our organisation was founded upon values of collective security. For us, we continue to see the United Nations through the Security Council as the key arbiter for the maintenance of international peace and security, stability and prosperity. This is important for our SIDS, who risk a reversal of the development gains they have made due to external forces we have little or no control over. To cement and build upon development goals already achieved, international peace and security must be maintained, and it is the responsibility of all member states, particularly those on the Security Council, to work in close cooperation to ensure this happens.
A fortnight ago today, the Polynesian Leaders Group issued their Climate Declaration on Tahiti, French Polynesia. Our declaration accepted that “climate change and its adverse impacts are a threat to the territorial integrity, security and sovereignty and in some cases to the very existence of our islands because of the subversion of existing land and the regression of our maritime heritage.“
My reference to climate change should surprise no one. As a region, the Pacific Forum Leaders in 2013 in their “Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership” called for collective international responsibility and action to urgently reduce and phase down green house gas pollution including by Pacific island countries themselves.
The SIDS SAMOA Pathway again recognised that sea-level rise and other adverse impacts of climate change continue to pose significant risks to Small Island developing states, and for many, represent the gravest threat to their survival and viability, including through the loss of territory.
We therefore will continue to advocate at every available opportunity and fora, the Security Council included, of the need for the UN community to be open-minded and not reject off-hand the security implications of climate change.
While the Council has traditionally focused on inter-state conflict, it has not shied away from acting proactively to address the root causes to other non-conventional security issues including HIV/AIDS, refugees’ issues, children in armed conflicts, poverty and development, and Ebola.
The global response to these challenges is a powerful illustration of what is possible when states collaborate and cooperate to achieve common and critical goals.
Without putting too fine a point on it, it is why we are here as Pacific nations, and as SIDS to take up this rare opportunity to inform the Security Council that the challenges that we face, including the impacts of climate change, present real threats to the peace and security of our island countries and peoples.
As our modest contribution towards our collective security, we will continue to provide police officers to UN peacekeeping missions to honour a commitment we made in 2000.
Today’s event has garnered so much positive spirit and goodwill. Truly, it will be most unfortunate if the debate was to be an end to itself and a once-only occurrence.
Let me conclude therefore by placing before you Mr President and members of the Security Council a special request on behalf of SIDS to consider including in the Council’s future schedule a day dedicated to the consideration by the Council of the peace and security challenges facing Small Island Developing States. That will be a tangible outcome of our open debate today.