FORUM SECRETARY – 26 August 2020
- The Honourable Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
- The Hon, Marion Henry, Chair of the Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting
- Honourable Ministers
- Senior Officials
- The Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency
- Colleague Representatives of CROP Agencies
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Greetings from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. I am pleased to join you all this morning at this second Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting.
We are, indeed, in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled economies throughout the world and severely impacted our region. Now, more than ever, strong international and regional cooperation is critical to combatting the pandemic and its consequential impacts.
As you may be aware, Forum Foreign Ministers and Forum Economic Ministers have met in recent months and agreed on regional initiatives to support Member States through this pandemic and work towards strong recovery.
Forum Foreign Ministers established the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 to, primarily, support the movement of medical supplies and personnel into our Forum Member States. To this end, regional protocols have been endorsed and the PHP-C has facilitated the uplift of supplies to Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.
Forum Economic Ministers established a COVID-19 Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce to operationalise the Economic Ministers Statement on COVID-19 and identify opportunities for economic initiatives.
Key to the success of our recovery initiatives is coordinated support and implementation. Indeed, this will require strong cross-sectoral coordination at the national and regional level. Resource sectors such as fisheries, will become integral to our recovery plans, as service sectors such as Tourism continue to suffer the economic brunt of this pandemic.
In turning to Fisheries, Honourable Ministers, you may recall that Forum Leaders identified increasing the sustainable economic returns from fisheries as a Forum regional priority in 2015. 2020 marks the 5th year of implementation of this priority. This, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, presents an apt opportunity for the region to reflect on and review the progress achieved in this priority area. I anticipate this will outline recommendations to further strengthen the returns from the fisheries sector, as we rebuild our economies, post-COVID-19. To this end, I acknowledge the collaborative effort of the FFA, SPC and the PNA to progress this review.
Indeed, whilst the COVID-19 remains a key threat to our region, it must not distract from the ongoing threat we collectively face on climate change. Climate change continues to impact all facets of our economies – our people, our place and prospects. Political leadership across all sectors is critical to securing our future and well-being in the face of climate change.
As we look forward, I am encouraged by the Forum Leaders recognition in 2019, of the strategic value that the Pacific region holds and the unprecedented opportunity this presents to leverage and realise the Blue Pacific Continent. In line with the Leaders decision, work on the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent has begun in earnest. I encourage your engagement in this process as this will become the long-term vision for our region and will require a collective commitment from us all.
I thank you all very much.