COVID, climate and oceans were high on the agenda, as foreign ministers and officials from around the region met online on 14 October, for the 2020 Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting (FFMM).
This year’s ministerial summit focussed on the COVID-19 crisis and post-pandemic recovery; actions to address the ongoing challenge of climate change; policy on oceans and the impact of sea level rise on maritime boundaries; and finalising an agenda to place before the virtual meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders, likely to be held in early November.
Each year, a Forum Officials Committee meets to discuss the draft agenda for the annual Forum, and thrash out initial draft language that can square the circle over sensitive issues. In 2015, a Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting was added to the list of regional meetings, designed to free up more time for Presidents and Prime Ministers to talk freely amongst themselves at the annual leaders’ summit.
Opening the online FFMM, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor noted the success of regional co-operation in the early days of the pandemic: “Using available regional mechanisms such as the Biketawa Declaration and the Boe Declaration, we were able to achieve a world first with the establishment and operationalisation of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, our regional response platform which has been able to move around 47,000 kilograms or 466 cubic metres of medical and humanitarian supplies through our region.”
The regional response to COVID-19 initially prioritised the distribution of medical supplies, testing kits and technical assistance. But Forum member countries, especially those without any confirmed cases of coronavirus, are increasingly looking at the social and economic damage caused by border closures and disrupted trade and tourism.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe chaired the ministerial summit and spoke to journalists after the meeting. He highlighted “the need to address the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 crisis on vulnerable groups, including persons with disability, the elderly and women and girls - an issue faced by the full Forum membership.”
One ongoing challenge for smaller island states is to organise the return of citizens who have been working or studying abroad. Kiribati and Tuvalu are seeking assistance from the United Nations and neighbouring countries to bring home seafarers and seasonal workers who must transit through regional travel hubs like Auckland, Nauru or Nadi. The Tuvalu Foreign Minister recognised that many of his own nationals have found it hard to return home and “hundreds of i-Kiribati seafarers are amongst those in limbo as they were at sea, awaiting repatriation home and they’ve been stuck for many months.”
The FFMM proposed further discussions on a regional quarantine facility and travel bubbles to allow the transit of affected workers.
Simon Kofe stressed that developing countries need economic support during the recovery, but also ongoing medical assistance: “Ministers highlighted the need for cooperative, multilateral approaches to allow equitable access to trusted and certified COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines and ensuring their accountable and transparent procurement and distribution.”
Dame Meg Taylor confirmed that access to vaccines was a crucial next step in the regional response: “Our governments have been working very closely with different groupings to make sure that the Pacific secures vaccines. We had a very strong commitment from the Australian Prime Minister during this meeting that Australia would make sure that as they access vaccines, they would ensure that the Pacific was also able to access that vaccine.”
At a time of geopolitical contest in the region between China and the ANZUS allies, the Forum Secretary General diplomatically noted that Australia was not the only potential source for vaccines: “The leaders - all of them, hopefully - will be emphasising that we get our fair share of the vaccines and this is not just through Australia and New Zealand. If there are opportunities for vaccines from elsewhere that have been cleared, I know there is some of our countries that are working with different groupings to ensure that those vaccines will be available.”
The foreign ministers discussed a common statement “Protecting the health and well-being of the Blue Pacific”, to be presented to leaders and then to the forthcoming Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on COVID-19 in December.
In her opening speech to the meeting, Dame Meg Taylor stated: “Notwithstanding COVID-19 and whether there is a vaccine today or tomorrow, we will continue to face a more pressing challenge, the existential threat of climate change and its related impacts.”
The Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) was the first Pacific country to lodge an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and has been calling on fellow Forum members to put forward more ambitious NDCs.
After the FFMM, RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Casten Nemra said: “The Pacific region reaffirmed at ministerial level the determination to uphold the Paris Agreement and to deliver new, more ambitious nationally determined contributions in this fifth anniversary year of the landmark international accord. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, new climate ambition in the Pacific is indispensable to our building back better.”
Secretary General Taylor acknowledged that “for some countries, coming through with NDCs may pose some internal challenges,” but said the FFMM had reaffirmed the regional policy adopted at last year’s Forum Leaders Meeting in Funafuti: “The ministers reaffirmed their support for the ‘Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Action Now ’ and that is as important this year as it was last year.”
Marshall Islands is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and is using this position to leverage greater action on climate change. At the FFMM, Foreign Minister Nemra obtained regional support from his counterparts to campaign for a UN Special Rapporteur on climate change and human rights. Fiji is currently another island member of the UNHRC, and backed this initiative in the meeting.
Nemra explained: “In endorsing the creation of a dedicated new UN Special Rapporteur on climate change and human rights, the Pacific region will remain at the forefront of ambitious new actions to uphold rights threatened by the climate emergency facing all societies. We look forward to working with the entire region and the international community, as well as within the UN Human Rights Council, to secure this vital new mandate for overcoming the climate crisis by next year.”
This year’s 26th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Glasgow (COP26) was deferred because of the pandemic, but there are still regional and global efforts to increase ambition before the meeting, to be held in late 2021. The outcome of November’s Presidential election in the United states will have a major impact on the Paris Agreement, but Pacific island nations are also looking for greater climate action from their Kiwi neighbours, following Saturday’s elections in New Zealand.
Just days after the FFMM, the major victory of the NZ Labour Party in national elections will impact regional as well as domestic policy. Under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Labour now holds a majority in its own right. The elections saw the political demise of former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters, a long-standing figure on the national and regional stage. Peters’ NZ First party failed to meet the 5 per cent threshold to be represented in Parliament and his departure from the former governing coalition removes a constraint on New Zealand’s climate ambition.
This was highlighted the day after the NZ election, with Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama welcoming Jacinda Ardern’s victory in a tweet: “Proud to see my friend @jacindaardern score a historic victory. With a full embrace of a #netzerocommitment by 2050, this was also a landslide win for the climate. Your friends in Fiji are ready to keep moving with our work to make the Pacific and our planet a better place.”
The 2019 leaders meeting in Funafuti saw close collaboration between Bainimarama and Ardern, leaving Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison isolated in his opposition to more urgent, ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emissions and reduced use of fossil fuels.
Forum communiques usually include enough wiggle room to allow members to paper over their differences on climate policy, but the FFMM’s reaffirmation of the Kainaki II Declaration places the Morrison Government in a difficult position. Kainaki calls on parties to the Paris Agreement “to formulate and communicate mid-century long-term low greenhouse gas emissions development strategies by 2020. This may include commitments and strategies to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.”
The Morrison government has refused to adopt such a strategy, even though a broad coalition of Australian organisations – from environmental groups to the National Farmers Federation and Business Council of Australia – have supported the objective of net zero emissions by 2050. Despite the recent adoption of a “technology road map” on climate, Morrison may face increasing pressure at this year’s Forum leaders meeting over Australia’s lack of ambition on emissions reduction.
Dame Meg Taylor suggested that attempts to water down a Forum consensus on climate action would not constrain island nations in the lead up to COP26: “What we really need to do is to ensure that the Kainaki II Declaration is the basis for our discussion. However there was discussion and acknowledgement that there are other groupings too like the PSIDS, AOSIS and also the Higher Ambition Coalition that many of our member states - particularly the island countries - do belong to. They are going to push hard to make sure that the commitments under the Paris Agreement are met.”
Beyond climate, the Forum Foreign Ministers discussed regional oceans policy, despite the disruption of Blue Pacific advocacy during the UN Year of the Ocean. With Palau scheduled to host a regional oceans summit in December, the Forum will consider establishing a subcommittee to continue work on defining legal maritime boundaries.
At the meeting, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced that the new ‘Pacific Fusion Centre’, currently operating from Canberra, will be based in Vanuatu. The centre will collate information from security and fisheries agencies across Pacific Island countries to provide more comprehensive “real time maritime domain awareness.”
Online leaders’ summit
The 2020 Forum leaders meeting was originally scheduled for August in Vanuatu, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of independence. However health and travel restrictions in the COVID-free nation led to the postponement of a face-to-face meeting. Since then Prime Minister of Tuvalu Kausea Natano, the current Forum Chair, has been negotiating with other leaders to finalise a date for a virtual summit, with a restricted agenda.
Beyond key agenda items of the post-pandemic recovery and climate policy, this year’s meeting must make a decision on the appointment of a new Secretary General for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, as Dame Meg Taylor ends her second term of office next January.
Speaking after the FFMM, Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said that Prime Minister Natano was still working to finalise a date for the online summit, which should be decided within days: “The process will be determined by the leaders. But in terms of dates, we are looking at November. The majority of members have expressed their preference for the first week of November.”
Five Micronesian leaders have threatened to withdraw from Forum activity if their candidate for Secretary General, RMI’s Gerald Zackios, is not appointed to the post. But Simon Kofe believes that the issue will be resolved, noting: “It's something that the leaders will look into. We are certainly very concerned about the threat from the Micronesians to pull out from the Forum.”
Summing up a successful meeting, Kofe said: “It’s been an extraordinary year this year. We are coming to the end of 2020 and I would say that we faced a number of challenges this year and there are more challenges ahead of us. But as the Pacific, we can draw on our culture and our values to be able to maintain our unity and our resilience through these testing times.”
From the zenith of Pacific regionalism (the Forum) from the early 1970s, Fiji’s standing in the group and amongst its regional neighbours stooped to unprecedented ignominy in 2009. Fiji was the first member country ever to be suspended from the Forum. It remained in the doldrums until 2014 when its membership was reinstated after the country’s 2014 general elections. After tentative steps to regain its rightful status, Fiji appears to be firmly on the way to recapturing its lost good name. Its task is a foregone conclusion. It has to be the mainspring of transformative changes under the proposed 2050 Strategy. Fiji’s first step is to ensure that the strategy is expertly and adequately framed to effectively deliver on all the changes that will transform the economies of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to sustainability, secure inter-dependencies and heightened levels of self-sufficiency.
Fiji’s good name in the Forum had a pre-Forum lead-up. In 1965, independent Western Samoa was a member of the then South Pacific Commission (SPC). Fiji and other non-independent PICs attended SPC meetings only on invitation. But they were unhappy about their treatment by the metropolitan countries. At the meeting in Lae that year, Fiji’s Ratu Kamisese Mara masterminded what was to be later referred to as the Lae Rebellion.
Ratu Mara articulated the PICs’ concern: “The powers seemed incapable of realising that the winds of change had at last reached the South Pacific and that we peoples of the territories were no longer going to tolerate the domination of the Commission by the metropolitan powers. We were sick of having little to say and no authority. Regardless of what we said or did the final decision was always in the hands of the metropolitan powers.”
The Lae Rebellion resulted in the breakaway of five PICs—the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Tonga and Western Samoa—with the idea to establish their own forum between 1970 - 1971. Ratu Mara, Fiji’s first Prime Minster, was the principal interlocutor for the group and he negotiated the terms of the inclusion in the group of New Zealand first and Australia later. The South Pacific Forum was thus formalised in Wellington in 1971. Ratu Mara later justified the inclusion of the two developed countries: “We were happy to be joined by Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) in the Forum…..Indeed, we wanted them for a special reason for part of the ambitious plan of the Forum..…was no less than to alter the whole balance of the terms of trade.”
Fiji’s good record persisted over the years when the Forum needed to negotiate and resolve intractable global issues like The Law of the Sea and nuclear testing. Fast forward to 2000, under the Biketawa Declaration, specifically under RAMSI, where Fiji’s contribution of security personnel, along with those from Australia, New Zealand and other PICs assisted Solomon Islands in its hour of need, is to be commended.
But the period starting in December 2006 marked Fiji’s decline in favour in terms of Pacific regionalism. The same Biketawa Declaration was invoked to suspend Fiji in 2009 following the coup of 2006 and failure to conduct general elections as first indicated. Fiji’s suspension was lifted in October 2014 after the general elections. But the controversies surrounding Fiji persisted. This was due to Prime Minister Bainimarama’s intention to find ways to exclude Australia and New Zealand from the Forum’s membership.
This intention, however, waned somewhat with the execution of the provisions of Australia’s ‘Step-Up’ and New Zealand’s ‘Pacific Re-set’ that strengthened regional aid packages for the PICs. PM Bainimarama’s mood was upbeat on the way to the Tuvalu Forum Leaders’ meeting last year. When asked about his relationship with Australia and New Zealand, he said that the Forum was reaching a new stage in its development with both. His mood, however, reverted to being critical of the two developed country members after the divisive shenanigans of Funafuti instigated by Australia as perceived by the PICs Leaders.
However, all that seems to be water under the bridge. PM Bainimarama opened Fiji’s national consultation on the 2050 Strategy last August. He was upbeat. He was inspirational. He spoke of Forum Leaders as the captains - the ones who must make the day-to-day decisions that lead us to our destination. Our destination “is to achieve the future we know is right and know is possible.”
The future of course, and the path to get there, will be encapsulated in the 2050 Strategy. In Fiji’s eyes, “the Strategy will be at the heart of our ambition.” Referring to Australia’s effort to ensure equitable access to a vaccine to the coronavirus in the Pacific, PM Bainimarama said: “If we harness that spirit of regional collective action, we have good reason to hold faith in our progress for the next 30 years.”
As host to next year’s Forum Leaders’ meeting, Fiji now plays a critical role in determining and advancing Pacific regionalism to the unprecedented heights to which we all aspire. At the officials’ level, Fiji provides managerial and critical inputs in the formulation of the 2050 Strategy. At the Leaders’ level, Fiji starts a three-year stint as a member of the Troika. During one third of that period, Fiji will assume the chair.
The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, to guide Fiji forward, is likely to be innovative and far-reaching, judging from the evocative elements of the Tuvalu Communique, and from the assessment and outcomes of planning to date. The Communique speaks of course of the new 2050 vision, the particularisation rendered to the ‘vision of PICs only that recognized the Blue Pacific Continent’, the link to the SAMOA Pathway and the Boe Declaration.
In the context of the experiences, fortunes and the unfolding of events of Pacific regionalism since 1971, there are likely to be critical lessons that could be incorporated into the strategy. A number of lessons stand out prominently and they, in my book, will need to be formulated with hindsight to enable curative measures to be transformative. But transformative in a positive and realistic sense. PICs need to make a quantum leap to make a difference. Pacific regionalism needs to be more meaningful through the effective delivery of the expectations of its members, especially those of the PICs.
For 49 years, PICs have remained vulnerable. Their inter-dependencies remain weak. Their economies’ dependence on aid still remains as one of the highest in the world, on a per capita basis. This needs to be turned around.
On top of that, their trade is weak. Industrialisation in regional hubs or in clusters remains a dream. Transformative ideas like value adding products for specific high-value niche markets have yet to take the world markets by storm. In short, regional economic integration, after 49 years, is still rudimentary. Essentially, re-doing the basics of regionalism properly is a lesson that can be drawn from our 49 years of collective efforts.
Climate change is an added threat. Post-COVID-19 measures will complicate matters and will require greater resilience, commitment and grit.
The above tasks await Fiji. Fiji has the wherewithal to excel. Regional solidarity is the key.
The author is a former Fijian Ambassador and Foreign Minister and runs his own consultancy company in Suva, Fiji.
“For the Pacific, the impact of climate change will remain as the greatest threat to our Pacific people in the longer term. You can quarantine COVID-19, but climate change cannot be quarantined.”
That’s Exsley Taloiburi, climate change finance adviser at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva.
This month, the annual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) went online, to discuss the regional response to the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting focussed on the social and economic effects of border closures, increased health spending, the collapse of tourism and associated job losses. But Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor was quick to acknowledge the region was dealing with compounding and interconnected challenges: “Today, we are now faced with three crises: a health crisis, an economic crisis and the ongoing climate crisis.”
The final FEMM outcomes statement agreed: “We recognise the three-pronged crisis currently facing the region – the impact of COVID-19, the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters, and the fragile economic health of the region as a consequence of inherent vulnerabilities.”
Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance Seve Paeniu was chair of FEMM 2020. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Paeniu stressed that these combined crises affect states like Tuvalu, that do not have any confirmed cases of coronavirus: “Even though we are COVID-19 free, we are already feeling the flow-on impact in terms of the financial drain on our resources, in terms of our health systems, to ensure that our capacity to be able to respond in the event that there is a COVID-19 outbreak in Tuvalu. On top of that, we are very much vulnerable to natural disasters. At the beginning of this year we were hit by Cyclone Tino and then a few weeks later we had the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers are asking development partners to provide debt relief, and increase general budget support as island nations struggle with the economic impacts of coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of this week’s virtual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM), Ministers and officials also asked for more flexibility in the financing and focus of existing and upcoming donor programs, increased support for social protection systems, and that International Financial Institutions reassess grant and loan eligibility so Pacific island states can fully benefit from their support.
The Ministers say considerable additional investment and resourcing of public health systems will be needed and have committed to diversifying their economies and improving competitiveness, with a focus on the digital economy and investments in digital literacy, trade and innovation in the private sector, including through public private partnerships.
The Ministers have backed the establishment of a regional COVID-19 economic recovery taskforce to look at the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic over a longer period of time, and oversee implementation of regional priorities, including including health, digital economy and connectivity, food security and agriculture, and building resilient and sustainable economies. The taskforce will also engage with development partners on ‘innovative’ financing options.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor says the FEMM also discussed the need for “very strong public financial management systems”, so that members can absorb resilience finance and “address the issues of health and climatic impacts and plan our economies.”
“I think one of the key issues here is that, to note that over the past several years about US$2 billion has come into the region for resilience finance. That's a lot of money .”
As Chair of the FEMM, Tuvalu’s Finance Minister Seve Paeniu said for him, “it all boils down to the resourcing of these response measures that we pursue and how we implement and resource these initiatives.
Paeniu would also like to see “a coordinated set of lessons learnt and experiences by similar countries” so that Tuvalu and other small island states can learn from and adapt to their own circumstances for future crisis response situations.
FEMM has directed that a development partners roundtable be convened to help coordinate donor support for COVID-19 responses.
The Ministers did not discuss travel ‘bubbles’ or labour mobility in depth. Minister Paeniu says this is because in the case of travel bubbles, only a few countries have flagged such arrangements as a possibility. Dame Meg said labour mobility and seasonal worker discussions have largely been handled on a bilateral basis.
Current global forecasts envision a 5.2% contraction of the global economy in 2020 – the deepest global recession in decades. Triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, this recession will have long term impacts on economies the world over through lower investment, erosion of human capital through lost employment and education and the fragmentation of global trade and supply links.
This global forecast will impact economies in the Pacific region primarily due to the limited capacity for domestic responses available to Small Island States and the pre-existing underlying socio-economic challenges. In reality, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, like climate change, and generated new ones.
In the Pacific, the region is forecast to contract by 4.3% in 2020 with declining in economic activity across all sectors, especially tourism.
This sets the tone for the 2020 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting on 11 – 12 August 2020.
What has the Pacific done collectively in response to COVID-19?
Recognising the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Forum Leaders and Governments acted quickly and decisively to close borders and implement strong measures to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus domestically.
Consequently, 12 countries remain COVID free, and our region’s total number of COVID-19 cases remains relatively low, compared to other regions in the world.
Regionally, Leaders established the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on Covid-19 (PHP-C) which is designed to facilitate the delivery of medical supplies and equipment to Forum Island Countries (FICs), and at the same time, serve as a platform to share knowledge and experience.
Indeed, I was pleased to witness the first airlift of medical supplies through the PHP-C this last week and look forward to supporting Members in the weeks to come.
The 2020 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting
This weeks meeting of Forum Economic Ministers will focus on the three-pronged crisis currently facing the region – the impact of COVID-19, the devastating effects of climate change induced natural disasters and the fragile economic health of the region as a consequence of inherent vulnerabilities.
The meeting provides a critical opportunity for the region’s economic ministers to have a collective discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies. They will discuss economic responses and recovery packages and strategies, whilst keeping in mind the need to ensure and maintain their commitment to strengthening climate resilience in their recovery packages.
The impact on FICs has been devastating. The key issue that sets this crisis apart from other disasters is that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all Forum economies simultaneously, thereby impacting the delivery of immediate assistance and aid from traditional development partners.
FICs are projected to experience a substantial contraction in their economies in 2020, ranging from 21.7% in Fiji, 11.9% in Palau, 3.7% in Samoa to 1.0% in Papua New Guinea. The Forum Secretariat has also conducted a survey of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the region which confirms massive declines in revenue, with follow-on negative impacts on the well-being of Pacific communities that depend on SMEs for their livelihood.
Economic Ministers will consider regional policy options and initiatives to support the next phase of recovery. The focus will now shift from protective measures to how best we can ensure our Forum Members can revive their respective economies whilst ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our Pacific people is not compromised. In the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19, the global outlook on the pandemic remains uncertain and therefore, so does the regional outlook.
A related consideration by economic ministers at their meeting next week will be the 2020 Biennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report which reviews the region’s progress towards the 2030 Agenda, taking into account the emerging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on socio-economic development across the region.
Lessons from COVID-19 for the Pacific region
What is strikingly clear is that the region will operate differently in the post COVID-19 era. A key challenge is the need for access to timely and relevant data to support decision-making during this evolving crisis. The effectiveness of any response measure is based on the appropriateness and agility of our national and regional systems and institutional mechanisms to react promptly – this will only be possible through the availability of relevant and timely data.
Further, the importance of our health infrastructure also comes to the fore. In several FICs, the average public spending on health care per person is US$275 which is relatively low. The prioritisation of short term, medium and long term investments in health infrastructure and services will need to be addressed if we are to have the tools and equipment to respond to COVID-19, particularly as countries assess their readiness to open their borders.
Perhaps most importantly, this crisis has also reaffirmed the importance and value of strengthened digital economies across the Pacific region. Digital economy and e-commerce in particular is an area that remains unexplored and has the potential to become a regional priority with multi-sectoral and political support should Ministers and Leaders determine so. The key impediments so far have been access to cost effective digital infrastructure and how we can come together as region to support this.
Regional cooperation and solidarity through this crisis
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the region in an unprecedented situation. The need to respond to three crises simultaneously has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of many of our economies. This reality was amplified in April 2020 when Tropical Cyclone Harold left a path of destruction in the region, as countries went into COVID-19 lockdown.
In spite of this, we in the Pacific have demonstrated time and again the strength of our region, when we come together to respond to crises. This time is no different. Indeed, pioneering regional responses, such as the Pacific Resilience Facility, and the PHP-C, show we can deliver innovative solutions to deal with the biggest challenges facing our generation. Such innovative approaches must inspire more multi-sectoral regional cooperation to assist in our efforts to build back our economies and societies. Greater collaboration and meaningful engagement between governments, civil society and the private sector is no longer an option, it is essential.
Pacific Leaders have endorsed the Blue Pacific call for collective regional action, recognizing the economic and strategic potential of our shared oceanic continent. It is important this collaboration continues, to strengthen the resilience of our economies to future shocks and ensure our Pacific people can survive future disasters. Our nations are already rethinking national development and rewriting their strategic development plans. A renewed focus on self-reliance and innovation is surely of value and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is more important than ever.
The wellbeing of our people is under threat. We must and will work together to help our nations thrive. We must work together to help our people thrive. If we collaborate as one Blue Pacific Continent, we will emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient.