The fever of the gathering of the Melanesian family through the upcoming 7th Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival (MACFEST) began last week with the gathering of Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) foreign Ministers at the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila.
The meeting, opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Jotham Napat, marked another important chapter in the establishment of the sub-regional Melanesian group. It symbolised the solidarity among Melanesian nations and the commitment to strengthen the bonds that unite them.
Expressing gratitude for the presence and shared commitment of the participants, Minister Napat highlighted the vision of the founding fathers of the MSG.
He recounted the informal talks in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, on 17 July 1986, which birthed the dream of a united Melanesia.
This dream aimed to foster a stronger cultural, political, social, and economic identity among the people of MSG, as well as to advocate for common positions on regional issues of mutual interest, such as the decolonisation of New Caledonia and the cessation of nuclear testing.
Minister Napat urged his counterparts not to lose sight of the MSG’s core objectives, which encompass sub-regional diplomacy, friendly relations, peacekeeping, free trade, economic cooperation, and the promotion of Melanesian traditions and cultures.
Reflecting on the challenging years brought about by the pandemic, he emphasised the lessons learned from COVID-19, calling it a warning sign of the potential catastrophic consequences of climate change.
He acknowledged Vanuatu’s own experience with natural disasters, including the recent destructive tropical cyclones Judy and Kevin, which caused extensive damage within a week.
Expressing pride in the Melanesian solidarity that emerged in the aftermath of the cyclones, Minister Napat thanked the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Indonesia for their support during Vanuatu’s time of need.
He also expressed gratitude to his counterparts and the MSG family for their support on the Advisory Opinion on Climate Change from the International Court of Justice, which received overwhelming United Nations (UN) support on the obligations of countries to address climate change.
The MSG foreign ministers meeting aimed to agree on key recommendations for sub-regional cooperation and decisions to strengthen the work of the MSG Secretariat.
Discussions revolved around budgetary and policy intentions to ensure the MSG remains peaceful, prosperous, forward-looking, and adaptable to changing circumstances.
The foreign ministers of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) of New Caledonia also convened to determine the date for the 22nd MSG Leaders Summit, scheduled to take place in Port Vila this month. The Leaders Summit will not only provide an opportunity to celebrate Vanuatu’s 43rd Independence anniversary but will also coincide with the gathering of over 100 Melanesian families at the 7th MACFEST from 19 -29 July 2023.