Excellencies, senior officials representing Pacific member states
Pacific Island Maritime Boundary Consortium Partners
Partners, SPC colleagues, ladies and gentlemen
It has been a pleasure, following the progress of this dialogue over the past 2 days. A large part of this is because of the significant progress achieved as well as the successful collaboration between all the parties involved in this work. After all who doesn’t find pleasure in a good story.
It is indeed inspiring to hear about the years of sustained effort on the part of individuals, teams, and regional partners to fulfill the vision of a secure Blue Pacific Continent – a testament to the fact that when like-minded people who are passionate and committed about a particular cause come together, the only outcome is progress in the right direction.
One of the highlights of the meeting for me was the awards ceremony yesterday. As Pacific people we often stress the service component of our work but it is also important to get recognition of the good work our colleagues do. And of course recognition from your peers is the highest accolade and something we should continue to embrace.
As our DG alluded to yesterday, so often in development, we focus on the outcomes, on the deliverables. The hospitals built, the policies enacted, the SDGs achieved, the tangible changes. But in so doing, we mustn’t forget it is people who drive these changes. The influencers, the hustlers, the quiet (and not so quiet) but determined forces behind the scenes. In committing to something larger than themselves, these individuals’ lives are forever changed, and that is something we have still not found a way to measure.
Congratulations again to our champions and leaders who were recognised yesterday.
The progress in the work so far has been significant. If I can highlight one area in treaties on shared boundaries, to have 35 out of 48 (or 73%) sorted is no small feat. I understand of the remaining boundaries, there are at least seven ‘low hanging fruit’ so to speak and we look forward to working with some of you to get these across the line over the short-medium term. We are quietly confident that we do not have to wait for another 20 years to report back on significant progress on this issue so watch this space!
Having said that, we recognise that some of the remaining treaties is the most challenging. Settling some of these boundaries may require innovative negotiation approaches and diplomatic agility.
Apart from the 13 outstanding treaties, there are also a number of ‘low-hanging fruit’ we are working on with countries to ratify and enter their treaties into force and publish these with UNDOALOS. Dotting all these ‘I’s and crossing the ‘Ts’ is also not a small task, but it is an important one to ensure security of maritime zones.
On more global issues and reflecting on the mixed bag of outcomes from last weeks’ COP26 meeting in Glasgow, we can take some solace that ocean action is now firmly embedded in COP processes.
But we also know that global action on climate change is not happening as fast as we need to ensure our way of life in the Pacific can continue.
This is a sobering realisation. And yet, in the face of climate change uncertainty, it becomes that much more critical that we focus our energies on those tangible actions within our control.
And defining and delimiting our maritime zones under UNCLOS is within our grasp.
This is our Blue Pacific, our ocean. In the words of the late ‘Epeli Hau’ofa, we ARE the ocean.
Let us work together to secure our ocean space, our fisheries, our livelihoods, our children’s birthright for generations to come.
As you have no doubt heard throughout this dialogue, SPC and the Consortium of Partners are committed to support countries in this work.
While there is much to celebrate, now is not the time to sit back and relax, but to roll up our sleeves and finish the job.
We are here to help build the capacity and support the next generation of champions who will take the baton and see these critical actions through to the finish.
We thank you all for your kind words for the work the team does but let me say our team really enjoys what they do. Nothing better than to be doing what you enjoy and to be thanked for it by our members while not necessary is much appreciated.
In closing, I’d like to recognise the broader team that has made this work possible. From the consortium of partners across Pacific agencies including:
- the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and the Forum Fisheries Agency,
- to our regional experts at Geoscience Australia, the University of Sydney, the Commonwealth Secretariat and GRID Arendal,
- and donors including the Government of Australia, Government of New Zealand, Government of Papua New Guinea, UK Government through the British High Commission in Suva, and the European Union and Sweden through the Pacific European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme.
We are very grateful for your support, your gifts and energies in contributing to this regional priority effort.
Most of all, I’d like to recognise those from across our member states who have taken up and driven this work at the national level. Where there have been successes, it is because of you and your dedication.
We know that some of the work that remains is the most challenging. But we also know that the people in this virtual room are the ones who can make that change.
Malo ‘aupito, vinaka vakalevu, merci beaucoup, thank you and godspeed until we meet again.