OFFICIAL STATEMENT, Hon. Alatoi Ishmael KALSAKAU MA’AUKORO
Welcome Ceremony, 12th Conference of the Pacific Community
Thursday, 24 November from 3pm, at the Saralana Park
Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister of Samoa;
Hon. Aren B Palik, Vice President of Federated States of Micronesia;
Hon. Jotham Napat, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, and Conference Chair;
Hon. Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Foreign Affairs Minister of New Zealand;
Hon. Steven Victor, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment of the Republic of Palau;
Hon. Fekitamoela UTOIKAMANU, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Tonga;
Hon. Michael Forrest, Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture of New Caledonia;
Hon. Anne Marie Trevelyan, MP Minister of State (Indo-Pacific) of UK;
Madame Chrysoula Zacharapoulou, Secretary of State responsible for Francophonie and international partnership;
Dr. Stuart Minchin, Director General of the Pacific Community;
Hon Heads of Delegation, Senior Officials of the Pacific Community;
Distinguished Heads of Regional and International Organizations;
President of the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs;
Dean and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Children, Youth, and People of Vanuatu across all our Provinces
Ladies and Gentlemen – all protocols observed!
It gives me great honour to welcome you all to our beautiful shores, on the occasion of Vanuatu’s hosting of the 12th Conference of the Pacific Community, and to wish you all the very best in your deliberations tomorrow. May I also impress upon you to take time out of your busy schedules, if you can, to visit some of the sites and beauty our islands have to offer.
I also wish to on the outset, acknowledge and commend all of you for gracing us with your presence, during such a busy period, in the national and international calendar and undertakings. And I wish to here applaud Pacific Delegates to COP 27 in Egypt for our continued push for the recognition of the unfair burden of adverse effects of a rapidly-changing climate, on PSIDS.
Moreover, for the achievement of the Loss and Damage Fund under the UNFCCC. This might I add, has to be something accredited regional organisations such as SPC have to position themselves well to tap into on behalf of its membership, esp. in addressing L&D situations across our islands. After all, in addition to dealing with COVID19 recovery and a dangerous NCD crisis, the Climate Emergency we live in makes it all the more necessary for such organisations to step up their game.
It has been Vanuatu’s intention therefore since taking on the chairing role, to help steer The Pacific Community to be the most effective and fit for purpose, for the Pacific, that will help bring solutions to the Members that are implemented on the ground in every Member State and Territory and collectively as the Pacific Region, in a timely and effective manner.
To that end, Vanuatu as Chair has included a very important item on the agenda for consideration by Members, and is asking for support from the Membership to consider the feasibility of instituting a full organisational review, if anything to ensure that our organisation is on the right track. This has been the arduous task that Vanuatu took on, and we aim to see this through, with your support of course.
Also, given that the last independent review with full member participation was 10 years ago, we feel that the time is right for a deep examination of the organisation to ensure we are staying true to the mandate of SPC as a Pacific organisation and that we are entirely fit for purpose for the overwhelming challenges we are all facing. And to ensure that benefits derived thereupon are equally shared, and that leave no one behind.
Turning to the significance of this afternoon’s ceremony and traditional gestures, I wish to impress upon you on the symbolism and messages behind the Staff or Walking Stick and Coconut Tree Planting which both speak to the importance of leaning on one another, and the need for timely and targeted intervention by science in safeguarding important natural resources.
Particularly, science that is not only practical and useful, but helps to safeguard our livelihoods and everything that sustains them. As the region’s premier scientific and technical organisation, SPC must be front and center of these efforts, along with national governments of course.
We have been supported by the coconut tree for countless generations. It sustains us, gives us shelter, nourishment, fuel, and so much more. As such, the coconut has become a symbol of our welfare as a tree of life. Our identity is tied with this life-giving tree, which is why we plant them to hold memories and build relations in that symbolism. But, sadly, our tree of life is also dying.
The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, introduced into our environment a couple of years ago, is destroying our tree of life. As we lose this important part of our identity over the next generation, we lose some self-reliance and lose certainty of the quality of our future. But we are Pacific Peoples, and we will thrive to fight another day.
In the meantime, we are fighting this invasive species, trying to protect what rightfully belongs to our future generations. And today we continue to plant our coconuts in protest, not willing to let them go without a fight. This is a fight which we hope to lean on our development, and technical partners equally alike, from the EU to SPC.
In closing, I would like to call upon all of us as Pacific Leaders representing the people of the land and our vast ocean space, to put aside our differences and rise up to the challenge encapsulated in the theme for 12th Conference, in seeking out and identifying new pathways to a resilient future of prosperity and growth. Furthermore, that does not take away from, but rather adds to existing and traditional wellbeing frameworks that have for time immemorial been and must continue to be the bastions of the Pacific :Peoples.
In so saying, I hereby declare the 12th Conference of the Pacific Community in Port Vila, Vanuatu, officially open!
Tankyu tumas olgeta mo welkam!