Opening remarks by Maria Fuata, Deputy Director-General for Operations and Integration at the Pacific Community (SPC) during the 40th Meeting of the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture

Honolulu
SPC DDG Maria

 

Your Excellencies and senior officials,

Esteemed members of the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture, and Chair Kumu Hula Mapuana,

Distinguished Heads of delegations, and Representatives of Regional and International Organisations,

Ladies, and gentlemen.

Aloha! Sa vinaka saka na bula! Noa’ia ‘e mauri tene gagaj atakoa. Good morning.

On behalf of the Pacific Community SPC, I acknowledge Na Kānaka Maoli, the indigenous peoples of Havai’i on whose land we gather for the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture, and for this Council meeting.

I pay our respects to the cultural custodians of the Blue Pacific Continent, all indigenous peoples and communities that call the Pacific their home. Inspired and guided by the mana and wisdom of our people, we offer our services in the spirit of humility, reciprocity, and solidarity.

On behalf of the SPC Director General, Dr Stuart Minchin, I extend warm greetings and well wishes to you all.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the current situation in New Caledonia. We are saddened that our Kanaky brothers and sisters are unable to join us in person today. We recognize that these are challenging times for our New Caledonia families, but we sincerely hope for a smooth, swift, and peaceful resolution. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected, praying for safety and peace.

SPC acknowledges the critical role that culture plays in driving and enabling resilience, building towards our shared Sustainable Development aspirations. The rich tapestry of our Pacific cultures forms the foundation of our identity as people of the Blue Pacific Continent. It serves as our compass, guiding us back to our roots and reaffirming our sense of belonging. It provides invaluable insights and practices that allow us to navigate challenges, and it is during challenging times that our culture and values play a critical role in fostering peace and strengthens our sense of community.

 We celebrate the diversity of cultural expressions across the Pacific, understanding that they hold the key to unlocking innovative solutions and fostering inclusive development pathways

SPC is a proud custodian of regional culture strategy, and the Festival of Art and Culture serves as a vehicle to implement strategic cultural actions. We value our relationship with this forum and remain committed to supporting our members in progressing the culture for development goals. It has been 59 years since the idea of a festival was first floated in 1965, at a regional meeting hosted by SPC, and 49 years since the establishment of the council in 1975, at a workshop held at SPC Headquarters in Noumea.

Members of Council, we recognise the tremendous work that you all lead, the national commitment and ongoing efforts to the development of culture and the critical role that it plays in driving and enabling resilience building towards our shared Sustainable Development aspirations.

I wish to highlight two recent positive global Pacific impact initiatives that relate to culture and Pacific indigenous peoples and demonstrate the strength of Pacific leadership and voice on the global platform.

The first, is recognition of Niue’s Pioneering Efforts on Ocean Conservation. Niue has been recognised In The 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards.

Just last week, it was announced that Niue’s Ocean Conservation Commitments concept, has won the Nature category of the Fast Company’s 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards and also received an honourable mention in the Water category. Congratulations Niue!

SPC is proud to have been able to support the Vanuatu-led initiative at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an Advisory Opinion on the Obligations of States relevant to climate action. If successful, this would see increased benefits and support to the region.

SPC also provided support to our member countries in preparing the submission to the ICJ. We are pleased to report that the submission was received very positively.

The UN Process of filing written statements took place in April this year, through the advisory proceedings on the Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change.

91 written statements were filed in the Registry of the International Court of Justice, the highest number of written statements ever to have been filed in advisory.

A historic moment at the UN, and for the Pacific which led this movement and action.

Our belief in the value of Culture is firmly embedded in the work that we do. This is reflected in our Strategic Plan 2022 – 2031. We are guided by four Pacific values - aroha (care); kaitiakitanga (stewardship); enginkelap (generosity); and gida gaituvwa (unity).

Policy foundations are critical to development, and it is reassuring to see the recognition of culture across a range of regional policy frameworks and strategies. The SPC Culture for Development programme prioritises culture inclusive and contextually relevant approaches to development through policy and programming and technical support to countries for policy development. Within SPC, some examples of work include the People Centered approach and four new flagships - Oceans, Gender, Climate Change and Food Systems.  Culture and Traditional Knowledge is interwoven into these flagships.

It has been a long road to FestPAC 13, ten years since Hawaii first presented its Expression of Interest in hosting the festival and eight years since FestPAC 12, in Guam. We know that the 8-year gap between festivals means that expectations are high, and we thank all of those behind the scenes who have worked to support countries, in their preparations for FestPAC. SPC has a strong delegation of over 40 on the ground to assist our members and to facilitate the SPC-led strategic programme.

We recognise the incredible effort that it takes to host and participate in FESTPAC, and I want to acknowledge the work that Hawaii as host has done to ensure a safe and vibrant event for our Pacific family over the next two weeks.  

We also recognise the immense commitment and patience participating countries, territories, and communities have demonstrated strong commitment to the festival despite the numerous challenges faced in the context of post-covid recovery and resourcing.

While SPC has tried to find ways to alleviate some of this pressure by securing financial support, capacity training and one-on-one country support, we know that it has not been easy to get to this point. I congratulate CPAC members for your leadership in your preparations for FestPAC 13!

The festival is a testimony to your steadfast and longstanding commitment over the last 5 decades toensuring that the festival meets the needs and standards that are required to ensure that objectives of the festival are met.

Finally, I wish to convey warm wishes from SPC senior leadership and staff for your 40th meeting today and of our reassurance that SPC remains committed to supporting you. 

Vinaka Vakalevu. Mahalo nui loa. Fãiåk se’ea.

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