Hon Manasseh Sogavere, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Excellencies,
Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by offering my congratulations to the Hon. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavere on his appointment as the Chair of the Pacific Islands Development Forum and my gratitude for the commitment and leadership he has shown to this institution and to our common mission.

I am handing over the reins of the forum with pride and confidence. We are building for the future, and although our accomplishments may seem modest in comparison to our ambitions, we are moving steadily in the right direction. And that direction is definitely forward.

When I look back at the conception of this forum, how it sprang from an ideal and faced no small amount of opposition, I marvel at what we have been able to accomplish. We began with the idea that we should seize control of our development and find an inclusive and sustainable way to prosperity. It was that simple. And over the past three years, we have reaffirmed and consolidated its purpose through our actions, and we have convened leaders and citizens in open and inclusive dialogues that are aimed at solving problems. I’m not sure how many international forums can make that claim.

I am also proud that we have achieved tremendous solidarity in advocating our vital interests to the rest of the world. We Pacific island nations have an effective and consistent voice, and it is here.

On this note, I wish to acknowledge and commend those countries that were vocal advocates in the global arena on matters close to our hearts, in particular Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Three years ago, you paid me a great honour by electing me to act on your behalf and do my utmost to ensure that this forum delivered the best possible support for the sustainable and inclusive development of Pacific Island nations.

That has been challenging, since we were just newly established and we did face some headwind—headwinds, I might add, that are not due to global warming, although there were times when I did note a good deal of hot air coming from outside this Forum. But through all that, I have always been able to rely on your support to come together to find the compromises that deliver consensus.

We have made real progress on building the forum, on institutionalising it, with complete professional secretariat support, and deepening partnerships with our founding development partners and technical partners. And now the forum has its own Charter.

Overall, I see very good things on the horizon for the operations, transformation and partnerships objectives of the forum. I know you will continue to work with the Hon Manasseh Sogavere towards the successful achievement of the PIDF goals, and I am honoured to turn the PIDF gavel over to him.

I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of individuals and organisations that have supported me and this office over the past three years. The Secretary General, Mr Francois Martel, and his hard working team, and the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As you all know, the PIDF is very close to our hearts, and we will continue to embrace whatever challenges confront us in the future, pursue creative solutions, and explore the most cooperative and inclusive ways to make those solutions a reality. Our regional bond is a great strength because it is built on common challenges, common interests, and a shared destiny.

I take this opportunity to renew to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and his government the full support of the government and people of Fiji. We are confident that under the new leadership of the Hon Manasseh Sogavere, the PIDF will extend its influence, strengthen its voice, and raise its international prestige—all because it is an institution that acts intelligently.

Vinaka Vakalevu.