Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is our first Leaders’ Summit, and we have much to do. But I ask your indulgence while I take a short excursion back in time to review the brief but auspicious history of the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

Four years ago, the call for a “Pacific Islands Development Forum” was endorsed by 14 Pacific Island leaders at the “Engaging with the Pacific” meeting held in Denarau, in Fiji.

The Official Communiqué recorded that the Leaders had “endorsed the convening of the Pacific Islands Development Forum for the purpose of engaging leaders from key sectors in implementing green economic policies in PSIDS…”

That inaugural meeting of the PIDF in 2013 attracted more than 300 people from more than 40 countries, 14 of them from the Pacific. Several heads of State, heads of government, ministers, deputies, ambassadors, CEOs and civil society leaders contributed passionately towards the programme of the Forum and the ten priorities for the Pacific islands.

In 2014, the Summit accelerated the concept of green growth in the region with the launch of green growth frameworks for Fiji and for MSG countries. The PIDF was also by that time acting as a platform for Pacific Islands States and territories to coordinate their positions and share their ideas in the preparation of global framework.

2015 was a very important year for PIDF because a number of unprecedented developments took place. After several inclusive multi-stakeholder consultations, the Charter was endorsed by the Leaders on 4th September, which provided the international legal foundation for PIDF.

And a lot has happened since we last gathered in Suva last September. The Suva Declaration on Climate Change, which carried the mandate of the people of the Pacific to Paris, was a success. Its principles set the standard for discussion. In a very real sense, it was the point of departure for the meeting and for all of the conversations on climate change that have followed. One of our successes was to have the Paris Agreement include the main positions we had put forward in the Suva Declaration.

So I want to warmly thank those governments, civil society organisations and private sector groups that supported the process. It was a defining moment for the wider Pacific region. In thanking all of you, I need to emphasize that now that the key timelines are specifically articulated by the Paris Agreement, the responsibility is now on all parties–including the PIDF—to collaborate fully. We must form durable partnerships that will strengthen the climate-change resilience of our Pacific people by building the capacity of our institutions and educating and training our people to understand, to adapt and even to live in a somewhat different way.

We are gaining strength with new partnerships and new developments. Earlier this year the United Nations confirmed the registration of our Charter, which opens the way for the PIDF to participate in all UN processes and meetings.

PIDF is now at a turning point. It is now equipped with a strong professional team that should get the organisation to the next step. The process is long, but there will be great rewards as we move forward. We need to remember where we come from and what we are made of. The Principles that underpin PIDF are inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation, leadership and partnership.

These Principles should guide our discussion today.

I believe it is also important at this point in the evolution of the Framework of Pacific Regionalism that it would be in PIDF’s interest to acknowledge the apparent overlaps with the existing agencies of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific. We will need to clarify roles so that they can complement rather than compete with one another. There are many groups all trying to do good work, and we should not be running into each other or duplicating effort. And we certainly don’t need competition. This is a collective responsibility and a common cause for the Pacific People.

Honourable Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, we have every confidence that PIDF will continue to advance a Green Blue Economy for the Pacific under the leadership of Solomon Islands, and we pledge you our full support.

The transition to a Green Blue Economy is a long-term challenge, and we and the rest of the world will need to persevere and spare no effort as we move towards more efficient use and conservation of natural resources and greater respect for our beloved ocean. This is how we will guarantee the livelihood of future generations in the Pacific and the rest of the world. As we in PIDF know all too well, it is a collective challenge that States and private actors must assume together. We must develop strategies and embrace approaches to business, trade, infrastructure, energy, food production and employment that enshrine efficiency in the use of resources and minimise waste.

To make the transition to a Green Blue economy, we will need framework conditions for innovation and a strong voluntary commitment from the business community, the scientific community and civil society. It is PIDF’s role to ensure that the measures promoting the Green Blue Economy are put in place.

The ten priorities we had previously adopted as leaders provide a very broad mandate. As we deliberate on the Strategic Plan before us, I urge you to consider an even stronger focus on those specific aspects that will strengthen the PIDF’s unique role of harnessing the means to develop Green Blue Economies in the Pacific. This includes the reinvigoration of collaborative partnerships that accelerate climate action and oceanic conservation as part of the sustainable development in the Pacific.

Such a concentration will not only allow us to pick off some low-hanging fruit before gradually expanding to the other remaining priorities. It will also be the most practical way to achieve more with less as we develop the steps we will need to take to meet accreditation guidelines that will allow us to access multilateral funding through global partnerships.

We have a challenging agenda ahead of us. Let’s have constructive discussions today, as we always do, as we strengthen and broaden the foundation for our historic regional cooperation.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.