Posts tagged Pacific Islands Development Forum

PM Bainimarama’s Closing Statement at the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF)

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

This inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum has been an outstanding success.

We came together for the first time as Governments, territories, civil society groups and businesses to confront some of the development and environmental challenges we face as Pacific Small Island Developing States.

For this first summit, we chose as our theme “Leadership, Innovation and Partnership for Green-Blue Pacific economies”.

And as it draws to a close, we can confidently say that we have achieved our objectives.

We have shown leadership by acknowledging and embracing the challenge posed to all of us, of unsustainable development and its consequent threat to the welfare of our islands and our people.

We have discussed ways in which we can confront those challenges with solutions that are innovative, practical and affordable.

And we have forged an unbeatable partnership in which governments, civil society groups and businesses can work together for the common good of our people.

Our people look to us to work cooperatively and effectively to try to resolve our gravest crisis – the increasing threat to our environment, the health of our ocean and the health of our land. And at this conference, I believe that we have risen to the challenge. We have not let them down.

We cannot pretend that easy solutions are possible but we can report to our people that we are finally working together to find them.

And we’re doing it in the Pacific Way – through consultation and consensus.

Our final outcomes will bring together the various strands of our discussions over the past three days into one rallying statement and blueprint for the future.

But simply put, we have already succeeded in the objective I laid out on Monday – building the foundations for a new regional framework of cooperation, solidarity and friendship.

Now I ask you all to play your parts in consolidating some of the ideas that have been aired here and turning them into practical action.

We have had some wonderful presentations and I would like to thank all of the speakers for their contributions and ideas.

Each of these is a block in the new structure we are building to take our region forward.

Many of you will be wondering where we go from here.

Well, I’m delighted to make an important announcement. My fellow leaders and I have agreed to formally establish a Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

I’m equally delighted to say that Fiji offered to host the Secretariat and that offer has been accepted.

On behalf of every Fijian, I want to thank our fellow Pacific Islanders for the confidence you have shown in us.

We are deeply honoured by the trust you have placed in us and pledge to make every effort to ensure that this important new regional initiative is a success.

Work will commence immediately on setting up the Secretariat to maintain the momentum of these discussions. A working group comprising all of the stakeholders – governments, civil society groups and business – will map out the way forward.

Initially, we envisage that the new Secretariat will be housed in Suva in the former headquarters of the Fiji Film and Video Unit in Domain Road.

It will be funded initially by Fiji and staffed by representatives of government, civil society groups and business from the PIDF region.

Further details will be announced in due course but I can assure you that the PIDF Secretariat will be very different from the Forum Secretariat.

We have no interest in establishing a competing bureaucracy. Indeed my fellow leaders and I agree that our guiding philosophy will be the antithesis of most bureaucracies -“less is more and more for less”.

The Pacific doesn’t need expensive facilities. We need results.

The Pacific doesn’t need an army of overpaid officials. We need committed, publically-minded individuals ultilising scarce resources to maximum effect.

The Pacific doesn’t need any more top-down solutions. We need to harness the common sense of our people at the grassroots, listen to them as we identify their needs, and work up.

And so my fellow leaders have agreed that we will start modestly, expand only when required and live within our means.

I’d like to pay special tribute to those countries outside the region that have already pledged significant amounts to finance our vision.

I have had meetings with some of them during this Forum and have been delighted with their enthusiasm for the PIDF.

I also want to thank our civil society groups and businesses for the enthusiasm they have displayed during these deliberations.

You have long sought a voice in existing regional forums but have been rebuffed.

Now, you have a voice and that voice is being listened to. You finally have a partnership with government and from our stand-point, that partnership is highly valued.

And so Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we move forward with a new, inclusive organisation to give voice to our aspirations, designed for Pacific Islanders by Pacific Islanders.

We acknowledge that there are some governments still to be convinced about the worth of this initiative. But they are welcome to join us.

Certainly, I would ask all of you here who’ve regarded this Forum as worthwhile to convey your experience to a wider audience, whether by the customary Coconut Wireless or the media – social and mainstream.

And so the curtain comes down on the First Pacific Islands Development Forum.

There will definitely be a second – at a time and place to be announced – and we look forward to seeing you all there.

As we go our separate ways after today, I’m reminded of what Winston Churchill famously said after the allies won the Battle of El Alamein: Quote:

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. Unquote.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are closing the first chapter here today as we return to our homes but will gather again to write the rest of the story. And we leave this place in the sure knowledge that we have started something worthwhile.

Thank you all for coming and making this a wonderful success.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Thank you.

Fijian PM Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama hosts PIDF delegates to reception

Fijian PM welcomes delegates to the inaugural PIDF Meeting

Address at the Inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) Meeting – PM Bainimarama

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Today, we come together to launch a new era of regional cooperation, solidarity and friendship.

We are building a new framework for Pacific islanders -wherever they live – to confront the many challenges and opportunities that face us.

And we are doing it in the Pacific Way – through genuine consultation between Governments, civil society groups and the business community.

It is a historic occasion. It has never been done this way in our region before. And I have the great honour to welcome you all to Fiji tothe inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum.

I extend a special welcome to our chief guest, H.E Xanana Gusmao, the former President and now Prime Minister of Timor Leste. He is an inspiration to us all for showing us the power of reconciliation and unity over division and conflict.

I also want to extend a special welcome to the world’s smallest economy – Tokelau – which is the first place in the world to be entirely solar powered, leading the way in the Green Blue Pacific. So when it comes to renewable energy, Tokelau’s voice must be heard and here for the first time, it will be heard.

This is why this gathering is so important, why the PIDF will be different.

I also welcome some of the world’s biggest and richest nations, who are here as observers and regard this as an important initiative. To those who have contributed to the cost of staging the event – China, Russia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – vinaka vakalevu. You have our grateful thanks.

Until now, Ladies and Gentlemen, sovereign governments have largely determined how the Pacific will respond to its many challenges. The small island territories, dependencies and protectorates haven’t had a direct say. And neither have civil society groups and businesses. The people most affected by government decisions – the grassroots and their representatives – have largely been excluded from the decision-making process.

Not any longer. The PIDF recognises that Governments don’t have all the answers. We cannot merely prescribe solutions to the challenges we face in keeping the Pacific Green and Blue.

We need to listen more to our people and the common sense towards problem-solving that comes with grassroots participation. We need to listen more to our business communities, whose investment generates the jobs we need to raise living standards and improve the lives of our people.

So for the first time, we are bringing all these stakeholders together to discuss common solutions to our common problems in a practical and holistic way. And we will take those ideas and contribute them to the global debate in other Forums – including the United Nations -, the Pacific speaking with one voice based on the consensus we reach here.

The World recognises the underlying importance of this approach.

In June last year, governments and civil society groups gathered in Rio De Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

It concluded that Small Island Developing States have a special status in the debate about sustainable development because of their unique vulnerability. And it said that sustainable development, and I quote: “can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people, governments, civil society and the private sector, all working together to secure the future for present and the following generations”. Unquote.

In August last year, we took up the challenge ourselves when Pacific Island leaders attended the “Engaging with the Pacific” meeting in Fiji.

The final communiqué, and I quote: “endorsed the convening of the Pacific Islands Development Forum for the purpose of engaging leaders from key sectors in implementing green economic policies in the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (or PSIDS).Unquote.

A year later, ladies and gentlemen, here we are.

Why do we need a new body, a new framework of cooperation? Because the existing regional structure for the past four decades – the Pacific Islands Forum – is for Governments only and has also come to be dominated only by a few. In too many instances, it no longer genuinely represents our interests and needs.

We want to stand up as Pacific Islanders and with one voice send a clear message to the world at large; that Pacific-SIDS are vulnerable and face unique sustainable development challenges.

For instance, the international community must face up to its responsibilities to tackle the issue of climate change, which threatens the very existence of some of our nations.We are not interested in arcane debates about the cause of climate change. It is happening and rising sea levels are, for us, a real and present danger. We are not interested in the excuses of the carbon-emitting countries selfishly trying to protect their own economies by refusing to sign up to emission targets. They must act and act now.

We also recognise that we live in one ocean – the Pacific – and that its health is the most important thing to us all, whether we are city dwellers or feed off it directly in the most isolated maritime communities.

For our part, Fiji looked around the Pacific and came to one conclusion; that the world will only listen if we work in concert as Pacific Small Island Developing States to demand that our concerns about the state of our ocean are addressed.

We in Fiji now have bottles that are so biodegradable that they completely dissolve within a year. Imagine island coastlines free of discarded plastic bottles.

These are practical solutions to the most pressing of problems, to secure the Pacific’s future as Green and Blue.

So our vision, Ladies and Gentlemen – is for sovereign governments, territories and dependencies, civil society groups and the business community, forming a grand coalition to protect our environment. To make sure that development is sustainable. To make sure that the common good comes before sectional interests, that we leave the Pacific to our children and grandchildren in a better state than when we inherited it.

The other Small Island Developing States around the world share many of the same challenges we do. We can also cooperate with them to address these challenges. That is why it is even more important for the Pacific island countries to speak with one voice.

Next September, the small island states meet for a global conference to discuss our common issues. As Pacific Small Island Developing States, we have begun the process of formulating positions to make our voices heard there. We are determined to generate worthwhile ideas that the rest of the world embraces and we’ll be continuing that process here this week.

It is unfortunate that certain Pacific countries are not here with us. They have chosen to regard this Forum as a political event rather than grasp its true purpose – which is to address the very real threat that our people face and could be catastrophic if we don’t act in a collaborative and unselfish manner. As leaders, we must always put our people first.

We are one ocean, one people, seeking common solutions.

And so today we join hands with each other and with our development partners from outside the region to strive for a Green-Blue Pacific economy.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, our time is running out. Too often, these gatherings end in fancy words and formal declarations that don’t necessarily translate into action.

Therefore this Forum must deliver outcomes that are achievable, affordable and tailored to meet our specific needs.

Fiji is proud to have facilitated the alliance at the United Nations between the Pacific Small Island Developing States and the Asia Group.

Now with the PIDF, we bring together a grand alliance of sovereign nations, territories and dependencies with the political will to implement change, civil society groups with the passion to drive change, and businesses that are job creators for our people.

This is a winning combination. I wish you well in your deliberations on behalf of every Pacific Islander who looks forward to a better future.

Once again I welcome our visitors to Fiji. I hope you take time out toenjoy our beautiful country and the hospitality and warmth of the Fijian people.

Vinaka vakalevu, Thank you.

Fiji PM Bainimarama – Radio Transcript of Interview with Radio Tarana Journalist


Fri 26th July, 2013

1. Recently you have attended a number of International meets, do you get any feedback from leaders attending the meet and what do they say, are they happy with the way Fiji is progressing?

Yes, Sanjesh, I’ve just come back from a South-South meeting in Hong Kong, before that I was in the Solomons, in Russia, China, New Caledonia, PNG and I can tell you that on every single one of those visits, the feedback was very encouraging. I always explain where we are going, the election in September 2014, the more than half a million people who have registered, the Constitution that we’re finalising, the reforms we are making to create an equal and fairer society. Next year, Fiji is going to get the first genuine democracy in the country’s history of one person, one vote, one value and no legal enforcement of ethnic voting.

I find that most people I meet are impressed by that. So we will keep telling our story and it’s a good story to tell. We are building a new democracy, a better democracy, a country where everyone has the same chance to get on, and eventually that will sink in.

2. On your official trip to Russia, the Russian Foreign Minister has called on the International community to let Fiji choose it’s own path, was the Russian president supportive of the path Fiji has chosen?

I met both the Russian Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister and yes, they’ve been very supportive. You have to appreciate that the international community has been having trouble getting countries to send UN peacekeepers to the Golan Heights. Some of these countries have pulled out, Fiji has gone in. And that’s appreciated by the Russians and everyone else.

It’s no secret that they’re a big player in the Middle East and they’ve offered to help us. That’s great. Because we’ve gone in there to do a job that a lot of other people don’t want and that is to keep the peace. As I’ve said to my troops, this is a noble cause. There’s nothing more honourable than keeping ordinary people safe in a troubled place. We’ve been doing it for the past three decades and we’re going to keep doing it because it’s our contribution to the world.

Fiji punches above its weight and we’re proud of that. The Russians and everyone else can see it and, of course, they’re supportive. The Russian Foreign Minister came to Fiji last year and he can see what we’re trying to do, that we ARE taking a new path. So, of course we should be allowed to choose that path. It’s a better path.

3. While speaking at the Solomon Islands Independence day celebrations you said Fiji also faced many challenges such as corruption, discrimination etc are you satisfied with what you and your Govt. have achieved so far in terms of getting rid of corruption and bringing about Unity in the country?

Look, I’m not going to pretend we’ve got corruption beaten. You have to keep beating it, keep rooting it out. I’m a bit concerned actually that we’re seeing corruption rearing its head again. We’re getting stories of payoffs and bribes and nepotism – people giving business or jobs to their relatives. And believe me, we’re onto it. I’ve got zero tolerance for corruption because it eats away at the fabric of the nation. The important thing is that for the first time in the history of Fiji, we set up formal structures to deal with corruption. We’ve got FICAC – the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption – and anybody can lodge a complaint with FICAC and we encourage them to do so. So this fight never ends, just as it never ends in New Zealand or Australia. It’s a fight against human nature.

With unity and discrimination, it’s a different story Sanjesh; we have ended formal discrimination in Fiji, the laws that discriminated against certain people because of race or because they are women. That’s gone. But that doesn’t always mean that attitudes have changed. And I think that wiping out discrimination might take a generation of two because it means changing people’s attitudes.

We’re doing it in the schools. We’ve abolished race-based schools. And I tell you, there’s nothing more pleasing for me than to go to these schools and see kids of all races playing happily together. That’s the new Fiji. And that’s what is also building unity. One Nation, one Fiji. Our people working together as one. It’s happening more and more and it’s wonderful to see.

4. Are you concerned with the conditions put forward by Australia and NZ before giving assistance for 2014 elections, do you think assistance should be apolitical?

Look, I’m not interested in conditions, in being told how to run our elections. They will be free, they will be fair, but we will decide how they will be run. In fact, we’ve set our own conditions. If you want to help us run a successful election, that assistance must be apolitical. In other words, not biased in favour of anyone, me included.

We’ve actually had a team here that includes someone from the New Zealand Electoral Office, the Commonwealth and the European Union working with the Minister Responsible for Elections to assess our needs. And we’re about to place ads in Fiji and overseas for a Supervisor of Elections. The Elections Commission will be completely independent. In fact, I’m happy to see a distinguished expert from overseas come in. It might help convince the doubters that we’re serious. Whoever wins this is going to win this fair and square. And this has always been my attitude.

5. The Needs assessment team has started assessing what the country needs to conduct successful 2014 elections, despite all this some leaders are still saying there is doubt elections will happen, Chaudhry said in an interview that Govt. might not conduct elections until 2020 and NZ first party leader Winston Peters while launching Late Michael Greens book said he doesn’t think elections will be free and fair, what is your take on this?

Sanjesh, my take on this is that it doesn’t matter what these critics say. It’s the same old bleat from the same tired old faces. I repeat. We are going to deliver a free and fair election in Fiji by September 2014. It will be the first genuinely democratic election in the country’s history. We have cut out the cancer of discrimination that has always held us back. We are building a new Fiji, a better Fiji, for everyone. I’ve promised that and I will deliver.

6. You’re still refusing to accept an Australian High Commissioner. What’s your relationship with Australia right now.

Sanjesh, let’s just get this straight. We have no problem with the Australian people. We love them. Always have, always will. They come here in their hundreds of thousands and we’ve got tens of thousands of Fijians in Australia. But we’ve got a big problem with the Australian Government because they don’t treat us with consideration and respect. And I can assure you it’s the same with all the Melanesian countries. On the surface, things might seem fine but we think – quite honestly – that Australia always puts its interests first and tries to tell us ALL what to do.

With Fiji, they’re still trying to damage our interests because we didn’t do what they ordered – to have an immediate election after 2006 that would have solved nothing. We wanted a real democracy, not the racially-weighted sham we had before. And we wanted to reform a system that was basically sending the country backwards and tackle the corruption that was destroying us. Far from being understanding and supportive, Australia chose to punish us.

They’ve tried to damage us at the United Nations, to get our peacekeepers sacked, they stopped us getting loans from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Sorry, these are not the acts of a friend. So we went out into the world and got new friends and if the Aussies politicians don’t like it, too bad.

I’m not going to accept an Australian High Commissioner in Fiji until the Australian Government stops trying to damage us. Now obviously, there will come a time when the relationship is properly restored and I guess that will be when we have the election next year. Great. But I can tell you that if I win the election, we can rebuild the relationship but it won’t be the same relationship. It won’t be Fiji kowtowing to Canberra. We want a genuine partnership with genuine friends – governments that treat us as equals and with respect. We might be small but our vote at the UN has the same weight as Australia’s and anyone else who isn’t one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

So I’m always hoping for a good relationship with Australia but I really think that will only come when there’s a change in the mindset of Australia’s politicians. When they realise that the days of treating us like inferiors are over. And I think the asylum seeker crisis is a good example of Canberra’s overbearing attitude.

7. What do you think about Australia’s deal with PNG to take the asylum seekers arriving by boat and resettle them in PNG?

Not much, I can tell you. Think about it. This is an Aussie problem that shouldn’t have a Melanesian solution. The Labor Government in Australia abolished John Howard’s tough line against arrivals that kept the people smugglers out of business. Blind Freddy could see what was going to happen.

45,000 asylum seekers have made it to Australia because Labor opened the floodgates. For me, the worst part about it has been watching hundreds of people die at sea because the people smugglers put them on boats that were unseaworthy. They are evil but the Australian Labor Government created the market in the first place. Now, it’s a political problem for Labor because they’re about to go to an election. What do they do? They say, “oh let’s dump these people in Melanesia. Doesn’t matter that these people don’t know anything about Melanesia. Let’s just send them there to save our political skins”.

I’m not going to criticise my Melanesian brothers in Papua New Guinea for doing this deal. That’s up to them. But as someone who has chaired the Melanesian Spearhead Group, I think a lot of Melanesians are pretty uncomfortable about what’s happened. And they’re more uncomfortable when they realise that Canberra seems to be also trying to do a deal with Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to take more of these people.

Now my understanding is that when these people arrive in PNG, those that are found to be genuine refugees are going to be allowed to stay. Excuse me, how many of them are there going to be? Why isn’t Australia resettling these people. Why are you dumping them in other countries?

Look, we’re desperately sorry for them. It’s a terrible human tragedy. But it’s Australia’s problem, not ours. Labor and Kevin Rudd in particular created the problem in the first place and now they go around dumping their problem on everyone else to get themselves voted back in. I’m not impressed and neither are a lot of other people in the region.

8. Is there any date set for the announcement of the new Constitution?

Sanjesh, the document is ready and we’re getting it translated into iTaukei and Fiji Hindi. That’s happening as we speak. Then we’ll get it printed and we’re aiming to have the Constitution come into affect by the end of August.

9. The Pacific Islands Development Forum meet will take place in Fiji, is this organisation getting good support from the Pacific nations?

Yes, very much so. We’ve got 23 Pacific countries coming to Nadi between the 5th and 7th of August, as well as 10 other countries with observer status. So fantastic support and we’re very much looking forward to it. As you know, this is a new initiative by Fiji to bolster relationships between the island countries and allow us to try to work out our problems without external interference.

Fiji’s problem with the Pacific Forum is that it’s dominated by Australia and New Zealand and they largely set the agenda. They’ve got a couple of Polynesian countries in their back pockets and managed to get Fiji suspended. Fine. We’re not interested in coming back. We want a new regional structure without the Aussies and Kiwis that more reflects the concerns of Pacific Island nations. So this new body allows us to try to find solutions to our own problems, not solutions prescribed by our larger neighbours. And we’re convinced it will be a success.

PIDF – A Positive Road for the Pacific

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the launch of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) will provide the impetus for inclusive and sustainable development architecture which can become a key pillar for the South-South cooperation in the region and beyond.

PIDF was borne out of the collective input of Pacific leaders that attended the Engaging with the Pacific meeting in Fiji last year to bring together governments, businesses and civil society organizations in the Pacific to secure the future of the region through Green Economy.

PM Bainimarama during his recent participation at the 19th Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders Summit in New Caledonia, had issued an invite to all Pacific government leaders, private sectors, civil society organizations and development partners to this meeting.

“PIDF will champion the vision of a “united, distinctive and sustainable Pacific society” that has spread throughout the Pacific conveyed by a team from Fiji’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” PM Bainimarama said.

PM Bainimarama said work towards hosting of the inaugural PIDF meeting in Nadi in August has already begun.

“The team has visited around the Pacific, meeting public sector, private sector and civil society leaders and we are pleased with their report and are confident that the groundwork has been laid for a successful inaugural meeting of the PIDF ” PM Bainimarama added.

PM Bainimarama highlighted the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, at the Rio+20 Earth Summit issued a declaration, “The Future We Want” which encouraged countries to introduce green economy policies to tackle poverty without adding extra strain to food, water and energy supplies.

The theme of the inaugural PIDF meeting will be “Leadership, innovation and partnership for Green/Blue Pacific economies” and an experienced team of experts in Green Economy from the region and beyond have been approached to address the conference.

“We are excited by the interest that is being generated by this event which is creating its own challenges in terms of space and representation. We are confident however, that the mixture of programmes that is being prepared which includes ten plenary and parallel sessions, and a Green Economy Expo will surpass everyone’s expectations,” PM Bainimarama said.

PM Bainimarama added that through the support of all countries in the region, a new space for dialogue on sustainable development will be created.

“I’m confident that with all our support, we will be able to birth this new space for dialogue on sustainable development and bequeath to our future generations a new way of engagement that is truly participatory and representative,” PM Bainimarama said.

“I am also confident the Pacific Islands Development Forum can surely animate its vision of a ‘united, distinctive, and sustainable Pacific society’.”

The PIDF inaugural meeting is scheduled for August 5-7 in Nadi.