Opening Remarks at the High-level Exchange with Pacific Leaders on Pacific Priorities and the SAMOA Pathway

Delivered at the start of the High-level Exchange with Pacific Leaders on Pacific Priorities and the SAMOA Pathway

Thank you Chair.

It is an honour to moderate this Pacific leaders’ exchange on Pacific priorities and the SAMOA Pathway.

It is my great pleasure to welcome and introduce:

  • H.E. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji
  • H.E. Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati
  • H.E. Christopher Jorebon Loeak, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • H.E. Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of the Republic of Nauru
  • H.E. Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu
  • H.E. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

I also welcome the Deputy Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands and the Minister of Finance of Vanuatu, who are here as representatives of their respective leaders.

I believe this is the single largest group of Pacific Heads of State and Government on any Commission panel in recent memory.

Introduction

Distinguished Leaders,
Excellencies,

The 3rd International Conference on Small Island States (SIDS) in Samoa last year, embodied in the SAMOA Pathway, called for urgent action to support and accelerate development – especially for the peoples of the Pacific.

My meeting with Pacific leaders in Samoa was very useful for us to mutually explore ESCAP’s role in support of our Pacific member States.

ESCAP has undertaken to improve support and delivery to the Pacific – in five key areas: climate change & disasters; connectivity; social inclusion & Pacific voice; better data & statistics; and trade.

Climate Change & Disasters

The SIDS are most at-risk to external shocks – especially natural disasters. ESCAP has mobilized new high-resolution satellite-derived imagery and damage maps, especially to support disaster response and relief in Vanuatu and Tuvalu. We are working with UNOSAT and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SOPAC) to streamline future use of space technologies for disaster management, and will conduct specialized training in Pacific countries to strengthen multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning systems.

In support of the SAMOA Pathway, with the assistance of potential donors, ESCAP is working on a new project to strengthen climate risk knowledge, build meteorological and hydrological capacities, and establish national multi-stakeholder forums in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. This is additional to our work with SOPAC to assist Pacific countries in operating national geo-portals for disaster risk management; efforts with the Government of Fiji to create a new South-South cooperation forum on climate resilient agriculture; and the development of tools and guidelines to help integrate disaster risk reduction into development and financial planning.

One of the 14 resolutions to be considered by the Commission in this session – on strengthening regional implementation of the Sendai Framework – will expand the scope of ESCAP’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness to now also include the our Pacific SIDS.

Connectivity

Pacific connectivity – especially in inter-island shipping – is another key challenge. It is best addressed through better subregional cooperation and integration. ESCAP has, therefore initiated a pilot project to enhance maritime transport connectivity among the Pacific SIDS, and is negotiating funding support for a new project on maritime safety – which we will share at a seminar later this year in Fiji.

Social Inclusion & Pacific Voice

The voice of the Pacific has been more strongly heard at the intergovernmental level this year in addressing social inclusion – and ESCAP has been pleased to support this work. A record 15 Pacific countries participated in the Asia-Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment – and under the strong leadership of H.E. the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the outcome is considered to be the most progressive of any region in the Beijing+20 review process.

Pacific leadership also ensured a strong and concrete outcome of ESCAP’s Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS, with H.E. the President of Fiji in the Chair; and we are honoured that H.E. the Prime Minister of Fiji will be the first Pacific leader in ten years to Chair the Commission session tomorrow.

Better Data & Statistics

When we met in Samoa, I made the point that a quick scan of ESCAP’s databases showed that of the 169 proposed targets for the new sustainable development goals, indicators could only be produced for about 36 in the Pacific – about 21 per cent. ESCAP has therefore been working with our Pacific member States to address some of these data and statistical gaps – which also aligns very closely with the SAMOA Pathway.

One of the projects we have launched since the SIDS Conference has been to support the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu in improving their ability to compile policy-relevant environmental indicators. Part of this work has been to assist with implementation of the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA).

Trade

A highlight of our meeting in Apia was the signing of the new Treaty on Establishing the Micronesian Trade and Economic Community (MTEC). ESCAP has now started work supporting the formulation of National Export Strategies for the MTEC members, to pave the way for a future road-map to synergize trade strategies and diversify export commodities and markets.

Market access has also been a focus of our work on regional economic cooperation and integration – with experts from MTEC and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) making contributions to our working group meetings. Recognizing the importance of regional value chains, we have also completed studies for selected Pacific countries to examine the benefits of accession to the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement – as a stepping stone to further integration with the larger regional economies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to say that this High-level Exchange today gives us the opportunity to more closely examine areas of action, progress and gaps in support of the SAMOA Pathway.

We will continue to work with the Pacific’s development partners to support our Pacific member States.

I thank you.