07 September 2011
Incoming Chair’s Opening Statement
Pacific Islands Forum Opening Ceremony
Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Forum Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma.
Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
His Worship the Mayor of Auckland Len Brown.
Welcome to New Zealand and the great city of Auckland for the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting.
It is an honour to speak to you as incoming chair.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Vanuatu Government in advancing the Forum’s work programme over the past year.
I would also like to acknowledge Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who is attending the Pacific Islands Forum for the first time.
We are delighted to have you here.
New Zealand is privileged to be hosting the Forum again this year.
We are committed to strengthening relations with our closest neighbours in the Pacific, and we see the Pacific Islands Forum as one of the best ways to do that.
We are particularly pleased to be hosting this Forum against the backdrop of the biggest event we’ve ever hosted: the Rugby World Cup 2011.
About 95,000 people from throughout the world are coming here during the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in two days’ time.
We’ve worked hard to make the Rugby World Cup a Pacific event, because we know it’s our big chance to showcase this region to the world.
We want our visitors to enjoy some great rugby games and experience the Kiwi culture.
But we also want them to leave New Zealand with a sense that they’ve been to the Pacific.
And we want them come back again to see more of what this beautiful region has to offer.
I’m looking forward to watching the opening game – the All Blacks versus Tonga – with many of you on Friday evening.
But we’re not just here to talk about rugby, of course.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Forum has a long and successful history.
Seven South Pacific leaders held their first meeting in Wellington in 1971.
The Forum has evolved and changed quite a bit since then.
This year we’ve got 14 member countries represented here.
We’re also including elements not thought of in 1971, such as the Post-Forum Dialogue, which is a vital link to partners outside the region, and the Private Sector Dialogue.
The Forum has come a long way in 40 years.
Today it is a core institution of our region.
It’s a way in which we harness development in the Pacific, advance regional cooperation in politics and economics, and represent our concerns to the rest of the world.
All of us here think of ourselves as Pacific countries and as members of the Pacific family.
As with all families, the ties that bind us are very strong.
And, as with all families, we have our disagreements.
But it is true today, as it was 40 years ago, that the things we have in common are much stronger than those that separate us.
As hosts of this year’s Forum, New Zealand has worked hard to deliver a unique programme.
We’ve introduced new events such as the Pacific Showcase and the Oceans of Opportunity Investment Summit, which give Pacific people more opportunities to take part.
Our theme is Converting Potential into Prosperity.
That means focusing on our opportunities, coming up with practical ideas, and taking action.
This week will be about bringing together government leaders, businesspeople, and other stakeholders, and finding ways to work together to promote sustainable economic development.
This is a central theme of the Pacific Plan, which leaders endorsed in 2005.
It is also, I believe, the key to unlocking the unrealised potential of the Pacific.
There are some sectors in which we can make progress relatively quickly.
That includes tourism, energy, fisheries and education.
And this week we will focus on these four areas.
Tourism is a growth industry globally.
It’s also an area in which we have a strong competitive advantage, with our cultural diversity, friendly people and natural beauty.
The Pacific has the world’s last great tuna resource, so there is huge potential to increase earnings in this area.
At the same time, we need to make sure we develop the industry in a sustainable manner and avoid over-fishing.
The region depends on importing fossil fuels for its energy needs.
Yet it has great potential in renewable energy and there is room to improve our energy efficiency.
It’s vital that we have a skilled workforce to help us grow our economies.
We need to work harder to get kids into school in the Pacific region, and teach them the skills they need to succeed and contribute to the economy.
We also need to help adults learn new skills.
New Zealand, and we hope other donors, will be announcing initiatives in all of these areas as the week progresses.
Our programmes will not just involve the government, but also businesses and other stakeholders, including the public.
All Pacific people have a stake in the future prosperity of this region.
That’s why events running alongside this Forum pull together different parts of Pacific society.
Many of you will have seen the Pacific Showcase that’s being held in this great Cloud venue.
The Showcase highlights the tourism and export potential of the region, against a backdrop of vibrant Pacific music and dance.
Yesterday we held our Investment Summit, which gave nearly 200 businesspeople and trade experts from throughout the Pacific the opportunity to share ideas and explore investment opportunities.
As shown by these events, New Zealand believes that we need to work together to convert potential to prosperity.
Working together is more important than ever in the current economic climate.
To overcome the challenges ahead and to make the most of our opportunities, we need to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things.
We need to listen to new voices and explore new partnerships.
As leaders, we must be creative, innovative, and open to new ways of approaching old problems.
Most of all, we need to work together with our Pacific family.
History shows that we are stronger together.
So, in this spirit, I look forward to our discussions this week.
Once again, welcome to New Zealand.
We are delighted to have you here.
Thank you for the opportunity to host the Forum Leaders’ Meeting in this 40th anniversary year.
New Zealand takes this honour seriously, and in the year ahead we’ll be working hard to help make our home – the Pacific region – an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.
Thank you very much.Tweet