Forum tackles regional concerns

posted: 8:30 pm - 18th August 2019
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(Picture caption: Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio, right, and Tuvalu Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Taukelina Finikaso flank New Zealand’s Prime Minister Rt Hon .Jacinda Ardern as local children welcome her in song, ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum, in Tuvalu. Photo PIFS.)

The impact of global climate change on Pacific nations, and women’s representation in leadership are some of the issues raised by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu.  

Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio has also been in Funafuti for the foremost annual meeting of Pacific leaders from 18 nations, held from August 12-16.

Tuvalu set the theme for this year’s Forum, which was: Securing our Future in the Pacific. 

With Tuvalu at the frontline of global climate change, a main focus for leaders at the Forum was looking at progressing ways to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, to have the strongest possible climate resilience across the Pacific.

The leaders of the 18-member countries and territories met for 12 hours on Thursday, with a communiqué and separate statement on climate change finally released after midnight.

The document includes the Funafuti Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now.

The main communiqué endorsed a declaration from the small island states calling for a commitment to limit the rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an immediate phase out of coal, and contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Rt Hon. Enele Sopoaga praised the New Zealand Prime Minister’s support of small island leaders during the negotiations.

"New Zealand was very constructive in its contribution and I think the Prime Minister was very contributing to a lot of things progressive," he says.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ardern says the New Zealand Government is lifting the country’s strategic ambition and investment in the Pacific, through the Pacific Reset.

“This Forum gives us the opportunity to progress collective action on significant issues that affect us all and I will be listening to and discussing key Pacific issues frankly to encourage cooperation on shared regional challenges.”

While in Tuvalu, Prime Minister Ardern took an opportunity to announce that New Zealand is dedicating $150 million to support climate change resilience in the Pacific ahead of the main leaders’ meeting.

She says the Government was ring-fencing half of its global commitment to climate change-related development, to ensure it went to the Pacific.

The funding will go towards providing infrastructure such as water tanks, better tools for dealing with droughts, floods and coastal inundation, as well as further climate hazard mapping and risk planning.

It will also be put towards projects to get rid of invasive species that threaten food security and improving access to international climate finance.

Of the funds, $5.6 million will go to Tuvalu-specific projects, the first of which will be water storage on the island of Vaitupu.

Climate change was always top of the agenda when she met with Pacific Island residents, the Prime Minister says.

"To help deliver on New Zealand's $300 million global commitment to climate change-related development assistance, $150 million has now been dedicated to a Pacific programme to bolster New Zealand's climate change support in the region," she adds.

Raising women’s representation in leadership positions and throughout politics was also a focus for Prime Minister Ardern at the Forum.  

“The Pacific has the lowest proportion of women’s representation in national parliaments in the world – eight percent compared to a global average of 23 percent.”

Minister Sio says New Zealand has strong ancestral and genealogical ties to Pacific Island countries, and an enduring commitment to the region to ensure its beauty and resources are protected for future generations.

“As a Government with the highest number of Ministers of Pacific heritage, we share a collective ambition to stand with Pacific Island countries to amplify their voices on climate change so the world can take their fight seriously,” he says.

Numerous side events for the leaders took place throughout the week, with Minister Sio attending a meeting with the Polynesian Leaders' Group (PLG) to better understand the aspirations and expectations of PLG to engage with Māori Iwi leaders of Aotearoa-New Zealand.