Ladies and gentlemen
I welcome you all to the Second SPREP Executive Board Meeting - the first to be convened virtually.
As the outgoing chair of the 29th SPREP Meeting, I extend warm greetings and acknowledgement to:
- the incoming Chair, Solomon Islands;
- fellow Troika Member, Papua New Guinea;
- Executive Board Members - French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, New Caledonia, and New Zealand respectively, representing the rotational sub-grouping of the SPREP membership for Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Metropolitan;
- the representatives of the Cook Islands, Fiji, the United Kingdom, and JICA as observers to this meeting; and
- the Director General of SPREP and Secretariat staff.
Executive Board members, ladies and gentlemen, we are all aware of the restrictions and limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed upon us. The Pacific hosts 10 of the 11 COVID free countries but the economic costs have nevertheless been immense and will continue to be for some time yet. We remember some of our Pacific neighbours that have cases and suffered loss of life. Our geographical isolation has somewhat cushioned our vulnerability to the pandemic but not so to the crisis of climate change impacts. This poses a reminder to us all to consider the coupling effects of climate change and health crisis and develop appropriate response mechanisms.
Therefore, the postponement of UNFCCC COP26 should be viewed as an opportunity for maintaining momentum on climate change action and ambition.
Our resilience as Small Island Developing States has again come to the fore, as we persevere through the difficulties that 2020 has brought on us and strive to progress the protection of our Blue Pacific environment. This meeting of the Executive Board will give us the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues that affect sustainable development, resilience and our joint regional efforts and cooperation to protect and conserve the environment. The next three days provide opportunities for Board Members to hear from the Secretariat on key issues, for in-depth dialogue amongst peers with common goals, and for agreeing on our shared priorities.
There are mutual goals and priorities for which we as Pacific island countries have been mandated by our Leaders to convey to meetings such as this underpinned by commitment and resilience and to be delivered through robust and genuine partnerships. The Forum Leaders’ Communique and statements in 2019 are testimony to that.
I also commend the strong efforts by the Secretariat to collaborate and coordinate closely with all other CROP agencies in a manner conducive to collectivism in order to achieve our Vision of a Blue Pacific Continent, drawing strength from our common identity as a region and in respect of our peoples’ uniqueness and diversity.
We also acknowledge the mutually beneficial partnerships the Pacific has with Metropolitan Members - particularly Australia and New Zealand who contribute directly to the core budget of SPREP through multi-year agreements. As well we have longstanding and committed development partners such as the European Union, Governments of Japan, Ireland, Korea and China and agencies such as the United Nations Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organisation, and the International Maritime Organisation.
Under extenuating circumstances, we are committed to coming together to find strength through unity to drive forward the momentum for improving the environment of the Pacific. It is an important initial step forward to progress our goals and strategies.
As members of the Executive Board, you have been entrusted an onerous and challenging task and I urge you to think holistically but practically on durable solutions to help address our evolving new reality. I wish you well in your deliberations and am happy to declare this meeting open.