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     Government of the Republic of Fiji

  Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    A Better Fiji through Excellence in Foreign Service

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8/23/2017
The Prime Minister of Tuvalu;
The Former President of Seychelles, H.E. James Michel;
The Chair of the Pacific Blue Economy Summit;
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Solomon Islands;
Distinguished Participants;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
 
It is my pleasure this morning to welcome all of you to Suva for the first high-level Pacific Blue Economy Conference. We are here, under the banner of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, in recognition of the fact that our oceans, and the life they sustain, face threats more severe than at any time in our history. And as Pacific Island nations, it is critical that we lead the charge in advancing the responsible stewardship of our oceans and the sustainable management of our ocean resources. 
 
We are here because we owe a duty to our citizens. Not only to grow our economies and raise their standards of living, but to do one better and give full consideration to the impacts that our development has on our oceans and the life that they sustain. 
 
It undoubtedly takes extra effort to develop strategies for growth in the context of a blue economy. We have to pause and consider, at every level of development, how our actions impact the natural world around us. But we can all appreciate that when we look at the long-term – the bigger picture – every investment we make to protect our oceans and marine resources is well-worth the immediate costs. And any measure taken to make development more sustainable is ultimately in the best interest of any national economy and every global citizen. 
 
Our very identity as Pacific Islanders is tied intimately to the health of our oceans and to the marine plant and animal life that inhabit them. We are oceanic peoples, with cultures, histories and ways of life that are all rooted in the ocean environment. And, make no mistake, it is we in the Pacific who face the most severe consequences of the widespread degradation of our oceans and seas. 
 
But this is not only a Pacific problem. The growing threat to our oceans is affecting every person on earth, and the movement towards more “blue” economies is global. And we need to apply that global perspective – that wealth of knowledge and experiences – to our own efforts to manage our oceans and marine resources in a more sustainable manner.
 
Of course, we share development challenges unique to our region. And we need to find ways – together – to usher in new technologies, business models and industries that work to restore the health of our oceans and advance the objectives of blue economic development. But that is all part of a larger effort – the global effort – to reverse the steady degradation that has ravaged our oceans for decades. 
 
I was honoured to lead that global effort to address the threats facing our oceans as co-host of the United Nations Conference on Oceans this past June in New York. At the Oceans Conference, I was very glad to see governments, international organisations and businesses come together to agree on a plan of action to support the health of our oceans. It was a tremendous reassurance, and a promising start for the global campaign to combat the overfishing and pollution that is stripping our oceans of their resources and threatening the way of life of oceanic peoples the world over. 
 
As you all know, Fiji will take the lead on another issue critical to the Pacific when we preside over the ongoing United Nations climate negotiations at COP23 this November. 
 
 
While it may be Fiji that will serve as COP23 President, I want to assure my fellow Leaders and Pacific Islanders that this is every Pacific nation’s presidency. We are all vulnerable, with some of our neighbours facing threats to their very existence. And it is our collective concerns, struggles and experiences that will be placed at the forefront of the negotiations under the Fijian Presidency. 
 
Our presidency is also very much tied to promoting blue economic development, as the ocean, marine eco-systems and our changing climate are inextricably linked to one another. Our warming atmosphere is also raising the temperatures of our oceans and exacerbating ocean acidification. Challenges that we have been forced to confront on top of the incredible stress brought on by illegal over-fishing and irresponsible waste disposal into our oceans. 
 
It is a hard truth to accept, but in some ways it is already too late. We are already one degree above the temperature of the pre-industrial age. As a result, we are already witnessing the destruction of our reefs from coral bleaching, with serious consequences for our food security, tourism and way of life as we know it. But it can get worse – much worse. And we have to stand together, along with every other nation on earth, to stop that from happening. 
 
On both the issues of ocean preservation and climate change, the urgency for action cannot be over-stated. The scale of the challenges we face are not up for debate, and we, as Pacific nations, need to keep up the pressure for demanding the international community to take serious action. We need to be relentless, we need to remain unified and we need to keep our interests at the top of the global agenda. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The world should look to all small island nations as the fiercest defenders of our oceans and their resources, and as a shining example of how development and sustainable oceans management can go hand-in-hand. So we need to continue our work abroad to inspire action on the part of every nation, and lead by example here at home to live out the expectations we ask from the rest of the world. 
 
I wish you all the very best with your work over the next two days and encourage you to be ambitious, bold and innovative, to learn from our past and from each other – our future and the future of the world depends on it. 
 
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.