Mr. President;
Excellencies,Bula Vinaka.In 1957, a contingent of Fijian sailors set course for Christmas Island. That day’s Commanding Officer could see his men’s fear upon learning their mission was a hydrogen bomb test. He never forgot it. Nor would he forget the 800 kilotonne blast they were made to witness from the boat deck.That officer was Ratu Inoke Bainimarama, my late father. He was not tested for radiation, nor were the men under his command. And while many succumbed to early deaths, their suffering was silenced by history.I am not here for my father’s sake. I’m here for the countless stories like his own across the world. The Pacific alone endured more than 300 nuclear tests on land, air, sea and below the seabed that unleashed the equivalent of more than 14,000 of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima. The people of French Polynesia and the Marshall Islands still suffer birth defects, cancers, and other deadly, generational consequences of that devastation.

The terrible legacy of those tests wasn’t only the waste that was created –– it was the weapons that were perfected. Thousands of missiles and trillions of dollars later, every person on Earth is hostage to arsenals that threaten our existence. Today, Fiji is proud to join over 86 States to adopt the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and take this first step back from the knife-edge of Armageddon.

I congratulate you, Mr President, on this first meeting. It is not idealism that convenes us –– it is level-headed common sense that calls on us to do away with this means of our species extinction. Neither are we the fringe of the debate –– we are a coalition, united by a shared value for human life. I welcome the NATO members who have joined us. This solution depends on your influence and action.

Per capita, Fijians contribute more of our sons and daughters to UN Peacekeeping than any country. We have fought for peace. Our people have died for it. And I can tell you, we can never know genuine peace if nations use the apocalypse as a bargaining chip. True peace is built by people, with people; not behind desks with our fingers hovering over buttons. Mutually assured destruction isn’t a strategy, it is a sham that merely shifts the costs of war. We’ve seen that price paid in Syria and Afghanistan, and yet again on our collective watch in Ukraine –– a conflict where nuclear facilities were weaponized and nuclear warfare was shamefully threatened.

These weapons’ other cost is opportunity. This first meeting is held as the COVID-19 pandemic still ravages many parts of the world; a global food crisis rages on a scale not seen in our lifetimes; and a runaway climate crisis threatens lives, livelihoods and the very future of our civilization. Nuclear weapons will never defeat these enemies. They do not feed us, clothe us, or keep out the rising seas. They are relics; multi-trillion-dollar monuments to the worst horror that war can create.  They epitomize the same short-sightedness that created the climate crisis, worsened the pandemic, and continues to keep food from the hungry. Worse, their staggering expense cripples our response to these challenges.

The nine nuclear nations are projected to spend more than 100 Billion US Dollars every year to maintain their nuclear arsenals.

Need I remind anyone, that is the sum of finance developed nations pledged and then failed to deliver to climate-vulnerable nations by 2020. Every dollar we spend on these missiles instead of seawalls, resilient crops, relocations and renewables is a moral aberration; a failure of the most basic choice between life or death.

Fiji has signed and ratified the TPNW (Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons) and we endorsed its full scope and ambition. Our message to all nations is that when they come to our region, they leave their nuclear weapons behind.

This Treaty follows years of advocacy and policies that are vital to our global effort for peace — including through non-proliferation treaties.

We welcome this Treaty’s consideration of the plight of those affected by the use and testing of nuclear weapons who have been silenced and denied the care and support they needed. I urge us to go further for these survivors by creating a policy framework that considers the existential impact of the nuclear testing on our oceans and the environment, exacerbated by the climate crisis, and its long-term consequences of the displacement of communities from their traditional lands due to ever-encroaching nuclear waste.

To my fellow Fijians watching from home, as your Leader, I reassure you that we will work sincerely with all States large and small through this Conference; and through every bilateral engagement to secure a nuclear weapons-free world and to heal the wounds of a dark nuclear legacy that continues to harm lives and communities across our region. That is both my solemn duty and my firmest commitment.

My fellow Leaders, we have a moment before us that can free the minds, resources and technologies that are captive to this insane industry. We can finally set our priorities straight and walk a path that preserves life instead of threatens it.

Mister President, it would be remiss of me to not thank the many Leaders from across the Blue Pacific before me and the thousands of faith-based and civil society Leaders and Members who have campaigned relentlessly for decades. Today we do more than hear them and those who have suffered from these weapons. We take a step towards the justice and genuine peace that they deserve.

Thank you.

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