Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Palau;

The Hon Prime Minister of Tonga;

Hon Ministers from our Pacific Island Countries;

Secretary General of the Forum;

Director General of SPREP; and

Pacific Family and Friends.

Bula Vinaka and good evening.

As Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am so grateful to have us all here in person to kick-off the second UN Ocean Conference.

There is a power in physical presence which we in the Pacific have always used to great effect –– and we are at our best when do so together. Indeed, a true Talanoa depends on it. Let’s not forget, this Conference is the Pacific’s Conference. The world would not be here in Lisbon were it not for our fight to secure SDG 14, which is the basis of the Ocean Conference.

The more we get together, the better for our shared priorities of a sustainable ocean economy and a one-point-five-degree future.  So it goes without saying that I look forward to welcoming you all in Suva for the Forum Meeting next month.

In this room, I see Leaders who I trust will do everything possible to save our ocean for future generations.  We are here because we know we can’t do that alone or even together as a region. Our patch of Pacific isn’t unconnected from the world simply because last century’s leaders drew lines on maps. Our ocean is one ecosystem, and we need all nations –– large, small, coastal, and even landlocked –– to be part of the solution.

That change starts with us. We are large ocean States. We are the Leaders the world looks to here. I know full well that we have the most to lose should the world fail to meet this moment. But we also have the most to gain from truly sustainable ocean economies. I’d like us to rally around that hope this week and speak together about the ocean as an opportunity; the greatest of our lifetime.

We, above any nations, must show what shape blue progress can take. We must overcame our small scale with cooperation, our challenges with innovation, and apathy with action. Our economies depend on it. Our jobs depend on it. The food we eat depends on it. And our children and grandchildren depend on it. Above all, we are here for them, their future, and the ocean they deserve.

This week we must hold the world accountable to the promise it made to preserve life below water for the sake of all life above it. I know that we will succeed; because together we are unstoppable.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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