Director-General of FAO, Dr. QU Dongyu
President 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid,
Administrator of UNDP, Mr. Achim Steiner,
EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski
Chair of AOSIS, HE Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. Walton Webson,
Secretary General of ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao

Bula Vinaka from Fiji.

Welcome to the first-ever SIDS Solutions Forum. I wish we could offer each of you the full measure of Fijian hospitality –– including a welcome bowl of kava. Nevertheless, we are grateful that so many of you are with us virtually. Vinaka vakalevu to our co-host, the Food and Agriculture Organization, for helping convene our leadership around the subject of sustainable agri-food systems in support of the SDGs.

I want to begin by expressing my deepest sympathies to our sisters and brothers in Haiti who have suffered the devastation of Tropical Storm Grace on the heels of a deadly earthquake.

We wish you the speediest possible recovery and urge solidarity from the international community in aiding the Haitian people.

Whenever I meet a fellow SIDS citizen, no matter where in the world they reside, we speak a common language of shared experience. Our stories are different chapters from the same book. We hail from different cultures, but we face many of the same challenges.  And when it comes to the causes that matter most to our people, my fellow SIDS leaders are Fiji’s staunchest allies.

Advances in digital innovation have seen the vast oceans that separate us give way to vast possibilities. Alone, we are small islands. Together, we are one connected continent bound by a spirit of innovative resilience. Our 39 states, from the South Pacific, to the Caribbean, to the Indian Ocean, are home to incredible minds, cutting edge innovation, and deep traditional knowledge.  And it is past time we channeled all of our knowledge, ingenuity and passion behind solutions that can be scaled up for the benefit of our nearly 65 million citizens.

As we know, food and nutrition security –– meaning what we grow and what we eat –– underpin every aspect of sustainable development.

In the Pacific, decades of nutrition insecurity have resulted in an epidemic of NCDs – a challenge intensified by the pandemic. And food systems can help us to grow our way towards a COVID-19 recovery that sees our nations emerge stronger, more resilient, and more food and nutrition secure.

As small countries, ebbs in the global economy can strike us like tsunami-sized waves, and COVID-19 has been a perfect storm. Tourism – a major economic driver for many of us – is at a standstill. Shocks to global supply chains have compounded the challenge of our geographic remoteness.

In the nearly two years since the start of the pandemic, these socioeconomic headwinds have blown many of us far off course from the aims of the 2030 Agenda.

But these winds –– fierce as they may be –– are a whisper next to the intensifying crisis brought by our changing climate. The most recent IPCC report should be essential reading for every citizen of every Small Island Developing State. Without drastic cuts to emissions, it states we are on track to blow past the 1.5-degree temperature threshold, confirming our worst fears that our low-lying neighbours in the Pacific, Kiribati and Tuvalu, face an existential threat over the coming decades.

And it means all of us must brace for storms and other climate impacts unlike anything we or our ancestors have ever endured. That is why, when we go to COP26 together, our rallying cry must be to keep 1.5 alive. It remains the only temperature threshold that guarantees the security of all SIDS citizens, and we must leverage every ounce of our power and moral authority to fight for it.

The terrifying scale of these global challenges give us no recourse but collective action. I believe we can meet this moment with innovation –– indeed, we already are. Just one week ago, Fiji launched a micro insurance scheme for climate-vulnerable communities.

We are supporting local farmers with climate-resilient crops and funding adaption efforts through creative financial instruments. By harnessing the hope that such innovation offers, we can recoup the economic losses of the pandemic and reset course towards zero hunger, clean oceans, quality education, sustainable cities, and the other noble aims of the 2030 Agenda, towards more sustainable agri-food systems, and towards more resilient societies.

My friends, our small countries are stronger together. Most SIDS were not sovereign nations when the rules of the modern international system were written. We may not preside on the Security Council or the G7.

We may not move markets with our consumer demand or wield vast military might. But our challenges are still the world’s challenges. And our solutions can still be the world’s solutions.

We are meeting not just as islanders, but as innovators. Through this Forum the voice of all people – women, youth, and those most vulnerable, will speak to what they have done and what dream of doing together. No contribution is too small to make a difference. That is the spirit that drives our nations to greatness. Let it be the spirit that inspires your discussions at this Forum. I wish you well, and I look forward to hearing your many big ideas.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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