Bula Vinaka and Good Morning!
I am honoured to be here for this crucial summit. I pay my respects to the customary landowners of the site where we are meeting.
I want to also extend my gratitude to our host Honourable Kalsakau and the Government and people of Vanuatu.
This first meeting since the Leaders’ Summit of 2018 is occurring at a time when our region has assumed major international importance as the great powers of China and the US compete for Pacific influence.
Our Ocean area has strategic value in world affairs.
We must navigate carefully through diplomatic maneuvering. As always, we must be intent on acting in the best interests of our countries and our people.
We need to remind ourselves that although we are small developing countries, we exercise sovereign authority over a very large part of the globe.
Let us also not lose sight of the truth that at this momentous stage in history, our unity as a region is of paramount importance.
Acting together, with common purpose and aims, puts us in a better position to achieve our goals for Melanesia and Oceania as a whole.
Our Shared History
As we convene under the theme of; MSG, being relevant and influential, we must listen and understand those we serve. Evolving situations and emerging issues make these less straight forward.
We are equally determined to control our development by unlocking our full potential as the biggest economies in the region, well endowed with natural resources for a shared prosperity and a secure, resilient future for all of Melanesia.
Together we can achieve so much if we support each other in our journey to economic recovery, especially through strengthening economic cooperation and trade within our bloc.
As brothers, we will build on the solid foundation laid by our predecessors, strengthening our ties, our shared vision and responsibility for the welfare of our Melanesian people.
There is another over-arching issue that presses down on us and threatens our way of life.
It is of course the global phenomenon of climate change and its destructive impact on our environment.
One crucial figure concentrates our minds. The 1.5 degrees centigrade target for limiting global warming. If we can achieve 1.5 then our prospects for protecting everything precious to us should be within reach.
The threat of natural disasters will continue to be a persistent issue for the region, I am committed to working closely with you, my fellow leaders in advocating for climate emergency financing and building a more resilient Melanesia.
Since assuming office in December, I have made official visits to Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
These reaffirms not only the encompassing climate menace, but other challenges that face us all.
I am certain these issues will be discussed during this summit.
Fiji places great importance on its MSG relations as fellow Pacific Island Developing States and as Melanesians, owing to our shared geography; history as colonies and our people who have been a part of each other’s nation building and development.
As a way forward, I urge us, as leaders of MSG member states to continue to look for opportunities that strengthen our relations.
We can achieve that, through frequent face-to-face engagements, tok-tok, talanoa and building relationships in an atmosphere of goodwill and patience as is the Melanesian Way.
I look forward to productive discussions over the next two days.
God bless the MSG. God bless Melanesia.