Good afternoon and bula vina’a to everyone.
We have just concluded the Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat this afternoon.
At the outset, allow me to reaffirm again that it has been an incredible honour for me, personally, to have hosted my fellow Pacific Leaders in Nadi this week.
It was an opportunity to connect and rekindle many regional relationships. It was also an opportunity for Fiji to showcase again the warmth and hospitality that our Fijian people are renowned for, the world over.
Our gathering as Forum Leaders here in Denarau was framed under the theme Reflection, Renewal, Celebration.
We have reflected on what it means to be a Forum Family and the importance of protecting our own solidarity and we have renewed our collective commitment to the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
In line with our commitment under the Suva Agreement, we are pleased to confirm the following:
We have today appointed Dr Filimon Manoni, a nominee of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner;
We have agreed to the establishment of a Sub-Regional Office for the Pacific Islands Forum in the Republic of Kiribati; and
We have agreed to the establishment of a stand-alone Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner in the Republic of Palau.
On the matter of the planned release by the Government of Japan on the ALPS-treated water, Forum Leaders reaffirmed the importance of science and data to guide the political decisions on the proposed discharge.
The meeting also discussed a range of specific country initiatives that were tabled by Leaders, including: the Regional Seasonal Workers Scheme, Australia’s bid to host COP 31 in partnership with the Pacific region, an update on the Draft Resolution to the UNGA, seeking an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change and Solomon Islands imminent graduation from Least Developed Country Status.
I am also pleased to confirm that at the end of the Retreat, Fiji has handed over the role of Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum to Prime Minister Brown and the Government of the Cook Islands.
I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to carry this role, albeit for only two months and I am pleased that I was able to contribute in a very small way towards the important outcomes of our meeting today.
As I handover the baton, I know that we are in good hands as we paddle our Drua to achieve our collective aspirations.