Pacific Preparatory Meeting for the 6th Asia Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development

Tanoa International Hotel

Nadi, Fiji

Monday, 24 September 2018

Head of ESCAP Pacific Office, Iosefa Maiava, Chief of DESA SIDS Unit, Sai Navoti (a son of Fiji),Excellencies, Senior Government and non-state actor officials, CSO representative on the Special Sub Committee on Regionalism, Drew Havea, CEO Pacific Disability Forum, Seta Macanawai, SPC Director of Statistics for Development Division, Ofa Ketu, CROP and UN colleagues.

A very good morning to you all. Firstly, I thank the United Nations family in the Pacific for providing me this opportunity to reflect on the work we are doing in the Pacific to empower our Pacific people and ensure inclusiveness and equality in development. The Pacific region is at a revitalised political juncture whereby it is again seeking to assert its common values and concerns. Under the flagship of our Blue Pacific identity, the region continues to strengthen its collective voice in advocacy and engagement with our development partners. The Blue Pacific identity represents our recognition that as a region, we are large, an ocean continent connected and strategically important. The Blue Pacific speaks to the collective potential of our shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean.

In recognising our collective strength as one regional entity, Leaders have reaffirmed the centrality of our own regional-led efforts to overcome our shared development challenges. In 2017, Leaders endorsed the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development. This roadmap guides the region’s collective response to coherently reporting on and being accountable to the multiple global and regional development agendas and reporting demands on our member states.

Developed collectively over two years through comprehensive consultations, including the engagement of governments and all stakeholders including our private and civil society actors, the Roadmap is a reflection of inclusive policy development in the Pacific. Most recently, our Leaders endorsed the region’s first Quadrennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report at their 49th Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru just two weeks ago. I would like to highlight three key reasons why this report is of critical importance to our region.

First, this report is the first key product of the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development and demonstrates the strong leadership by our region to ensure we contextualise and integrate multiple global and regional commitments in a way that is meaningful, useful and lessens the reporting burden on our small administrations at national and regional levels. This regionally led report will inform our Pacific Leaders and region’s engagement at the upcoming global summits in 2019 at the UN General Assembly to discuss global progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway. This report is being handed over by the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum – the President of Nauru to the United Nations Secretary General this Friday at the annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting with the UNSG in New York.

Thirdly, this report shines the light on where we are at as a region in terms of improving the quality of our lives, ensuring empowerment, inclusiveness and equality.

Allow me to spend a few moments to reflect on the key findings of this report. It is of great concern that, the report highlights mixed progress towards the achievement of our sustainable development aspirations as reflected in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism the Agenda 2030 and the SAMOA Pathway.

Our progress: There is progress in the areas of: access to health, education, energy services and information. There is increasing returns from oceanic resources. We are making good progress in conserving and protecting our oceans and we are starting to take concrete steps in managing our wastes and strengthening our capacities to better plan for and address climate and disaster impacts.There is also significant potential and opportunities for the sustainable development of our oceanic resources, in particular our fisheries; likewise improving connectivity which consequently lead s to improved access to markets, finance and business opportunities; there is potential opportunity in increasing transportation links between the Forum Island Countries which strengthens trading relations and mobility of people and most importantly, strengthened commitment to renewable energy which will improve access to energy in the remote and rural areas of the Pacific.

Our challenges: The increasing frequency and intensity of climate induced natural disasters continue to have drastic impacts on our economies with one event having the potential to undo decades of progress, destroying vital infrastructure, lives, homes, biodiversity and adversely affecting the delivery of services and livelihoods. This is a reality that we are constantly trying to address and mitigate in our development plans – both nationally and regionally.

Economically, whilst we see trends of sustained growth, it is often inequitable. Poverty remains an issue with one in every four Pacific Islander living below national poverty lines. Unemployment, particularly of women and young people is high, with youth unemployment averaging 23 % compared with a global rate of 13.1 %. Our women are not benefiting equally from economic opportunities with our men outnumbering our women 2 to 1 in formal employment with even worse figures of 3 to 1 in Melanesia.

Violence against women continues to be a serious concern for our region. Too many of our women are victims of violence with some of the highest global rates of violence against women in the Pacific. In parallel, women representation in Pacific parliaments is still the lowest globally at 7.7%. Recognising that approximately 1.5 million Pacific islanders are living with some form of disability it is disappointing to note that persons with disabilities are among the poorest, most marginalised with lower economic, health and education outcomes.

Gravely concerning is the increasing incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases, noting that NCDs now represent the leading cause of premature deaths in the region. Seven Pacific countries are in the top 10 countries globally with the highest rates of diabetes. In 10 Pacific countries, 5 out of 10 people are overweight and on average 7 out of 10 deaths are caused by NCDs with rates as high as 84% in Fiji and Samoa. In response to this NCD crisis, Leaders have committed to a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to address NCDs and childhood development, including childhood obesity. Civil Society Organisations and private sector representatives in their deliberations with Leaders in Nauru also committed to offer support and solutions to the NCD crisis.

 So, what can we do?

The report points to a need to accelerate our efforts at national and regional levels in particular areas if we are to address inequality and inclusiveness, 3 of which are: (1) strengthened efforts to plan for and build resilience to climatic events and ensure that development is risk-informed and protected against losses; (2) effective utilisation of available financing, and strengthening coordination, capacities and institutions. Increased adoption of multi-stakeholder engagements, greater use of peer learning modalities and the effective implementation and monitoring of genuine and durable partnerships and (3) enhance gender equality and opportunities for women, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities by addressing intersecting patriarchal barriers, social and cultural norms.

Later this morning, you will be provided with an overview of the Pacific Sustainable Development Report which I feel provides succinct summary of how the region is responding to the importance of empowering those most vulnerable and for ensuring no one is left behind as the region seeks to make economic and social progress while protecting our environment. However, the success of our regional plans depends on the concerted efforts by governments, CSOs, private sector and support we receive from our development partners.

Inclusive development that engages all stakeholders is the bedrock of the 2030 Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. The achievement of our national, regional and global development goals cannot be achieved without a concerted effort by Governments with the support and partnership of civil society, the private sector and development partners at national level. That is where the real work happens.

I am very encouraged to see that there is equal representation of governments and non-state actors at this meeting. I trust that you will use this opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas on how best to support the achievement of development aspirations under the auspices of Agenda 2030.

One final personal view is that these are very concerning statistics and we need to make concerted efforts to address them. If in five years we still have not improved, then we would have failed our region. I thank you.

 

For more information, speeches or opinion pieces from Dame Meg Taylor  please visit https://www.forumsec.org/


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