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Source: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Delivered by the Hon Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs -Tuvalu

20 October 2020

Thank you, Honourable Minister. It is my privilege to address you today as chair of the 4th PALM Ministerial Interim Meeting.

Over two years have passed since PALM 8, and, in that time, we have seen a number of significant developments both close to home and globally.

Indeed, we meet today in exceptional times and under extraordinary circumstances.

COVID-19 has changed our world in ways unimaginable a year ago. The pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of life and has presented an unprecedented challenge to public health and wellbeing. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic has been devastating. For the first time in 30 years, global poverty is on the rise.

Our Blue Pacific has largely managed to avoid the most dire impacts of this health crisis, although I would like to acknowledge and express my condolences to all Forum Members who have been directly affected by, and experienced loss of life due, to COVID-19.

Even when our nations have not experienced COVID-19 cases, the pandemic has still exposed systemic vulnerabilities in the Pacific region and has had a devastating socio-economic impact. It has wiped out decades of hard-earned progress for our island economies and threatens the livelihoods of our communities. These effects will be felt for months and years to come and will compound the ongoing climate change crisis.

The Blue Pacific continent covers one third of our planet’s surface. As representatives and stewards of this Oceanic continent, the Pacific Islands Forum is determined to overcome current and future challenges, whether these challenges stem from COVID-19, climate change, or any other sector. Under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, our Leaders’ vision is to build a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity.

Last week, we met as Forum Foreign Ministers to strengthen our regional unity, as well as our advocacy and engagement as a united Blue Pacific. Using our shared Pacific values and consensus-based approach to regionalism, we have made significant strides as a unified front on COVID-19, climate change and sustainable ocean management.

We recognise that genuine partnerships are necessary to progressing our regional priorities. Indeed, in our ever-changing and unpredictable world, partnerships and collaboration are now more important than ever before. Both regional and inter-regional solidarity and unity are the only way we can successfully move forward.

In this regard, we value Japan’s role as a longstanding Forum Dialogue Partner. We also see our PALM partnership as a critical means of strengthening our region’s relationship with Japan.

Today, we have the opportunity to advance our dialogue on regional priorities and promote the inter-regional cooperation key to ensuring that these priorities are recognized as globally important.

Excellencies, I look forward to our fruitful discussions today. I am confident that we can both efficiently reflect on PALM 8 to ensure that we are meeting the commitments set forth in that meeting and effectively look forward to PALM 9 to discuss our vision and priorities for the future.

-ENDS-

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