Source: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Opening remarks by Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor
The first meeting of States Parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (“Rarotonga Treaty”)
December 15th, 2020
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies.
I’m very honoured to welcome you all to this momentous occasion of the first meeting of states parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, the Treaty of Rarotonga.
This event is part of a series of steps we are undertaking in direct response to the call by Pacific Island forum Leaders at their 50th meeting in Tuvalu in 2019 to operationalize the provisions of the Treaty as necessary.
This event marks important milestones of the treaty being its 35th year of adoption, and 34 years since entry into force.
On this occasion, I thank the States Parties for your commitment and agreement to convene this historic event marking these important milestones. As the first meeting of the states parties, please allow me to express at the outset my deepest respects to our Pacific Leaders, past and present, for the vision and leadership, which changed the course of history for our region–an endowment for many generations that followed.
Today is an opportunity to reflect on these successes, and to renew and reinforce our region’s zero tolerance of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, noting the catastrophic impacts of such weaponry to our entire planet.
We need only to look at the COVID-19 pandemic, as a stark reminder of the very personal nature of global catastrophic risk, and the consequences of failing to anticipate, plan for and prevent catastrophic events on a global scale.
Unfortunately, the threats of nuclear proliferation remains a reality today, and the consequences to our environment, health and well being are long lasting, so we must not be complacent. We must keep alert.
Though a product of its time ,the Treaty of Rarotonga is one of our very first and most significant achievements as the Forum family; a legally binding instrument for the regional, global and timeless reach that continues to serve and inspire our region, our people and our prospects.
Indeed, the treaty is a powerful testament of what we can achieve through regionalism through collective action under the framework of international law, and in conforming to the rules-based international order to which we all subscribe.
Just as the Zone was enacted to secure our region from the greatest security threat of its time, we are now pursuing similar enactments to secure the limits of our blue Pacific continent against the greatest security threat of our time, climate change and the rising sea levels that threaten our very existence.
Honourable Ministers –since the treaties adoption, the Pacific Islands Islands Forum has grown to a membership of 18 Forum members as envisaged by our leaders under Article 12 of the treaty. I take this opportunity to encourage the parties to strongly advocate and promote the expansion of the treaty area across the full Forum membership towards the goal of securing the entire blue Pacific continent as a nuclear free zone.
I congratulate you all once again, and I thank you.–ENDS
Checked Against Delivery