Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting, in New York today:
President [Peter] Christian, thank you very much for convening this annual meeting and for your able leadership as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. I also congratulate you and all leaders for the successful Pacific Islands Forum summit. Thank you also Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor.
I appreciate the heads of State, Heads of Government and ministers here today. We are here to boost our strong partnership. This is a proud moment for your region, with the very able Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji serving as the first-ever President of the General Assembly from the Pacific. I am confident that he can bring a valuable Pacific perspective to our global agenda.
You helped to forge agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. I am deeply grateful for your help in the success of Wednesday’s high-level event on the entry into force.
Your communities are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. I have seen this in my visits to Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Kiribati. I have been impressed by the commitment of your Governments and the wisdom of your peoples, especially indigenous peoples. In the Pacific, climate change and extreme weather are especially dangerous threats. You have responded through the Paris Agreement, the PIF [Pacific Islands Forum] Declaration on Climate Change and Disaster Resilience and your active participation in the World Humanitarian Summit.
It is also essential to protect the oceans from various threats. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing must stop. We have to address ocean acidification, pollution and the unsustainable use of marine resources. The 2030 Agenda and the Samoa Pathway, along with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, can help save the world’s oceans.
And next June, we will convene a United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] 14 on the oceans, seas and marine resources. I count on the active engagement of the Pacific there and in our ongoing initiatives to protect marine resources. This includes the Preparatory Committee on the development of an internationally legally binding instrument — under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Progress on sustainable development demands respect for human rights. Human rights were the focus at this week’s summit for refugees and migrants. I thank all the Pacific countries for joining the consensus on the New York Declaration and I urge you to honour the promise of this outcome.
The Pacific must also defend and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. This is a moral responsibility and a key to progress. Indigenous peoples are deeply connected to climate action, sustainable development and the Pacific’s rich cultural heritage.
Women’s equality is also paramount. Representation of women in decision-making bodies, including parliament, is critical for the Pacific. We must urgently address gender discrimination. I commend the Pacific countries that are taking action to stop violence against women and empower them politically.
The partnership between the United Nations and the PIF extends across the global agenda. The United Nations provides support in a range of areas, from electoral assistance to peacebuilding. Our Peacebuilding Fund is supporting the Solomon Islands and in Papua New Guinea.
Today is the last time I will attend this annual meeting as Secretary-General, but I promise my engagement with the Pacific will continue for the rest of my term. After that, maybe I can have a nice drink of Kava or be a tourist in your beautiful countries.