Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum met with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on 28 September at United Nations Headquarters, New York, on the margins of the high-level week of the seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Baron Waqa, President of Nauru and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, outlined the region’s priorities — climate change and disaster-risk management, ensuring greater benefits from the region’s fisheries and enhanced regional security arrangements, discussed at their recent meeting in Nauru. President Waqa highlighted the Forum theme — “Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will” — and the region’s collective will to overcome persistent development challenges and deliver on the Forum’s vision of an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful place for its people. The Forum Chair called for close collaboration with the United Nations in building an understanding of the Pacific region as one “Blue Pacific” continent, in accordance with the Blue Pacific narrative endorsed by Forum Leaders in Samoa in 2017.
Secretary-General Guterres commended the Pacific Island Forum Leaders for their endorsement of the Boe Declaration, which will strengthen regional security cooperation. He noted the profound threat posed by climate change to the security and well-being of the Pacific people and welcomed the expanded concept of security outlined in the Declaration, encompassing human security, environmental and resource security, transnational crime and cybersecurity. To strengthen the global focus on climate change as a security risk, the Pacific Island Forum leaders called on the United Nations to appoint a special adviser on climate change and security.
Secretary-General Guterres acknowledged the important contribution of Pacific countries towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement and decisive climate action. The Secretary-General highlighted the urgency of stepping up efforts to ensure a successful twenty-fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 2019 climate summit, and noted that increasing efforts to reduce the vulnerability of small island States will be a top priority. Secretary-General Guterres outlined his intention to visit the Pacific region as part of his advocacy on climate change.
Pacific Forum leaders and Secretary-General Guterres also discussed progress in implementing the United Nations reforms on the repositioning of the United Nations development system and took note of the 2030 Pacific Road Map for Sustainable Development and the upcoming mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway. Forum leaders presented Secretary-General Guterres with the first quadrennial Pacific sustainable development report, which highlights progress and ongoing challenges of the Blue Pacific region towards achieving their sustainable development aspirations. Forum leaders called on the United Nations to support the Pacific’s interest in strengthening their implementation and underscored the need for consultations with the countries affected in the multi-country office review.
The Secretary-General commended national peacebuilding efforts in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, including towards the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. He also emphasized the importance of gender empowerment and the inclusion of youth.
Pacific leaders conveyed their support to Secretary-General Guterres’s efforts to reform the United Nations to make it more responsive and reflective of Member States’ needs in an evolving world.