It is a pleasure to co-chair this first-ever meeting of the United Nations and Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at UN Headquarters in New York.
I want to express my appreciation for the role played by New Zealand as the PIF Chair for the past year. I congratulate you all on a successful meeting in Rarotonga last month.
Last year, I had the privilege of attending the 42nd Forum Leaders’ meeting in Auckland. We agreed on that occasion on the need for regular dialogue. I am pleased that this new tradition begins here today.
I want to reaffirm my commitment to enhancing cooperation and support for tackling your region’s challenges.
I asked Under-Secretary-General and Executive-Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, to represent me at your recent meeting. She has shared her observations on the significant advances on the Pacific agenda, as well as the generous donor contributions for initiatives on climate change, gender equality and peace and security in the region.
I would like to underscore your recognition and commitment to gender equality. The financial support announced by the Australian Government offers a significant opportunity to invest in real change. The United Nations stands ready to do its part to strengthen capacity- and institution-building in the region.
We also must continue to join forces to advance sustainable development. The Rio+20 conference agreed to convene a third international conference on Small Island Developing States in 2014. We must lay the ground for a successful event that will generate new momentum for addressing the needs and priorities of SIDS.
Last month in Yeosu, South Korea -- I launched an “Oceans Compact”. This will bring the UN system together to help Member States protect oceans and promote sustainable development. It also engages NGOs and other partners including the private sector, academia and the science community.
I welcome your efforts to create Marine Protected Areas, which should help ensure a more responsible use of the region’s vast ocean and marine resources.
Pacific States are also particularly vulnerable to disasters. I want to recognize the work you and UN partners have done to implement the Pacific Regional Disaster Risk Management Framework of Action.
Maintaining regional peace and security, and upholding human rights and the rule of law are also vital. The Auckland Joint Statement noted that the UN and the PIF may consider a joint initiative to build on the positive experiences acquired in such places as Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
With the withdrawal of the Regional Assistance Mission for the Solomon Islands next year, we must ensure that the country receives the required support for a smooth transition. The United Nations stands ready to assist you in achieving your security and governance objectives.
Now let me turn to the situation in Fiji.
The country has embarked on a process of writing a new constitution, which is expected to lead to democratic elections in 2014.
The United Nations welcomes the steps taken so far, including voter registration and the establishment of a constitutional commission. We stand ready to support a process that would lead to the establishment of democratic order and the rule of law.
I trust that the Pacific neighbours will keep encouraging Fiji to make progress towards full respect for human rights, accountability, transparency and inclusiveness.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now more than ever, we must work to align our priorities and objectives, including through Secretariat-to-Secretariat dialogue
More broadly, I will continue to look to you for leadership and active engagement in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, establishing Sustainable Development Goals and articulating a post-2015 development agenda.
I look forward to strengthening our partnership with the PIF even further under the leadership of Cook Islands.