New York

21 September 2019

Secretary-General's remarks at meeting with Pacific Islands Forum Leaders [as delivered]

President Lionel Aingimea, of Nauru,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you very much Mr. President for agreeing to lead this meeting and I thank Tuvalu for their ongoing leadership as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. 
I also thank Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum – we met yesterday - for the continued cooperation between our two organizations. 
Pacific island nations are on the front line of some of society’s most pressing challenges.  
During my visit to the Pacific this year, I witnessed first-hand the threat of the climate crisis.
I also saw the determination of the people of the Pacific to tackle the climate emergency – and the innovation you are showing in doing so.
You contribute relatively little – I would say almost nothing - to global heating, yet you are vulnerable to some of the harshest impacts.
The implications for the security of your populations of climate-related disasters are profound, from compromised food and water security, to forced migration.
At the same time, many of you are in the vanguard of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to renewable energy and building resilience.
You have a unique moral authority to speak out on this existential issue.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear the dramatic consequences of allowing global temperatures to rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
The increasing severity of natural disasters due to global heating reinforces the need to work together to strengthen prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and resilience.
I expect all countries to come to this week’s Climate Action Summit with revised national commitments under the Paris Agreement and concrete plans for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Climate change is not the only source of vulnerability for Pacific Island nations.  
Enormous obstacles to development result from remoteness, small size, dependence on imports, vulnerability to economic shocks and extremely high levels of debt. 
Among the areas that require significant investment are gender equality, health and education.  
Let us work together to make concessionary finance and innovative mechanisms like blue and green bonds available for SIDS.  
Let us also ensure a smooth transition for those that have graduated or are about to graduate from Least Developed status through improving access to finance.
I ask financial institutions, business, governments and other partners to work together to help finance climate-resilient, sustainable development. 
To this end, I have been advocating for the conversion of debt to investment in climate resilience and adaptation. 
The 2020 Oceans Conference is another opportunity to support Pacific Island nations. 
The General Assembly is also organising a high-level mid-term review of the SAMOA Pathway this week. 
I hope for a strong, action-oriented political declaration. 
The priorities and challenges of the Pacific will also be high on the agenda across this week’s meetings on Financing for Development, Universal Health Care and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit. 
Let us take these opportunities to strengthen our partnership across our broad shared agenda. 
An increasingly complex regional security environment driven by multifaceted challenges also requires a more coordinated and integrated response.
I commend your recent agreement, at the 50th Pacific Island Forum Summit in Tuvalu, on an Action Plan to implement the Boe Declaration, and I commend the peacebuilding efforts underway in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.  
I also support your action to tackle gender-based violence, to strengthen women’s political, social and economic participation, and to safeguard and promote the rights of women and girls. 
I am pleased with the ongoing partnership between the United Nations, the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum on the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls.
And across a range of challenges, including climate change, there can be no successful responses without changing outdated mind-sets about the role of women in society.
To deliver on our shared agenda, we will continue to work with you to reform the United Nations system to make it more effective and responsive to your needs. 
I have to say that in the establishment of the agenda [of the UN Climate Summit], my visit to the Pacific was an essential element.
That visit also allowed us to underscore the very strong link between climate change, security and development.
You are very much welcome - and you can be assured that your priorities are our common priorities.
You can count our solidarity and ongoing support.
Thank you.