Statement as Fiji Assumes the Chair of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas

It’s a great honour for Fiji to be assuming the role of Chair with all the responsibility that entails.

I want to thank Papua New Guinea for her stewardship of the 8th conference and its continuing commitment to our common ideals.

We regard Papua New Guinea as an important development partner, not only bilaterally but within the Melanesian Spearhead Group as we work to improve the lives of all Melanesians and the Pacific peoples as a whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we embrace our responsibility as Chair with humility and pride. The overriding principle – the singular ethos – of the Bainimarama Government is to serve.

We see it as our obligation first to serve our own people, to empower them through a host of policies such as our “clever country” initiative of free education for primary and secondary school students and our tertiary loans scheme and indeed improved environment management.

We see it as our obligation to serve the international community with our hundreds of troops currently serving in the Golan Heights and a string other UN peacekeeping missions over the past three decades.

And we see it as our obligation to serve our neighbours with the Fijian volunteer teachers, nurses and other professionals currently building local capacity in other Pacific countries. We also intend to serve our neighbours by developing Fiji as a more effective transport and telecommunications hub and increasing the opportunities for trade and economic growth.

That service extends to our commitment to work with all of you to tackle and resolve the great environmental challenges we all face as we struggle to protect our surroundings.

His Excellency our President has spoken eloquently this morning of Fiji’s leadership role in global forums as we try to marshal international action on climate change.

This has become a major platform of our foreign policy and the Prime Minister will have more to say on this when he speaks to you later in the week.

But I can assure you as Fiji’s Environment Minister of our absolute commitment to having our collective voice heard on this issue wherever and whenever we can.

Thank you again and we all look forward to our discussions in the coming days.

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