Less Talk

The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s assertive opening address at the Pacific Green Growth Leaders Coalition Retreat yesterday, might have left a few participants seeing red. The message at Yatule Beach
06 May 2015 11:27
Less Talk
From left: Secretary to Tongan Cabinet Palentina Langa’oi, Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Tongan Minister for Infrastructure Etuate Lavulavu, IUCN regional director Taholo Kami, and communication advisor to PM (Tonga) Kalafi Moala during the opening of the Pacific Green Growth Leaders Coalition Retreat at the Yatule Beach Resort at Natadola last night. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s assertive opening address at the Pacific Green Growth Leaders Coalition Retreat yesterday, might have left a few participants seeing red.

The message at Yatule Beach resort, Natadola, was forceful but rang true.

For too long, Fijian and Pacific island development needs have been addressed with a ‘softly, softly, softly,’ or ‘vaka malua’ approach, Mr Bainimarama said.

Addressing an audience that included the Prime Minister of Tonga, Akilisi Pohiva, parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic corps and civil society, Mr Bainimarama pushed for an end to the procrastination that had plagued the Pacific Islands in dealing with important issues.

“We need to be more frank and assertive as we hone in on those areas that require attention and set a timetable of priorities. And we need to be relentless in identifying and tackling any threat to our collective way of life. Whether it is the threat posed by climate change, the need to protect our oceans and forests or threats to the health and welfare of every Pacific island community, wherever it may be,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama suggested that there was a lot more talk than work in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals to be endorsed by the United Nations (UN) in September this year, which provided the international development framework until 2030.

Some of the proposed SDGs include:

1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere;

2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture;

3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages;

4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all;

5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;

6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;

7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; and

8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

The 2013 Fijian Constitution already addresses much of these SDGs in its mandatory ‘Bill of Rights’ for all Fijians.

“We need to seize the initiative as Pacific islanders; to lay out our own goals and achieve them with a degree of determination, even ruthless self-interest, that has been noticeably absent in the past,” he said.

The two-day retreat brings together different stakeholders to discuss, ‘Green Growth’ as the way forward for Pacific Island Development. This is part of the Bainimarama Government’s thrust to push fresh thinking into the Pacific Islands development process, as epitomised by the Pacific Island development Forum (PIDF), a counter-weight to the Australian and New Zealand-controlled Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

“Put simply, the old ways of growing our economies with an emphasis purely on growth for growth’s sake are no longer acceptable. Because too much of what has been done in the past has been unsustainable, in some cases seriously so. In far too many cases, the resources of the Pacific people have been exploited without regard for the need to nurture them carefully so they continue to provide the prosperity on which we all depend, now and into the future.

“As you all know, the term, Green Growth, has been adopted globally to describe a path of economic growth which uses natural resources in a sustainable manner. But it has particular resonance in the Asia-Pacific region where we know that far too often, development has come at the cost of environmental degradation,” Mr Bainimarama said.

The Fijian leader acknowledged the limitations of Pacific island governments in dealing with problems like climate change that were not of their own making. He pointed out that Fiji and the rest of the Pacific needed to work with the eight Pacific states that were ranked in the top twenty in 2011 of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. These countries were the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

“If we are all committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals at a global level then political imperatives should not get in the way –national, regional or global. And given the limitations of Small Island Developing States, generally, we in the Pacific need to collaborate a lot more with each other,” said Mr Bainimarama.

He recommended some concrete solutions in dealing with current problems faced by the Pacific.

– Embrace items that were bio-degradable to counter the massive generation of waste.

– Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (he pointed out that Fiji’s import of fossil fuels tops $1 billion per year) and embrace sustainable energy sources – solar power, wind and hydro-electric generation

– Encourage the practice of picking up rubbish that clogged beaches, waterways and disposing of them properly

The retreat is expected to contribute to the formalisation of a new development model for Pacific islanders, that was in Mr Bainimarama’s words, “holistic, integrated, inclusive and above all, sustainable.”



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