Puna aims to keep Pacific Forum together

Thursday 27 May 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

Share

Puna aims to keep Pacific Forum together
Pacific Islands Forum SG Henry Puna after his retirement speech in Parliament. BYRON BROWN/21032315

Former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna has started his new role as the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum with focus on the Forum family.

Henry Puna says he is coming into the role with an open mind, confidence in his team, and an emphatic focus on the Forum family and values of regionalism.

Secretary General Puna, who is in Auckland waiting for a green light to travel to Covid-hit Fiji,  said “our Blue Pacific Continent is at its best and its strongest when our member nations work together as a family, and we must continue to do all we can to protect that strength”.

Noting the ongoing high-level political dialogue with the Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on notice of withdrawal from the Forum, SG Puna said that a political dialogue process is underway “and is symbolic of our Pacific way of talanoa and amicable resolution of differences”.

“Let us await the outcome of that process. As the Forum Secretariat, we will continue to serve all Members and I look forward to that ongoing engagement across our Forum family.”

Five Micronesian members have decided to leave the Forum following the selection of Puna who won the post earlier this year.

The leaders of Nauru, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau have collectively expressed disappointment with the appointment process, which overlooked the Micronesian candidate Gerald Zackios.

SG Puna said: “It is a matter of looking after each other and supporting each other when challenges arise. If one succeeds, we all succeed, and if one fails, it’s a shared failure. I am committed to working with all our Member nations to work towards strengthening the solidarity of our Forum family.”

As Forum Secretary General, Puna will serve as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, noting “the future of our ocean, and work in oceans governance, is of particular interest to me. Our Forum Member nations share a common border, our Blue Pacific Ocean, and we are the custodians of its health, security, and sustainability. This responsibility I take very seriously”.

The Forum Secretary General also serves as permanent chair of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), a role mandated to the Secretary General by Forum Leaders since 1995.

SG Puna reaffirmed the importance of maintaining strong collective efforts to progress regional priorities including the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Continent, Covid-19, climate change, fisheries, maritime boundaries, nuclear legacy issues, and continuing to engage with members and partners in preparation for the global launch of the Pacific Resilience Facility later this year.

He paid tribute to former Secretary General of the Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, who will be returning to Papua New Guinea once international travel resumes.

“I must honour the progress which my predecessor Dame Meg Taylor has achieved in her time at the helm, and through the pandemic,” SG Puna said, “her contribution and achievements during her tenure have my warmest respect, and speak to her passion for the founding values of the Pacific Islands Forum.”

He also called for a moment of reflection and solidarity across the Pacific Islands Forum for the people of Samoa, where post-election events are making global headlines.

“The Forum family is following closely the developments on the ground in Samoa and encourages all parties to pursue peaceful means to resolve their difficulties. The Forum also stands ready to offer support and help if requested. “I ask each of us across our Member nations to keep the people of Samoa in our thoughts and prayers at this time, knowing that Samoa’s sovereign process and the world-renowned Fa’a Samoa will prevail at this critical moment in their history.”