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Geo-strategic interest should not dictate leaders’ priorities: Brown

Friday 10 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in 52nd Pacific Islands Forum 2023, National

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Geo-strategic interest should not  dictate leaders’ priorities: Brown
Pacific Islands Forum leaders, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna and their delegation at the Pacific ACP Leaders Meeting on Tuesday. PIFS /23110809

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown hopes that the leaders will leave Rarotonga this week with a deeper appreciation and shared understanding of what it means to speak out about the importance of and respect for ‘our voices, our choices, and our Pacific way’.

Speaking at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Plenary at the National Auditorium in Avarua on Wednesday, Brown acknowledged the leaders’ willingness to reinstitute the Forum Leaders Plenary model of engagement this year.

He said that this allows the leaders the opportunity to consider and discuss regional issues that have been developed and come through regional processes, together with the key regional and senior officials who have contributed to their development.

“Furthermore, it allows us the time and space as political leaders to have deeper discussions on other pertinent issues within the privacy of our Leaders Retreat,” Brown said.

He said that the geo-strategic interest in the Pacific region may be at an all-time high, but it will not and should not dictate how the leaders will advance and progress the priorities that they have determined through the 2050 Strategy and its Implementation Plan.

“It is important therefore that we are united in our purpose and commitment towards our collective vision for a resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity that ensures all our peoples lead free, healthy, and productive lives.”

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, said that it has been a colourful few days of engagement, discussions, and a rich display of Cook Islands culture and traditions.

Puna, the former Cook Islands PM, said that this culminated in the Forum Leaders discussions on Wednesday and continued in Aitutaki yesterday in both the plenary session and the retreat.

“If there is one thing that I have learned from my brief tenure to date, it is the importance of ensuring that each of you, as Forum Leaders, have the time and the space to engage in and amongst yourselves on issues of critical importance to our collective aspirations and development, as a Forum Family,” Puna said.

He said that the plenary session and the retreat offered leaders this opportunity, and he respectfully encouraged them to use their retreat session to have honest and frank conversations on the range of issues facing the region.

Climate change, gender, fisheries, nuclear issues, and trade were topics that were up for discussions at the first plenary meeting on Wednesday.