FIJI LEVERAGES FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION TO “PROTECTING THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF THE BLUE PACIFIC”

Fiji has joined the call on the need for global and regional collective action in putting an end to COVID-19 and creating a healthy, productive and prosperous future for our Blue Pacific.

This powerful message was delivered on Wednesday this week at the virtual Forum Foreign Minister’s Meeting (FFMM) chaired by Tuvalu. The FFMM enabled robust discussions and provided an opportunity for Fiji to upscale engagements on a number of priority issues; addressing COVID pandemic being top of the agenda, followed by discussions on the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, plans for the region’s engagement on Ocean’s, maritime boundaries and sea level rise, strategic approach in the region’s engagement and advocacy on climate change to name a few.

Representing Fiji for the first time in this forum, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Honourable Mereseini Rakuita Vuniwaqa spoke on the three pronged challenges of economic and health crisis along with climate change that poses threat to Fiji and the region’s welfare.

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Minister Vuniwaqa said that global response measures to COVID-19 had devastating socio-economic impacts on Pacific economies, affecting key drivers of growth including the private sector, trade, tourism and remittances.

“As the pandemic rages on, existing inequalities are deepening and our vulnerable communities are being further marginalised. We acknowledge also the need to address the significant impact on women and girls, who are facing increased economic insecurity, additional unpaid care work and rising levels of gender based violence and require continued access to essential health, educational and other social services.”

Minister Vuniwaqa emphasised the importance of multilateralism being the cornerstone of regional and global efforts to combat COVID-19.

“We further acknowledge the need to ensure that the region’s collective efforts and resources for alleviating the impacts of COVID-19 are targeted towards those most in need and most vulnerable. Pacific countries, as well as development partners, must also commit to adhering to regionally-agreed principles of accountability and good leadership.

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“As we look towards our recovery, investment in our health infrastructure is of paramount importance to secure our peoples from future health crisis. We commend the efforts around the globe to develop safe and affordable treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Our Pacific economies rely heavily on open borders for travel, trade and business. Without treatment and a vaccine to mitigate health concerns, devastating disruptions to all our interdependent economies will continue unabated. The Pacific must have timely access to treatment and a vaccine when it is developed. Within that context, we urge global leaders to support the equitable and affordable distribution of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines to all peoples of the world,” Minister Vuniwaqa said.

Fiji also reiterated the need to keep the momentum on the call for collective efforts on climate change and stronger mitigation action to put the world on 1.5°C pathway, including investment in low emissions technologies.

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“We recognise 2020 as a milestone year for the Paris Agreement and urge that COVID-19 should not derail the global momentum and ambition required by all parties to deliver on their Paris Agreement commitments. We call on the international community to recommit and urgently accelerate climate change action now, as called for in our Kainaki II Declaration, and ensure that all development financing and programming for COVID-19 aligns with the purpose of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

“As we reflect on how the year 2020 has transpired so far, we remain determined in our outlook and encourage a global recovery that is kind to our planet, inclusive and compassionate towards the needs of its peoples. It would be remiss of us to not consider the opportunities that will arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, a shared consciousness that inspires our regional efforts to develop a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent,” Minister Vuniwaqa stated.