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HON PM BAINIMARAMA REMARKS AT THE HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE: THE OCEANS – A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNITIES

New York
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Your Excellencies, the President of Palau and Prime Minister of Norway,
Your Excellency the President of Chile,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen 

Welcome 

Ni sa bula vinaka and a very warm greeting to you all. 
At the outset, allow me to join others before me in congratulating our co-hosts, President Remengesau of Palau and Prime Minister Solberg of Norway for organising this event. 

I’m honoured to participate at this high-level event because of the importance of the ocean to my country Fiji and the Pacific region. Today’s theme, “The Ocean - A wealth of opportunities” is a very timely one as this has been an important year for the ocean at the UN. And we must remain committed to build on the current momentum. 

I’m pleased to reaffirm that Fiji will continue to be dedicated to this course, particularly after the inaugural UN Oceans Conference under my co-Presidency with the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. Now that we are into the three-year implementation phase, I’m glad that Fiji will play a more intimate role on implementation, after the recent appointment of Ambassador Peter Thomson as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

When we held the UN Oceans Conference, it was the first time in UN history that world leaders gathered in the presence of all ocean stakeholders to talk about solutions to the challenges currently facing our ocean. I was particularly impressed with the fact that every person and stakeholder, one could possibly think of was present at the Conference. This is an indication that there is no shortage of commitment when it comes to saving the ocean. 

Those discussions manifested in a number of outcomes that I wanted to remind us here today as they provide a collective roadmap for SDG14’s implementation. The political declaration, the outcomes of partnership dialogues, and I acknowledge Norway and Palau served as Co-Chairs one of those partnership dialogues, and most importantly, the voluntary commitments - all of which are critical for the ocean. 

Excellencies, 

This is a promising start but of course the challenge is to keep the momentum going and ensuring the successful implementation of all voluntary commitments. 

As one of the Co-Presidents of the Conference, I foresee the following elements as central to the successful implementation of our ocean commitments in the years ahead. 

1. We must support efforts to spur implementation of the voluntary commitments on SDG 14. The United Nations and through the Special Envoy on Oceans will be organizing a series of global webinars which will provide a virtual platform where all actors can share updates on the implementation of their voluntary commitments and share lessons learned and best practices. 

2. We should continue to support all laudable efforts, such as today’s event, conferences and awareness programmes to continue to elevate awareness and commitment both within and particularly beyond these walls of the UN. Last month, for example, the Pacific Island Development Forum hosted the first high-level Pacific Blue Economy Conference in Fiji as we recognise that sustainable development in the long term serves the best interests for the national economy and its citizens. 

3. We must also address the cross-cutting issues between oceans and other sectoral issues such as climate change, trade and other areas. The ocean-climate nexus is one that is critical in this implementation phase. 

4. As President of COP23 Fiji intends to play its part in bringing to the fore the core issue of this indivisible linkage between SDG14 on the Ocean, and SDG13 on Climate Change.

5. Our COP23 Presidency is as much about Climate Change as it is about Oceans. The impacts of climate change on oceans is experienced by all who live on islands and coastal states. Therefore addressing climate change and, a healthy ocean is necessary if we are to achieve our target of 1.5 let alone 2 degrees. We are working to introduce an Oceans Pathway into the COP23 that will ensure that the nexus between oceans and climate change is integrated into the UNFCC process by 2020.

6. The Oceans pathway will include:
• A pathway for a work programme on oceans and climate by 2019;
• The formation of an oceans and climate change coalition that will:
- Enhance the opportunity for climate change funding by enhancing the window to enable the support of healthy and resilient oceans through existing and emerging climate funds;
- Coordination for a greater emphasis on climate change and oceans on existing priorities including Sustainable Transport, Cities and Human Settlements, coastal infrastructure, ecosystems, Food Security and energy; and
- Link up with existing oceans activities and partnerships within the oceans pathway.

7. This current fragmentation or disconnect between ocean and climate governance we hope to redress through the Oceans pathway I have described. As many of you have already heard, this if the fifth key priority of Fiji’s COP23 Presidency that will see the careful synergy of SDG13 on climate change and SDG14 on oceans. We must seize the 2030 Agenda opportunity that provides a universal and enhanced global partnership for sustainable development that engages all relevant stakeholders.

8. I challenge all of us around this table and room to seriously consider this proposal on bridging this disconnect between climate change and oceans within the UNFCCC process.

Excellencies, 

9. The priority presented here is not without its challenges, however, your support of this ‘oceans pathway’, Fiji believes help us better position to save the ocean for our worlds citizens and most importantly for generations to come. 

10. I thank you and look forward to the discussions ahead.

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