The Republic of Marshall Islands wishes to align itself with the statement made by Papua New Guinea on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, based in New York, urging the General Assembly to continue to strengthen the relationship between the United Nations and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF).
PIF member states, including the Marshall Islands, are often challenged by their remote geographic location, small size or exposure to natural hazards. In addition, many PIF members, such as the Marshall Islands, are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise and climate change. Citizens of certain PIF member states risk becoming the world’s first environmental refugees. The remote geography of many PIF nations also creates hurdles which interfere with economic development, education, and poverty reduction. Certain PIF nations, in particular the Marshall Islands, continue to struggle with the devastating environmental, social and public health impacts of nuclear weapons testing. Regional coordination is critical in meeting these challenges. PIF provides a comprehensive regional strategy to encounter these pressing challenges by linking the regional framework of regional universities, technical organizations, national governments, with development and environmental agencies. Global development and security goals are defined within the unique regional and cultural character of PIF member states.
PIF member states are also a truly global asset. PIF states, including the Marshall Islands, feature some of the world’s greatest biological and cultural diversity. PIF nations serve as gatekeepers and stewards for much of the world’s marine biodiversity. The citizens of PIF member states speak over 1,200 distinct languages, and proudly maintain unique cultural traditions tied to island geography and environment. Increasing UN cooperation with PIF will help ensure a more unified and balanced approach within the region to enhance, rather than diminish, these invaluable resources.
PIF plays an integral role in the development and implementation of the Pacific Plan, a far-reaching regional strategy which advances sustainable development, economic growth, sound governance and security. Ongoing coordination with the UN has already yielded positive results, including collaborative efforts of the United Nations Development Programme and other UN agencies with PIF to ensure close coordination of the Millennium Development Goals and the implementation of the Pacific Plan. In addition, workshops, policy studies and demonstration projects sponsored by the UN have also enhanced regional understanding of conflict prevention, ethical elections, gender issues, communication technology and poverty reduction.
Noting the importance of the UN’s cooperative relationship with PIF, we urge the General Assembly to continue to build a stronger alliance with PIF. Within the immediate future, PIF members will wrestle with increasingly complex economic, environmental and political questions. International development and reform efforts have too often lacked a coherent regional focus, or have failed to define solutions within the context of traditional local culture.
In utilizing the regional expertise of PIF, the General Assembly will ensure that the implementation of international policy will become a successful reality. The establishment of a stronger physical United Nations presence, including programme staff or development offices within the PIF nations which have expressed this need, would greatly advance the meaningful realization of the UN – PIF partnership.
The United Nations has before it the valuable opportunity to characterize key global issues, such as climate change, sustainable development, poverty reduction, and ethical governance, within the context of PIF’s improved regional coordination.