This week I met virtually with Pacific counterparts for our annual Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers’ meeting. This important discussion, chaired by Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe, focused on how our region is working together in responding to COVID-19 and strengthening our shared economic recovery.
This meeting comes at a challenging time for our Pacific family. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is testing our health systems and its economic impact is being felt across the region.
Foreign Ministers recognised the hardship faced by communities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, particularly in Fiji, PNG, French Polynesia and Australia, and acknowledged the critical work of essential and frontline workers in preventing the spread of COVID-19. I was grateful for expressions of support for Australia as we too face renewed challenges from the virus.
Australia is working in partnership with our neighbours in the Pacific to support their vaccination programs through the supply of Australian-manufactured vaccines and important end to end support within national vaccine schemes. We are also contributing to vaccines being supplied through the COVAX facility.
We are jointly committed to ensuring humanitarian corridors remain open and are working to re-open passenger flights across our region. The resilience of Pacific Labour mobility arrangements, which are central to our Pacific Step-up and will continue to grow, demonstrates that this can be done safely.
We agreed to progress a Joint Statement on Blue Pacific Leadership in Pre-Pandemic and Pre-Disaster Planning, reflecting the importance of preparing for future disasters. I thank Tuvalu for its foresight in putting this proposal forward.
We also discussed regional priorities on addressing climate change. Countries across the region are looking ahead to COP26 at Glasgow to advance climate action. Pacific nations will make a vital contribution at this important meeting. Australia is providing $500 million in climate finance to the Blue Pacific and we are committed to achieving the outcomes set out in the Kainaki Declaration.
The Meeting endorsed an important, innovative and world-leading normative declaration on sea-level rise and maritime zones. The declaration continues the region’s proud record of leadership on oceans issues while upholding the integrity of UNCLOS, on which our shared maritime interests depend. This declaration supports our goals for a resilient, sustainable and secure region, in the spirit of the Boe Declaration.
I thank participating Leaders and fellow Foreign Ministers for the positive and productive meeting. We also look forward to the virtual meeting of Forum Leaders on 6 August. This will mark the 50th anniversary of the Forum and will celebrate the achievements of the Forum over its history.