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     Government of the Republic of Fiji

  Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    A Better Fiji through Excellence in Foreign Service

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Media Release

Minister Saumatua Opens MSG Climate Meet

Minister_Saumatua_opens_MSG_Climate_meet

26th January 2012, Nadi: This morning Minister for Environment Mr Samuela Saumatua officially opened the MSG Environment & Climate Change Ministers inaugural meeting which is being held at the Tanoa Hotel in Nadi. Countries attending were PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, FLNKS (New Caledonia) and Fiji. Leading the Fiji Delegation is the Minister for Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
 
The meeting under the theme, 'Environment, Climate Change & Environment’ is being co-sponsored by the Fijian Government, IUCN & GIZ.

Below is Minister Saumatua's Address at the Official Welcome Ceremony at Novotel, Nadi:


“Ministers for Environment, Climate Change & Foreign Affairs of the MSG Countries.
Excellencies
Senior Officials of the Environment, Climate Change & Foreign Affairs Ministries of the MSG Countries
Invited Distinguised Guests
Ladies And Gentlemen

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this inaugural meeting of MSG Environment and Climate Change Ministers.I hope you all have enjoyed your visit despite the extreme weather conditions but one I hope can only bring home to us the relevance of environment and climate change in our lives.

We are gathered here to commence the business end of our meeting. Your participation at this Meeting is symbolic and historical to the Solidarity that we as a grouping are renowned for and our beliefs in engaging in dialogue and reaching consensus. The unique manner in which we are all able to support one another and hold steadfast to the process of dialogue and consensus is a testament to the special bond that binds us together as one group i.e. the people of Melanesia.

In welcoming you all to this 1st Meeting of Environment and Climate Change Ministers, I am reminded of the provisions of the Agreement Establishing the MSG, which espouse the need to align our policies in order to further advance our MSG members’ shared goals of sustainable development. Our MSG Constitution clearly states that,

“MSG parties agree to direct their cooperation towards sustainable development centered on the human person, who is the beneficiary of development.”

As Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) members, we share a common interest to build solidarity and cooperation in accordance with our shared national interests. Honourable Ministers, it is no surprise that we are gathered here today. We are countries with a shared desire to build on the momentum of the Durban discussions. We are countries with a shared mission of building common positions on specific environment and climate change issues. We are countries with a shared interest in leveraging our environment and climate change issues at regional and international meetings.

How we deal with our environment today will define the quality of life of our people in future. We therefore, have an opportunity to discuss and share our views on policies and programs that will promote the protection of our environment. We are bound by a common interest to better adapt and mitigate climate change. This will enable us to harness and consolidate our position and leverage necessary regional and international resources. Indeed, such resources are critical in addressing our environmental challenges.

The long-term sustainability of our natural resources is at a risk. In recent years, we have witnessed an exponential rise in the rate of extraction of our natural resources. Our environment is under major pressure. Our traditional economy or “kastom ekonomi”, on which many MSG people’s livelihoods are dependent, is also under threat.

As countries with the largest land area and population in the Pacific islands, our society stands to be heavily impacted by Climate change. Sea level rise and its associated environmental consequences, will affect our economic wellbeing as well as our social security. In particular, the livelihoods of people living in low lying coastal areas will be affected.

In this context, it is critical that we are resolute and committed in finding common solutions and strategies.

Increased awareness and education at different levels of government within the MSG is necessary for promoting effective management of natural resources. Our economic development needs, climate change and biodiversity conservation challenges in our MSG region must be carefully balanced.

Honourable Ministers, I do not wish to pre-empt discussions on some of these topics, as they will be deliberated upon in detail in the next two days.

Before I conclude, may I on your behalf, extend our Membership’s sincere gratitude and appreciation to our two major sponsors, the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the GIZ German Agency for International Cooperation.  Both these organizations have made it possible for us to attend this meeting.  They have donated generously to funding our key meeting activities and events.

I also wish to extend our appreciation to all the organizations that have agreed to present papers in our meeting and to the MSG Secretariat for coordinating the preparations of the papers.  We thank the Secretariat for guiding us and ensuring the meeting is held as scheduled.
 
We do have a busy day ahead of us and like you, I too wish the meeting to commence right away.  So I suppose I shouldn’t detain the meeting any further.  However, as the Chair of our meeting, I do want to foreshadow that I hope that we will engage in frank and candid discussions on these important topics before us so that we will have constructive outcomes to share with our Leaders when they gather here in Fiji for their Special Summit in March this year. And, while we will be engaged in policy discussions in the next two days, I do hope that you will also find time to enjoy our Fijian hospitality.

With these few words, I have the great honour of officially opening this first meeting of MSG Ministers of Environment and Climate Change.
 
Tanku Tumas.”

END