Pacific Islands Forum launch new regional blueprint

The Pacific Islands Forum has launched a new long-term strategy to address present and future challenges faced by Pacific peoples.

The '2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent' was endorsed by regional heads of governments on 14 July, as the curtains fell on the 51st Forum Leaders' Meeting in Suva.

"As Pacific Leaders, our vision is for a resilient Pacific Region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy and productive lives," the 2050 strategy's leaders' vision states.

Forum chairman and Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the new regional blueprint "is about who we are".

"The 2050 Strategy is about what we share in common, our challenges and our opportunities about what we need to do together. This is why the 2050 Strategy focuses on our people," Bainimarama said.

"It is our people who have sent us here to deliberate on their behalf and we owe them strategic response to their greatest challenges especially our youth, our children and grandchildren, who will inherit this strategy and our collective ambitions."

Bainimarama said the "climate crisis, socio-economic development challenges, slow economic growth and geopolitical competition" were major issues faced by the region".

"We must work together. The 2050 Strategy will serve as our guide for the decades to come, setting out our longterm vision, key value to guide us and key thematic areas and strategic pathways that will pave our shared trajectory as a region."

He also acknowledged that successful implementation of the strategy will require that "our dialogue and development partners, regional agencies, and international agencies understand and align their development plans to the strategy and engage with us on this basis".

According to the strategy, the Blue Pacific is about Pacific peoples, their faiths, cultural values, and traditional knowledge.

The 36-page document outlines 10 commitments across seven interconnected thematic areas most crucial for the sustainable longterm development of the region.

The focus areas include political leadership and regionalism, people-centred development, peace and security, resource and economic development, climate change and disasters, ocean and environment, and technology and connectivity.

Forum secretary-general Henry Puna said the new plan is about Pacific regionalism "which is not an easy thing to progress".

"Pacific regionalism is more than a set of activities," Puna said.

"It is vital that the 2050 Strategy guide our collective activities and actions as we address our challenges and exploit our strengths and our opportunities."

With the 2015 strategy now endorsed, the forum will focus on its delivery and implementation.

"My promise is to ensure that we take the strategy forward as it is intended," Puna said.

Australia and New Zealand will make an initial contribution to making the Suva Agreement operational.

Leaders of the forum have agreed to leave the Suva Agreement open for Kiribati, after the nation's shock withdrawal from the forum shortly before the summit.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Kiribati has been engaging with the forum's chairman, Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama.