The Government and people of Samoa were congratulated during the official opening of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting last night.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is leading Samoa’s delegation at the meeting, currently being held in Port Moresby.

Samoa was praised for the successful hosting of the 3rd UN-Small Islands States meeting in Apia last year by the outgoing Chair of the Forum and President of the Republic of Palau, Mr Tommy Remengesau Jr.

“I want to congratulate again the Government and people of Samoa for hosting such a successful event which I believe is the biggest international meeting the region has hosted to date,” said Mr Remengesau.

“I think the SIDS conference was an important opportunity for the global community to articulate support for the diverse needs of SIDS.

“We welcomed this global attention to highlight our challenges, our priorities and our achievements.”

Mr Remengesau said the high-priority regional initiatives identified through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism mirrors priorities of the SAMOA Pathway on climate change, oceans and seas, health and communicable diseases and technology.

“The Samoa Pathway also reaffirms the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights and also provides an impetus for partnership and cooperation coming out of Samoa.”

The outgoing chair also congratulated Fiji and welcomed them back into the Forum.

Other issues touched on by the outgoing Chair’s remarks were the Framework for Pacific Regionalism which was endorsed by the Forum leaders in Palau last year; the call for the region and development partners’ support in addressing the unique vulnerability of Smaller Island States; reminding the delegates of the importance of our ocean as it is our livelihood, our culture and our economy.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor in her remarks said it was a great honour to be addressing the Forum for the first time.

“This week we come together as the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum to realize the collective vision of a peaceful and prosperous Pacific, she said.

“Together you draw the foundation laid some forty-four years ago by leaders of seven countries – most of them newly independent – who recognized the importance of political dialogue and collective action to mitigate common challenges and achieve shared goals.”

Dame Taylor said this initial meeting has developed into an organization, comprised of 16 member countries, three associate members and 12 observers.

The current chair of the PIF Leaders meeting and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Peter O’Neill in his address welcomed delegates, organisations and observers at the opening ceremony.

“On behalf of the Papua New Guinea Government and people of Papua New Guinea, I want to extend a very warm welcome to each and every one of you. We are very honoured to host you in our country,” said Mr O’Neill.

“As our nations face challenges in an often uncertain global economy, and as we face challenges imposed by climate change, our region needs to agitate Pacific Regionalism which is becoming more important to our way of life.

“We have to work together to face these challenges as communities, as families and as nations because our future progress lies in our solidarity,” said PM O’Neill.

The programme includes a reception to be hosted by the Governor General of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Ogio and Government Haus this evening and tomorrow is the Leaders Retreat at the Grand Papua Hotel.

The Post Forum Dialogue Partners Meeting will be held on Friday.

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