The Hon. Prime Minister Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and his fellow Leaders from Japan and the Pacific Islands countries met in Iwaki City, Fukushima, Japan, on the 23rd May 2015 for the Seventh Pacific Islands Leaders’ Meeting (PALM7).
The keynote address during the Opening Session was delivered by the Prime Minister of Japan, Hon Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe announced that, as a pledge of the Japanese Government, Japan will provide no less than $55 billion yen to the Pacific Islands in the upcoming three years. This assistance aims to foster resilient capabilities that will not be defeated by climate change or disasters.
Prime Minister Abe also announced that Japan will push forward in two-way exchanges and training of human resources (about 4,000 people from Pacific Islands Countries over the next three years) to serve as assistance to cultivating both expertise and technical skills.
Prime Minister Abe expressed gratitude to the Leaders visiting Iwaki city, Fukushima, for PALM7 and expressed his deep appreciation for the considerable support from the Pacific region after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Leaders expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the Government of Japan and the people of Iwaki for their warm and generous hospitality.
Prime Minister Abe concluded his keynote address by stating that he intends to join hands with all people who are friends of the sea, fostering trust and friendship within that community to make the Pacific Ocean an ocean of peace and prosperity.
The Summit meeting of PALM7 was co-chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister of Japan and the President of Palau.
Prime Minister Pohiva was the lead discussant on the topic of disaster risk discussion wherein he emphasized that research and investment in early warning systems is fundable to disaster risk reduction. Before he delivered his remarks, he briefly shared a comment about his struggle for democracy in Tonga which was arduous, long, and dogged but finally triumphant to which he received a round of applause and acknowledgement from fellow Leaders. Prime Minister Pohiva expressed how pleased he was to attend his first PALM meeting.
During the discussion on sustainable development, the Hon Prime Minister of Tonga commended Japan for their valuable assistance to the human resource development in the Pacific region and, in particular, he thanked Japan for trainings received by Tonga in 2014 in the areas education, health, local governance, natural resources, renewable energy and private sector development.
On trade and investment promotion, the Hon Prime Minister briefed the meeting on the success of the Tonga-Japan Trade and Investment Symposium held in Tonga on 18 June 2014 and welcomed a plan by Japan to extend that success to the other Pacific islands.
At the end of the Summit meeting of PALM7, the Leaders of Japan and the Pacific Island Countries adopted the PALM 7 Leaders’ Declaration (Fukushima Iwaki Declaration) with the inspiring theme of “Building Prosperous Future Together.”
Given the new fund pledged by Japan for the next three years in the Declaration, the Pacific Island Countries will have further cooperation with Japan on areas including: disaster risk reduction, climate change, environment, people to people exchanges, sustainable development, oceans (maritime issues and fisheries), and industrial development and trade and investment promotion.
In terms of climate change as an overarching issue, the leaders welcomed Japan’s pledge of USD 1.5 billion toward the USD 10.2 billion collectively committed by 33 countries as the initial resource mobilization of the Green Climate Fund. The leaders stressed the need for the fund to support special consideration to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to allow for improved access to the Fund and in so doing deliver practical and effective support for climate change in the Pacific region.
With regards to sustainable development, the leaders recognized the importance of fostering young generations who would play a vital role in creating the future of their countries. To this end, Prime Minister Abe announced to launch “Pacific-LEADS (Pacific Leaders Educational Assistance for Development of State), a new training program for young leaders in the Pacific.
In recognizing the potential of the Pacific region as tourist destinations, the leaders stressed the need for development of the Tourism industry. The leaders therefore endorsed a plan to hold a Pacific Islands Tourism Ministers Meeting in Japan 2015.
Prime Minister Abe committed to supporting the development and strengthening of the productive and export capacity of Pacific Island countries including the development of the private sector and supporting infrastructure and services of transportation.
All in all, the Leaders conducted PALM7 with efficiency and in very good spirit. There were frank and sincere remarks from Leaders and they were done in the “Pacific Way” and with mutual respect.
The leaders will hold the third Ministerial Interim Meeting in 2016 in order to evaluate the implementation of the key PALM7 outcomes, and to start the preparatory process for PALM8.
The Hon. Prime Minister Samuela Akilsi Pohiva and the delegation will return to Tonga on Wednesday 27th May 2015.