Thursday 23 September 2021
Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has expressed his gratitude to the international partners for providing COVID-19 vaccines to Pacific Islands Forum countries.
He said this when addressing a virtual Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting with UN Secretary General, H.E Antonio Guterres, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City today.
“Across the region, partners have provided vaccines to Forum Island Countries, complementing those that have been secured through multilateral channels such as the COVAX facility,” Mr Marape said.
“These have assisted the region greatly and continue to strengthen our resilience as we begin to contemplate vaccine-powered recovery, bearing in mind that recovery from the pandemic may remain subdued in the short term as we continue to learn to live with the pandemic.”
The Prime Minister said the region valued the assistance provided by the Joint Incident Management Team headed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the assistance provided by the World Food Programme and other UN agencies in making the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 a success and looked forward to continued collaboration.
“Recognising the important contribution of the PHP-C, we collectively endorsed streamlining responses to COVID-19 by utilising existing mechanisms such as the PHP-C to support efforts for comprehensive vaccine coverage, and continue discussions on harmonised approaches for regional vaccination certification.
“We have directed that a vaccine certification approach is ready for Forum Leaders consideration when we meet in January 2022.
“We look forward to this support from the UN in this regard.”
Mr Marape said in response to the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, a COVID-19, Economic Recovery Taskforce was established by the Forum Economic Ministers in 2020 to facilitate regional coordination of policy measures and advocacy on key activities.
“So far, the Taskforce has been able to assist our Members through the development of a M&E framework to monitor national responses to the Pandemic, developed a freight assistance program to support Pacific Small and Medium Enterprises and is working with Members to address their debt situation,” he reported.
“Forum Trade Ministers in 2021 also agreed to a robust work programme on the digital economy that would complement the outcomes of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent in building capacity on technology and connectivity in the region to empower Pacific Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, in particular women and vulnerable groups, in benefiting from e-commerce opportunities.
“Along with these efforts, on-going monitoring of policy responses for socio-economic impacts and recovery efforts looking at health and wellbeing, adaptive learning, inclusive social protection systems and initiatives for sustainable food systems are also being progressed.”
Mr Marape said given the significant impact of COVID-19 in the region and the progress made to address it, the region now stood at a crossroad where the actions it took today would determine its collective future.
“The transmissible nature of the virus, our interconnectedness and continued reliance on connectivity for economic recovery means the virus will not be overcome unless all Forum members remain united, and our regional and international technical organisations work together to strengthen our public health system and prepare our Members for reopening.
“We would like to once again acknowledge the assistance provided to the region by the UN and would like to reiterate our call to the UN to utilize available regional mechanisms, continue to urge global leaders to support the equitable distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, and support our call for a WTO TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines to realise this,” Prime Minister Marape added.