Leaders of the Pacific Island Forum family convened at the U.S Department of State for the opening of the first-ever US-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington today (29/09/22).
Chair of the Pacific Island Forum Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, while delivering his address, said this week will be the most significant engagement between the Pacific Islands Forum and the United States in this generation.
Prime Minister Bainimarama said that the fact that Pacific leaders will be sharing a room with the U.S President and the entire machinery of the U.S Government tells us how far we have come.
Prime Minister was speaking at the People Centred Development in the Pacific event, chaired by the U.S Secretary of State, Mr Antony Blinken.
This was the first event to be held in the lead-up to the full summit.
The event was attended by the Pacific leaders and Heads of the Department of State, Peace Corps, East-West Centre, and the U.S Agency for International Development.
Prime Minister Bainimarama said the leaders look forward to working with the United States to better integrate our economies, improve flows of trade; strengthen our educational links; increase two-way tourism and exchange; link our cultural institutions, and better link our schools and community organisations.
The Prime Minister said that Fiji welcomed a people-centred approach to U.S and Pacific relations to broaden engagement and build ties, especially among our young people.
Prime Minister Bainimarama urged that more focus on our educational links should be directed to improving the representation of women and girls in science and technology – as this is where we still have a gap.
He also emphasised the deepening of sports relations – through coaching programs; sports scholarships for Fijians and more sporting exchanges between our countries.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the need to include education as a priority in Fiji and the Pacific.
"We need to connect all our schools including primary schools - especially in the furthest islands. Without digital connectivity, we will suffer. Every child needs to be connected to the digital world and we welcome the USA to work with us on the digital education revolution underway in Fiji".
"We need to also expand the human resource base in Fiji - especially in advanced marine science; oceanography and other areas needed to drive our Blue economy ambition and we look to the US for partnerships."
The Prime Minister said that this historic, first summit demonstrates the most serious and determined effort by the Pacific and the U.S to work together across the Blue Pacific on issues of shared concern.
Secretary Blinken, in his address, welcomed the Pacific Leaders and stated that the focus of the U.S in the Pacific will be on empowering the rising generation with knowledge, experiences, and interconnectedness.
Secretary Blinken assured Pacific Leaders of a significant expansion of engagement by the U.S in areas such as supporting the development of new skills for the blue economy, cyber security partnership, establishing a larger regional presence of USAID; improving digital access and connectivity, and supporting the empowerment of women and girls.
Pacific Leaders in attendance at the summit included the Prime Ministers of Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, and the Solomon Islands.