“Any organisation that opens itself up to constructive criticism is likely to improve.” – COP23 President’s Remarks at High-Level Event on Policy Coherence and Joint Delivery

Bula vinaka, guten morgen and a very good morning to you all.

For almost 50 years – since our independence in 1970 – Fiji has been a member of the United Nations and a strong supporter of the UN system. So much so that we have committed the blood of our citizens to uphold the UN ideal.

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Fiji’s contribution to UN peacekeeping. Our men and women in uniform have worn the blue beret with pride and distinction and will continue to do so. Because as a nation, service to the UN and all it stands for is an honour and is part of how we see ourselves – sending our people across the world to protect the lives of others in troubled places far from our island home.

By any standard, we make a big contribution for a small country. We also regard climate change as a peace and security issue and we need the UN system to be at its most effective to protect our interests as a small island developing state. And because our interests are shared by other UN members, what works for us also works for them. So we want the UN system to work well. To be the best it can be at meeting the global challenge of climate change.

This high level event asks us to focus on what the UN system can do for national development where there is both threat and opportunity. Clearly there are many UN agencies that have something to offer. The economic and social development of many member states – including Fiji – draws heavily on the contributions of these agencies. Whether it is in education, agriculture, health, human development, the environment, women and children or culture and heritage. And many of them have a specific mandate on climate or are delivering programs that benefit our response to climate change.

We also understand the vital role played by the extended family of international institutions that deal with trade, finance and economic matters – whether it is the World Bank, IMF, WTO or UNCTAD. We must have the climate change issue understood and applied to all of their activities as well.

But, Excellencies, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Is this effort integrated? Is it designed for maximum effectiveness? Are all these agencies performing at a level that is appropriate for our collective response to climate change? Can we do a better job with the resources we already have? Do we need more resources? And I think the answer to that is probably “yes”.

This event is part of the process of exchanging views on the UN’s performance to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone facing the challenge of climate change and truly sustainable development.

Of course, at the same time, we value focus and specialisation. We have an institution here in Bonn – the UNFCCC – that is fully dedicated in everything it does to the climate change issue.

Excellencies, I welcome this event because any organisation that opens itself up to constructive criticism from its members is likely to improve. With this High Level session as with everything at COP, let us embrace this exchange in the Talanoa Spirit of respect and cooperation, without finger-pointing. Because the climate change issue exerts pressure on all institutions – and especially our multilateral ones – to improve their performance and do a better job for the whole world.

One issue we could certainly focus more attention on is our collective response to the health of our oceans. We have a UN Law of the Sea Convention because so much of the Blue Planet needs to be governed by an international system. Protected by rules that are enforced beyond national boundaries.

As you all know, Fiji is playing a major role at COP23 in developing an Ocean Pathway. This is in part designed to bring greater coherence to the many initiatives designed to improve ocean health. And also specifically connect this pathway to the work of the UNFCCC.

This is something that really matters to Fiji and other island and maritime states and we are proud that a Fijian, Peter Thomson, is the UN Special Envoy on Oceans.

As President of COP23, I appeal to you all to use this importunity to speak freely and frankly about any shortfalls we need to meet and also where the UN is doing things right. Because above all, we must ensure that our organisation is in the best possible shape to deal with climate change – undoubtedly the greatest challenge of our age.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.