Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama delivered a powerful statement at the historic 75th General Assembly of the United Nations yesterday calling for global solidarity, commitment and urgency in rebuilding the global economy suffering from the twin devastations caused by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Bainimarama said climate change and the coronavirus may be very different beasts but the inequities they have exposed are all-too-familiar for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The Prime Minister shared with the world leaders Fiji’s progress efforts in tackling two crises at once- the containment of COVID-19 and the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold which made landfall on our shores early this year.

“Our disaster authorities and health officials sprang into action, taking every step in-line with everything the experts could tell us about how to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus, and we saved lives from TC Harold’s devastation, even evacuating entire communities, all without allowing a single new case in relation to the storm,” he said.

Fiji was proud to mark “150 days of zero community transmission” as a result of these concerted national action. “But while Fiji has contained the coronavirus, we have not been spared its economic devastation. Yet despite a catastrophic blow to Government revenues, we are committed to rebuilding from Cyclone Harold and building resilience to future storms and the rising sea,” Prime Minister Bainimarama added

“We must continue charting our path towards net-zero emissions and the aim of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda”.

“These are not choices, they are matters of survival. The worst impacts have fallen on us and once again, our fate rests in the collective hands of the world, yet we still have zero guarantee of equitable access to a viable vaccine.

“Indeed, the divide between the highly-developed and developing worlds has never felt so stark but the UN Charter supplies us hope, as has the ferocious advocacy and leadership.”

In reaffirming Fiji’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Prime Minister outlined Fiji’s economic recovery plans and actions taken to protect the safety and wellbeing of the Fijian families and building resilient societies. “Our recovery from this pandemic must mark a transition to a decarbonized, climate-resilient economic system”.

He reminded the UN that “Fiji has worked closely with the UN and our partners in Canada, Jamaica, the UK, the EU, and Rwanda on financing for development”.

Together with these partners, Fiji has been working for the past several months “to explore how the global community can “recover faster, recover better, recover bluer, recover greener and recover together”.

There is so much more we can do –– that we must do –– to break the costly cycle of rebuilding from climate-driven devastation and maintain the pace of our march towards a modern economy.

“If we do not bridge this gap; the economic wounds of this pandemic will fester and cracks of inequity will deepen, undermining hard-earned development gains and bringing economic catastrophe crashing down on the most vulnerable nations. All countries will be forced to reckon with the historic cost of that collapse,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Bainimarama called on the world leaders “that our recovery from COVID-19 should be our best opportunity to set ourselves towards the future our children deserve”.

“We know that neither this global pandemic nor the climate emergency can be solved in the communities suffering the most from their devastation. The campaign for collective action must press ahead in parliaments, board rooms, in stock exchanges and in the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens everywhere in the world and that work begins here, it begins with the United Nations.

“This great institution must remain the beating heart of global dignity, global security and global order. “Fijians still look to the UN as a beacon for hope, a force for peace and an anchor of stability. Fiji stands ready to serve our community of nations in every way we can, by way of peacekeeping, by way of our international climate and oceans diplomacy, and by example, through the nation we build for ourselves.”

In opening the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded world leaders that “those who built the UN 75 years had lived through a pandemic, a global depression and a world war.

They knew the cost of discord and they knew the value of unity. Today, we face our own 1945 moment. Let us build the world we need: peaceful, inclusive and sustainable”.

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