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Speech by New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern to USP staff and Students

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New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Arden at USP yesterday.

New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern delivered a speech to invited guests, staff and students at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) at Japan- Pacific ICT Multi- Purpose Theatre, Laucala Campus, on 26 February 2020.
She shared her experience of upbringing in a small town called Murupara and how that taught her about inequality. She stated when she became the Prime Minister, how she made herself the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction in order to right the wrongs she saw as a child.

The event was attended by Hon Rosy Akbar, Minister for Education, Heritage & Arts; Hon Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation; Hon Semi Koroilavesau, Minister for Fisheries; Mr. Jonathan Curr, New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji; Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Representatives of the CROP Organisations; Members of the University Council, Senate, Senior Management Team, staff, students and the media.

In welcoming her to the University, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President warmly welcomed Hon Ardern, saying USP has had a long association with New Zealand since 1968.
“Historically, the land that we are located on here at Laucala was the home for the 5 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force from 1942 to 1967,” he commented.   

Professor Ahluwalia said New Zealand has been a valued partner for over 51 years and USP is certain this partnership will continue to flourish well into the future.

“New Zealand has been instrumental in supporting many developments at the University among which is our telecommunications network by funding the initial USPNet Satellite.  New Zealand is currently supporting the upgrade of USPNet across all the regional campuses in 12 member countries. I mention USPNet because it is crucial to the University as it connects our students across our member countries,” Professor Ahluwalia said.  

The Government of New Zealand provides about 130 scholarship annually for regional students to study at USP. 

In her address, Prime Minister Ardern said the first injustices that she saw as a child makes her strive for a remedy.

“And I want to install fairness and kindness as guiding values of good government, because frankly individualism and the politics of fear have failed us,” she said.

Prime Minister Ardern said that New Zealand is a Pacific country and we share history, culture, politics, family and rugby sevens. She stated that as part of the Pacific family we are deeply conscious that our identity, security and prosperity “are inextricably linked to yours. We have, in a very genuine sense, a shared Pacific future, perhaps more now than ever before”.

New Zealand-sponsored students at USP take a photo with New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern.

Prime Minister Ardern noted that climate change continues to have a significant impact on the people of the region, as coasts erode, sea levels rise, and fish stocks move.

 “But with perhaps the exception of the climate crisis these challenges are not new. But what is new is the ever increasing global interest in the Pacific region, in your home,” she said.

“Pacific Island leaders last year noted that – alongside the impact of climate change – increasing strategic competition was exacerbating our region’s particular vulnerabilities.”

That she said, serves to highlight why now more than ever our Pacific values must rise to the fore – cooperation.

“We here in the Pacific have long known that we are so much stronger and so much more effective, when we speak with one voice and act as a region both here and out into the world,” she said.

She stated, “Last year, as leaders, we highlighted the importance of maintaining regional solidarity and encouraging engagement in the region that aligns with and supports Pacific priorities and values. How else do we maintain our voice our strength and our focus.”

Prime Minister Ardern reassured New Zealand’s commitment to supporting and investing in Pacific regionalism.

“After all, what happens in New Zealand, or Fiji, or anywhere else in the Pacific affects us all. The artificial lines between what we call domestic policy and international policy are just that – artificial. When we’re trying to address issues such as climate change, or infectious diseases, or trans-national crime, borders do not matter – these are borderless challenges and they demand a collective response. And thankfully collectivism and cooperation, listening and understanding one another’s needs – it’s the Pacific way,” she said.

That she stated, is why under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum, leaders have called for the development of a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific to provide a long-term vision of what we want to achieve together for the region.

Prime Minister Ardern said that is also why at the last Pacific Island Forum, Leaders issued the strongest collective statement on climate change that has ever been released, recognising that there is no greater priority than the need to address the impacts of climate change.

“And it’s why New Zealand announced at the Pacific Islands Forum last August a $150 million package for Pacific-focused climate change assistance, as part of a wider commitment to invest at least $300 million globally in climate-related assistance over the next three years. Out of that $150 million, we have already approved projects worth $98 million in areas such as water security and invasive species,” she remarked.

Prime Minister Ardern announced that under this programme, New Zealand is committing a $2 million dedicated investment in supporting Fiji to manage one of the most confronting issues that climate change has already brought – the displacement of communities.

“While we must do all we can to mitigate and prevent the full frontal assault of climate change we must also prepare, and that’s exactly what’s happening here in Fiji. We are contributing to the establishment of Fiji’s Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund for Communities and Infrastructure, launched in September – a world first initiative that aims to sustainably and sensitively manage the relocation of Fiji’s communities,” she said.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President of USP, New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern and Hon Rosy Akbar, Minister for Education, Heritage & Arts.

She said that with five community relocations under way or completed in Fiji and a further forty identified, this is an issue.

According to prime Minister, it is fitting to be talking about the importance of regionalism and leadership at USP, which is a training ground for future leaders.

“USP is a wonderful example of regionalism in action. It is jointly owned by the governments of twelve Pacific countries and is so very important to the region, being the largest source of tertiary-educated graduates in the Pacific for over fifty years. Many Pacific leaders and politicians have studied at USP.

“But all of these organisations like USP and the PIF and other components of the regional architecture, these partnerships both young and old, they all distil down into a challenge and a solution,” she said.

She added that we are living in an increasingly borderless world.

“The desire of super-powers in the face of globalisation has been to exert their power and show signs of strength and influence. Our region is no longer a place of blue ocean, but strategically important. All of that adds up to a difficult position for small island nations – but not for ones that have the architecture we have as a region,” she commented.

Prime Minister Ardern said that in a tough world the Pacific way can be and is the answer. She further encouraged leaders to continue to work collectively and think creatively about ways to address the challenges of our region.

Prime Minister Ardern also took questions from the audience and took photograph with students of USP who are support sponsored by New Zealand.


This news item was published on 27 Feb 2020 01:50:55 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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