The United Kingdom’s Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Matthew Rycroft held a public lecture with staff and students at The University of the South Pacific this week.
The public lecture was based on the challenges to the international system posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Rycroft said the UK made a deliberate decision to invest more of their resource, energy, and time in the Pacific region.
“Fiji is important not just in its own right, but also as a hub for the whole of the Pacific region and the UK. You might think it has been a bit absent in the past but we are determined to make up for that now, and I hope that you’ll be seeing many other visitors coming from the UK as we reforge those links, rebuild our alliances, re-energise the partnership between the United Kingdom and Fiji which is founded on shared values, shared interests, shared objectives, and weight which is strong, but we know that we cannot take partnerships like this for granted,” he added.
Turning to the impact and challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Rycroft highlighted that the largest country in Europe, Russia had invaded the second largest country in Europe, Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threw into turmoil, the stability that many had enjoyed on the European continent for many decades since the Second World War.
“There’s a huge amount at stake in this region and globally, and I want to shine a spotlight on one of those issues that has demonstrated that we cannot ignore what is happening on the other side of the world. Fiji is the other side of the world for the UK,” he said.
Dr Rycroft also highlighted that one of the biggest consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the rising price of energy.
He said the United Kingdom had a ‘cost of living crisis and inflation crisis’, all originating from Russia’s invasion. He added the rise in gas and oil prices was not just in Europe but globally.
He also touched on how the world was so interconnected that every action at one end of the world had a dramatic impact on the other end.
“We now have countries that are suffering from food insecurity. As a result of this, the price of the food basket in Ethiopia has risen by 66%. 47 million people in 82 countries are just a small step away from falling into famine. Nearly a million are already suffering from that, at the level of food insecurity, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa which is staggering an extra 20 million just this year,” he stressed.
Turning towards USP and its role in the Pacific, Mr. Rycroft said that, “USP’s unqiue and strategic position in the region of great significance. Your structure, operations, and creation in itself is so interesting that I would term USP as the Pacific’s Unique Selling Point in that regard”.
Mr Rycroft together with the British High Commissioner to Fiji, Dr Brian James Jones engaged with students and staff in a Q & A session before concluding their visit to USP.