Welcome Address by The Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia At Pacific Update Held On The 22 – 24 September 2021 At 11am Through Virtual Platform

Ladies and Gentlemen, warm Pacific Greetings to you all this morning.

I am absolutely delighted and would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Australian National University’s (ANU) Development Policy Centre for co-hosting this very important event on USP’s calendar.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the 9th Pacific Update Conference.

In 2020, much of the world as you know went into lockdown. The adversities of the COVID-19 pandemic affected international travel and public gatherings and of course the Pacific Update was cancelled much to the disappointment of many of us.

 Today, we are meeting virtually and I sincerely want to acknowledge your effort to be here. It reflects the commitment to continue deliberations on the development and research to Public Policy for our Pacific region. Particularly in these unprecedented times where such discussions are of the essence most especially for us as a University, these discussions today are very important contributions towards our commitment to ‘Shaping Pacific Futures’.

This conference is a unique opportunity to share experiences and best practices on policies. Forums such as these are vital to our region. And while this is the first Pacific Update to be held online, I do hope to be able to gather again in person next year.

But let me say a few things

Since 2015, the University of the South Pacific has had the privilege to co-host this annual event and five of the previous Pacific Updates have been held at USP Laucala Campus, in Suva.

Within this time, the conference has grown in several aspects and has established itself and as I said in the beginning, as one of the leading annual conferences in the region and many people look forward to the deliberations and outcomes of the conference.

The Pacific Update Conference is clearly an opportunity for researchers, academics, development practitioners and policymakers from across the Pacific to present on current research and policy analysis.

Today, we have presenters from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia, and New Zealand who will present research and discuss the latest economic and social developments in the Pacific region.

Clearly there are some hotspots that I am sure are very germane to our discussions for the next few days and without a doubt, the most important topic as we head in to COP 26 in Glasgow is Climate Change and Oceans Management which I hope will be discussed over the coming days but equally the whole question of regionalism. These two things are not only dominating debates throughout the region but also amongst Pacific Leaders themselves.

This year’s conference I am told has has six sessions over the next three days covering important topics from Politics and Regionalism, Food Security and Supply Chains, Gender, Economics, Agriculture, and Health Systems.

USP has always supported conferences of this nature, and as custodians of the Pacific ‘futures’, our vision has always been towards building innovative, cohesive, resilient and sustainable communities which are partly realized through this platform.

Our Pacific region faces many challenges. Pacific island countries are perhaps the most vulnerable in the world when it comes to the effects of climate change and disasters. Together with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing climate and disaster shockwaves on Pacific Islands countries, these continue to pose major challenges for our region.

However, sustainable development driven by intensively researched public policies can provide the adequate readiness, awareness and protection we hope to provide for our future generations. I believe that long-term cooperation in public and private sectors are all required now more than ever to work together.

USP is very proud to support and co-host the Pacific Update, to provide that platform to discuss and explore possible solutions to these challenges and other pressing challenges of our region.

As I have said, to me the two core issues for the Pacific at the moment are Climate Change and it is particularly germane that we are leading up to COP 26 and the Glasgow meetings but equally there is a major crisis that faces the Pacific region and that is the Micronesian decision to pull out of PIFS and how the region responds to that challenge and how the Pacific unity and Pacific regionalism continues to be a key agenda for regionalism.

Now, I have full confidence that the days to follow are packed with stimulating presentations, with insightful discussions that I am sure is going to strengthen our collective response to the challenges we face.

With those words, I welcome you once again to the 9th Pacific Update Conference and wish you all the best of luck in your deliberations over the next couple of days.

Thank you very much

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