Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua is Tonga’s candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. A development economist, women’s rights advocate and an international civil servant, Amelia is a former Regional Programme Director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for the Pacific, and works for the Commonwealth.
By Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua
This week's dialogue on economic strategies by the Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting, 11-12 August, is critical to building back better, or differently, for the Pacific Forum Islands.
The issues at hand are familiar, except they have been further exacerbated by COVID-19. These issues include our economic vulnerability; our priority high-risk issue of climate change; our mounting external debts and related issues such as access to financing and debt sustainability. All these challenges have profound impacts on achieving the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals that Pacific Islands are individually committed to. The scope of the challenge surely demands that Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) reignite Pacific regionalism.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) has a strategic role to re-group, reform, and mobilize regional actions and cooperate with international partners to address the socio-economic challenges facing the region. Whatever the future holds, all these areas have been fundamentally changed in just a few months.
The Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM2020) will be mapping out economic strategies for the region. We would like to see a collective voice of 18 members speak volumes in the transition to a post-COVID era. As a region, we need to strengthen our solidarity through weaving stronger strands of Coordination, Cooperation, Commitments and Care (4Cs) for a coherent recovery.
Strategies must be inclusive of both men and women. Strategies need to consider the issue of debt instability in our small economies and put specific and deliberate systematic policies in place. To pursue these goals, we must engage with the international multilaterals and the private sector.
There's a need for all development partners to better coordinate their efforts in support of regional integration and resetting back differently at all levels. Better coordination for stronger cooperation within the Pacific family of regional organisations is equally important.
The actions of governments, policy makers and business leaders must aim to encourage the most robust recovery possible, and they will need to take into account the different patterns of recovery that industry sectors are likely to see.
We are at a very critical juncture when this week #FEMM2020 will embark on a new set of strategies and a roadmap towards 2030 and 2050. Pacific Finance and Economic Ministers have key leadership roles in developing the vision and strategies necessary for their respective countries to meet the governance, economic development and poverty reduction challenges in the region.
Since March, the common phrase ‘We are all in this together’ has been used to describe the fight against COVID-19. I perceive that as ‘No one should suffer alone, we are all in this storm together, except we are not in the same boat.’
This Decade of Action agenda calling for accelerated sustainable solutions to all the region's biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap, has become ever more important for a stronger Blue Pacific.