March 14, 2022
Your Excellency The President of the Republic of Fiji – Ratu Wiliame Katonivere
Your Excellency the High Commissioner of the British High Commission in Fiji, Dr. Brian Jones.
Honorable Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament.
Excellencies – Heads of Missions, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen and fellow young leaders
Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!
It is my greatest pleasure and honour to share a few words on this occasion of celebrating the 2022 Commonwealth Day.
Today, the Commonwealth of nations spans over 54 countries, with a population of 2.5 billion people - and I and other 29-year-olds and below make up sixty per cent of that population.
In a world today, where multilateralism is under threat, nationalism and self-interest is on the rise, and as we grapple with global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, the Commonwealth stands a beacon of hope and promise for young people.
The Commonwealth offers opportunities to bridge the deepening divide in our increasingly interconnected world and to build and shape a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society. Young people are critical in these efforts, and you can count on our enthusiasm, passion, innovative ideas & creative solutions to solve some of the greatest and most complex challenges of our time.
Here at home and across the Pacific – the climate crisis has proven to be far-reaching, affecting every fabric of our way of life, threatening the livelihoods, wellbeing, and security of entire communities – an issue that will disproportionately affect future generations. Young people are rising to this challenge, and through the networks such as the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network, they are sharing information, experiences, and expertise, building capacities in their endeavours to address climate change and other environmental issues.
Within the Commonwealth countries here in the Pacific, we see youth networks such as the Pacific Climate Warriors, the Alliance for Future Generations, WWF Pacific volunteers, Uto-ni-Yalo volunteers and the many other grassroot-led youth groups taking the charge of demanding an end to climate inaction, holding polluters responsible and leading practical, scalable climate initiatives on the ground. They have demonstrated a tremendous capacity to grasp the reality of the climate crisis and mobilise crucial support for climate action across groups, sectors and nations.
May I also take this opportunity to share the work being led by a homegrown youth climate network – the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, who are campaigning to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the issue of climate change and human rights. Vanuatu, a member of the Commonwealth has decided to take this campaign forward, and earlier this month the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Leaders expressed their support for Vanuatu in pursuit of this advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice.
This presents an opportunity for Commonwealth members in the Pacific and across the world to rally behind the campaign and demonstrate the shared values, and our collective efforts to cement the consensus on the science behind climate change, leading to more ambitious climate action under the Paris Agreement and integrating climate law and human rights law.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, this campaign demonstrates the determination of young people, and the opportunities that can further be unlocked with the support of their national governments, development partners and communities.
Young people are the future of the Commonwealth. Make us an equal partner, create a seat at the table for us and we will help deliver the promise of building a better future for all.
May we find strength in our diversity, hope in our young leaders, and may we, be bound together by a sense that the Commonwealth is a powerful influence for good. May our common purpose be an inspiration to humanity as we strive together in our shared ambition for the future.
May God Bless the Commonwealth and May God Bless Fiji.