Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
November 10, 2023
Mr. Prime Minister, Secretary General Puna, distinguished participants, excellencies, Kia Orana.
I am truly honored to be representing the United States at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum. And I bring warm greetings from President Biden and Vice President Harris. I want to thank Prime Minister Brown for hosting us, and Secretary General Puna and the PIF Secretariat for coordinating this critically important Forum.
Friends, the United States is also a Pacific nation. And every single one of our countries is bound by our shared history and robust people-to-people ties. It is with this recognition that the Biden Administration has committed to deepening our diplomatic, development, and security cooperation with the Pacific. I am here to further strengthen those partnerships and, above all, to listen. To better understand how the United States can continue to support the region’s priorities outlined in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
From combatting climate change to promoting gender equality and sustainable development, multilateral institutions like the Pacific Islands Forum, and your resilient political leadership, are absolutely key. We are looking to you for guidance. And we are looking to today’s youth for leadership. That’s why we founded the Young Pacific Leaders program, the U.S.-Pacific Institute for Rising Leaders program, and other initiatives that bolster leadership development.
And today, I am proud to announce our intent to work with Congress to provide funding to support the Pacific Leadership Initiative. We look forward to working with all of you – and with the PIF Secretariat – to strengthen existing efforts to empower the next generation of regional leaders, in a way that’s grounded in Pacific principles.
Our investments in this region will continue to be guided by close consultation, coordination, and partnership. Following the first summit with Pacific Islands leaders, we pledged to work with Congress to provide over $8 billion in new funding and programs for the Pacific.
On the diplomatic front, we have also recognized Niue and our host, the Cook Islands, as new nations. As we have expanded eligibility for U.S. development assistance to both countries as a direct result of that recognition.
We are also supporting the efforts of the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration by partnering with New Zealand, through the Pacific Justice Sector Program, to launch Ina’ilau. This new initiative is designed to improve access to justice for women and children in the Pacific by providing women in the justice sector with professional development opportunities that will, in turn, increase their representation in judicial leadership roles.
The United States has also made clear that sea-level rise driven by human-induced climate change should not cause any country to lose its statehood or its membership in the United Nations, its specialized agencies, or other international organizations.
There is no greater existential threat to our planet and to international peace and security than the climate crisis – a crisis that has a disproportionate impact on this region that is already being felt by your people. As President Biden has said, “we hear you.” Now, it’s on us all to respond with urgency to take on this global challenge with a concerted and global response. This is a key pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals.
And during this year’s SDG Summit, the United States made clear that we are determined to galvanize sustained international cooperation on climate and to evolve the multilateral development banking system to take on this grave threat.
The bottom line is this: On every single issue, we are better positioned to drive progress forward when we stand together as partners. And I am proud of the partnerships we have built, and we will continue to build, in the weeks, months, and years to come.