Discussing regional resilience with the inaugural GAP Summit on the Pacific and Small Island Nations

One week ago, over 120 delegates from 16 countries came together online to discuss Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues at the inaugural Summit for the Pacific and Small Island Nations, hosted by Global Access Partners. ICDP was delighted to support the event, along with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Fourteen emerging leaders from the Pacific Connect Community spent the half-day Summit engaging with high-level leaders in government, business, academia, and the non-profit sector.

The pandemic’s disruption of trade, tourism and travel has seen Small Island Nations face their largest collective challenge in a generation. The health crisis has exacerbated existing economic vulnerabilities and threatens to reverse progress across a range of Sustainable Development Goals. Better governance and coordination at regional and national levels will be the key to a sustainable recovery. New partnerships, coalitions and platforms for collaborative action will help reintegrate smaller economies into regional and global trade, empower transnational cooperation, and strengthen a collective response to major challenges like climate change and pandemics.

It is through the lens of the multidimensional challenge of COVID-19 that the Pacific Summit was held virtually under the Chatham House rule, with Catherine Fritz-Kalish (Director, ICDP and ICDP Foundation) welcoming delegates to an engaging, constructive morning on ESG issues, and Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu (ICDP, Director) greeting everyone with a warm Pacific welcome.

In his Opening Address, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, outlined the importance of national resilience, greater economic integration and collaboration in order to achieve a ‘blue recovery’ for the region.

The Hon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum CF, Attorney-General of Fiji, provided the Welcome Address and spoke about the importance of an inclusive and sustainable recovery in the Pacific.

Continuing with the ‘blue recovery’ theme in Session One, Pacific Connect Community member, Peter Kenilorea Jr (Member for East ‘Are’are, Solomon Islands Parliament), emphasised resilience and rebranded Small Island Nations as ‘LODS – Large Ocean Developing States’, highlighting their deep historic, cultural and economic connection to the ocean.

In Session Two, Taholo Kami, Special Representative for Oceans (Fiji Government) and ICDP Pacific Partnerships Manager, analysed how integrated ESG decisions could increase the resilience of Small Island Nations’ economies and societies. Taholo was joined by Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu as Chair of the second session, which saw participants discuss resilience through innovation in fisheries, technology and agriculture.

The third and final session of the GAP Summit focused on a ‘shared vision for the future’. Tuiloma Neroni Slade OS, the 8th Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (and the first and only Judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague from the Oceania region), framed climate change as an issue of equity and justice, before His Excellency Anote Tong, 4th President of Kiribati, spoke passionately about the catastrophic consequences of climate change for his country.

Despite the Summit only running for half a day, we look forward to further collaboration on the Summit outcomes and hope that the connections made and ideas discussed will continue to resonate until the 2022 GAP Pacific Summit. ICDP would like to congratulate GAP on their efforts in bringing together this high-level forum, and thank Pacific Connect delegates for attending. It was great to see so many of you share views and develop your networks. We’re looking forward to next year’s Summit!