Speech at Roundtable Meeting on Partnerships (SDG 17), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)

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Honorable President Waqa, Secretary General Meg Taylor, presidents, prime ministers, ministers – distinguished members of the Pacific Islands Forum.  

First, I would like to thank President Waqa of Nauru for inviting Norway to participate in this important round-table discussion at the Pacific Islands Forum.  

This is my first visit to this region, and I am struck by:

  • The vital importance of the ocean to the region and it`s states.
  • The link that the ocean provide between your nations, but also the vast distances.
  • The vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, but also the richness of resources and opportunities.

The resilience of your nations is inspiring.

As a guest to this region, allow me to focus on the partnership between Norway and the countries of the Pacific, and on our common goals and efforts.

We are small players on the global arena, but the global arena fundamentally touches our core interests, whether it is the health of the oceans or the climate change.

Pacific Islanders and Norwegians often hear our countries described as the “canary in the coal mine” for climate change, as we are the first to notice it`s effects. The Pacific Islands, with rising sea level and raging cyclones. And Norway, with the rapidly receding ice cap in the Arctic. Together, we say with one and clear voice: the effects of climate change are already here.

Norway and the Pacific Islands States have a longstanding cooperation on climate change. We have been at the core of the “High Ambition Coalition” in climate negotiations. We have consistently called for more ambitious global climate action - also in the follow-up of the Paris Agreement. Our partnership is more important than ever.  

Climate change has grave consequences. No one knows this better than you. Small Islands have to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. In the UN and the OECD/DAC, Norway strongly supports that graduated countries should be eligible for Official Development Assistance when their economic base is ruined by a catastrophe.

Together we are the most ambitious on fighting climate change. You have been leading by example, setting ambitious goals and accelerated your own transition to renewable energy.  

And Norway is a partner.

  • We have allocated 271 million US dollars to the Green Climate Fund over four years.
  • We support a broad range of adaptation efforts such as early warning systems and regional programmes to build resilience in vulnerable areas.
  • We provide about 4 million US dollars annually to support Small Islands Developing States in making the transition from fossil-based power systems to renewable energy.
  • We provide 2 million US dollars in support of the WHO initiative to address the health effects of climate change in Small Islands Developing States.
  • And today, I am pleased to announce that Norway will support the Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Tonga, to the tune of 2 million US dollars. This Centre focuses on cooperation and knowledge transfer between the Pacific Island States.

Norway is also a partner to the organizations and processes of priority for Small Islands Developing States.

  • We support capacity building to AOSIS on climate change.
  • We provide support to island states in the preparations for the upcoming BBNJ negotiations.
  • And we provide about half the budget to the preparation of the SAMOA Pathway mid-term review that is now under way.  

Excellencies;

Multilateralism is in many ways the essence of partnership. We find common solutions and set targets that commits us all. Such as the Sustainable Development Goals. For Norway, a small country and a non EU-member; multilateralism is essential.  

We show our commitment in practical terms. Although a country of only 5 million people, we are the sixth largest financial contributor to the UN system in terms of actual funding, and the largest financial UN donor per capita. Norway has met UN targets for development assistance since the 1970s, and currently allocates 1 % of our national income to official development assistance (ODA).  

Almost half of this goes through the UN and other multilateral institutions.  

Norway has continuously contributed military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations, and more than 40 000 Norwegian women and men have served since 1949. Often shoulder to shoulder with fellow soldiers and police from Fiji and Tonga. For decades, Norway has worked closely with the UN, regional organisations and national governments to build peace and resolve conflicts, including in the Middle East, Africa, the Philippines, and Colombia.  

Norway is committed to finding common solutions across regions, religions and cultures. We are always ready to listen to the views of other member states and we conduct dialogues based on respect and understanding.  

This is why, 20 years after our last seat on the UN Security Council; we are now seeking the support of the Pacific Island Forum member countries for our candidature as an elected member for the period 2021-2022.  

Excellencies;

We believe that climate is also a threat to peace and security. It already threatens lives and livelihoods around the world. It brings a range of direct and indirect consequences for peace and security. And, it has the potential to play an ever-increasing role in driving future conflicts. Norway is working closely with Nauru and the PSIDS in New York to move this agenda forward.  

The UN Security Council and the UN system needs to enhance their understanding of climate-related security risks and an enhanced ability to address them. That is why Norway supports President Waqa`s recent call to the UN on behalf of the Pacific Island States; to appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security. In fact, I raised this matter as recently as last week, during my meeting with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.  

If elected to the Council, Norway intends to follow up the successful efforts of our partners New Zealand and Sweden in bringing these security concerns on to the agenda, in close consultation with you.  

Excellencies;

I am visiting from a country on the other side of the globe. This is probably as far from Norway it is possible to travel! You could say that we are oceans apart. But I would rather say that the oceans connect us.  

Like you, Norwegians live by – and of – the ocean. Our sea areas are seven times larger than our land territory. I know this is not particularly impressive for many of you! Still, our ocean is by far the main source of our wealth. More than two thirds of Norway´s export revenues come from coastal and ocean-based activities – fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy production.  

Norway is a small country, but a big ocean state.  

As ocean states, we have great opportunities in the future. Although the oceans cover some 70 % of the Earth´s surface, only a tiny proportion - around 2 to 3 % - of global food production currently comes from the oceans.  

By 2050, there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet.

  • Demand for food will increase.
  • The need for jobs will increase.
  • Agriculture - already under pressure - will be even more ravaged by climate change.

This means that fish and marine products could become a greater source of wealth for many small island- and coastal states.

But the state of the oceans is critical.

  • 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year.
  • 236 000 tons of that is micro plastic, which never disappears.
  • By 2050, there may be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Norwegian scientists that are mapping the fish stocks of Africa and Asia, are now telling us that almost every second catch is not only fish, but plastic waste.

All this plastic is slowly contaminating wildlife - birds, seafood and marine ecosystems.

And that seafood ends up at our dinner table. Fish eat plastic. We eat fish.According to the World Bank, the fisheries sector is losing a staggering 83 billion USD every year, largely because of overfishing. Large scale illegal fishing is destroying healthy fish stocks and undermining economies. Small island states are the hardest hit.Healthy oceans can be a key source of wealth and prosperity in the future. But this requires sustainable ocean management today.     

The fish stocks in Norwegian waters are in good shape. This has not always been the case. Over the decades, we have learned from our mistakes; and have developed a management regime that we are proud of. I would like to use this opportunity to invite your organizations and experts on fisheries to a closer dialogue, to explore how we can share expertise and know-how. 

Norway is also taking the international initiative to establish a multi donor trust fund in the World Bank to prevent marine litter. It is estimated that 80-90% of the waste that ends up in the oceans comes from land-based sources. The almost complete lack of effective waste management systems in many developing countries means that waste resources are literally wasted - and that onshore waste ends up as offshore debris. We will allocate close to 40 million US dollars to improve waste management systems through the fund, and are now seeking to make this a truly global effort.

Norway has allocated almost 5 million US dollars to UNODC`s efforts to combat fisheries crimes, and we provide significant resources to fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, in cooperation with FAO.

And concrete and practical action is needed.

Earlier this year, I met a fisherman who told me that his catch is noticeably smaller today than a few years ago. For him, this is not only an observation. Catching less fish is a direct threat to his livelihood and his ability to provide for himself and his family. 

As all of you know, he is not alone. That is why we need to make the case that sensible and sustainable ocean management is hugely important for economic growth, jobs and development. To make this case, Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, has established a high-level panel on a building a sustainable ocean economy.  

Many heads of government from island- and coastal states across the world have accepted her invitation to take part. I am very pleased that Fiji and Palau are among the panel`s 12 members. 

I hope the panel will do for the oceans what the new climate economy panel did for the climate: Showcasing that there is profit in putting people and planet first.  

Excellencies;

Today, I am pleased to announce that we wish to take our cooperation with the Island States of the Pacific a step further to secure healthy oceans.  

Norway will provide approximately 7.2 million US dollars over the next three years in support of the “Plastic Waste Free Islands Across the Globe” initiative. This support will be provided to at least six Pacific Island States, and the focus will be on tourism, fisheries and waste management. These projects will be managed by the “International Union for Conservation of Nature” – IUCN, and particular importance will be attached to the transfer of knowledge and know-how to regional organisations.  

Dear friends; to sum up:

Our nations – big ocean states – share many interests. That are key to our livelihoods and prosperity. Norway is a partner – and we want to strengthen this partnership. It is in our interest as it is yours to fight climate change, to be in the lead on adopting renewable energy, and to safeguard our oceans for future generations.  

I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you during my visit. To listen. To learn. And to build strong relationships.

Thank you.

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