Well, Prime Minister, thank you very much. Thank you for this beautiful memento of the Cook Islands and the bounty of the ocean that you are working to preserve. And let me thank you and your wife for the very warm welcome that I and my delegation have received. I’m very pleased that I could be the first Secretary of State to come here to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, and I can only say that my predecessors were really missing out in a very big way. (Applause.)
I want to commend you and your government for the excellent leadership you have provided to the Forum. The summary of accomplishments that you read out to us at the Post Forum Dialogue was most impressive. I particularly commend you for the efforts that went in to resolving the boundary dispute and reaching agreement. That is an example that I hope other parts of the world will follow. And I also congratulate you on the announcement of such a significant conservation commitment. I hope that is also an example that the rest of the world will follow.
I think there is so much that many of us can learn from the Pacific Islands nations and certainly much that we have to pay attention to about preserving and promoting the sustainability for the people who have lived here, say, the millennia. And we look forward to being your partner. I am delighted that I’ve had a chance to be here to see the opportunities as well as the challenges and to work toward responding to the priorities that were discussed with me at the breakfast today.
Let me just briefly mention a few of the areas where we want to enhance, deepen, and broaden our participation with you. First, on climate change, we understand very well that many of the countries are only a few feet above sea level, and they aren’t big enough to be able to adapt to climate change quickly. So we have to do what we can now to try to combat the effects.
I’ve announced two new programs through USAID – the first to target vulnerable coastal areas. We will provide $25 million over the next five years to help communities improve their infrastructure, enhance their ability to respond to natural disasters, and create long-term plans to adapt to climate change. The second program will help improve clean energy infrastructure across the Pacific Islands. We will provide training and education for technicians and engineers to install, maintain, and repair solar energy equipment.
Next, the United States recognizes the vital importance of sustainable fisheries for Pacific nations, not only central to traditional culture but to economies and food security. We share a commitment to sustainable fishery management and to fighting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. We will work to extend the Tuna Treaty, to support the western and central Pacific fisheries commission, and the Forum’s fisheries agencies. And as I mentioned earlier today with both Admiral’s Ray and Locklear, we are expanding our Shiprider program to improve law enforcement throughout the region. Since 2009, we have had a program with a number of the nations on Coast Guard vessels, in fact, just since 2009, Kiribati has recovered $4 million in fines riding on Coast Guard – U.S. Coast Guard vessels. We’re now expanding the Shiprider program to U.S. naval vessels and looking forward to even more nations.
Finally, we want to make sure that the marine resources are there for future generations, and I want to congratulate the Cook Islands again because you are really thinking ahead about what needs to be done, establishing that world’s largest marine park. I also want to congratulate New Caledonia for its initiative to establish a marine protected area. And today, I’ve announced that the United States and Kiribati will be working together on conservation efforts in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. We announced this new partnership through a joint Statement of Intent this week, and it really does support initiatives envisioned by the Pacific Island Forum leaders to enhance the protection, the preservation, and conservation of marine ecosystems.
We are also interested in conservation efforts in the Ross Sea region in Antarctica, one of the last great marine wilderness areas on the planet, an area of long-term investment and scientific study, and we are working with other Pacific countries, in particular New Zealand, for establishing Antarctic marine protected areas, including one in the Ross Sea, which would be the largest in the world. We look forward to the proposals that will be submitted to the commission for the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources later this year.
One other way we are promoting conservation is that over a year ago, the State Department launched the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance – we call it IDEA. It brings together governments, corporation, and nonprofits to make it easier for diaspora communities worldwide to promote trade and investment that starts in business or develops other projects that will benefit their country of origin. We have developed programs in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America that facilitate investment and trade in those regions. Now we are launching the Pacific Islands IDEA marketplace to foster collaboration between local entrepreneurs and members of the Pacific Islands diaspora. Because we think working together to bring more attention to all that is available here and across the region will really help with economic development. So we will offer entrepreneurs access to capital as well as technical assistance if they are committed to investing in their countries of origin or heritage.
So once again, I want to thank the Prime Minister, the Government of the Cook Islands and all of you for your commitment and partnership, and I especially want to thank you for the very warm welcome not only last night at the airport, which was enormous fun.
I’ve been – I’ve had pictures taken of me all over the world dancing in various places, and I promised my staff no more dancing, and then I see all of the excited dancers on the tarmac, it was, believe me, very hard. (Laughter.) So I restrained myself with great difficulty. The Minister of Tourism however did it for all of us. He was excellent, I have to say.
But the friendly faces, the waves, the greetings of the people here will be long remembered by the very large delegation that has accompanied me. And I think I can guarantee you, Prime Minister, that many, many more Americans will have knowledge of and a favorable impression of the Cook Islands. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)