JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, stressed that while the pandemic was ending for wealthy nations, the situation was worsening for the developing world. The economic blow to poor nations was severe and it was important to support their recovery. In his country, over 98 per cent of adults had received one jab of the vaccine and more than 67 per cent were fully vaccinated, thanks to India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States who provided vaccines.
However, Fiji was still recovering from the pandemic’s economic impact. He announced that it would soon reopen its borders to welcome tourism and international business. Nonetheless, he noted his dismay at countries who were considering third vaccine doses or boosters while millions of people remained unvaccinated in developing countries. “Vaccine nationalism must end,” he said, joining the call from other leaders to convene a United Nations urgent special meeting on the deployment of vaccines to developing nations.
Vaccine inequity reflected the injustice resulting from the international economic system, he said, pointing out that small States had to borrow at punitive rates while developed countries had access to financing at very low-interest rates. During the pandemic, Fiji rolled out its largest cash transfer programme, providing benefits to a large share of its population. As a result, debt levels increased significantly. He urged the international community to recognize the needs of small island developing States and called for a more sophisticated framework to assess debt sustainability.
Further international cooperation on the climate crisis should be sought, he continued. Small island developing States’ voices must be heard to build back “greener, bluer and better”. Global warming was track to rise to 2.7°C, resulting in the disappearing of low-lying nations in the Pacific and severe climate-related events. Therefore, access to financial resources was essential to build resilience, he underlined. While his country aimed to achieve carbon neutrality, he pointed out that “Fiji can’t halt climate change by itself.” Furthermore, it was deplorable that small island developing States only had access to 2 per cent of the available climate finance. Building resilience would require fast-deploying targeted grants, long-term concessionary financing and financial tools and instruments established through public-private partnerships.
He went on to say that Fiji relied heavily on a healthy ocean. Thus, it has committed to 100 per cent sustainable management of its exclusive economic zone, adding that 30 per cent would be declared marine protected areas by 2030. However, illegal fishing remains an issue. A new international treaty was needed to preserve marine life in waters beyond national jurisdictions. He also called for COP26 to lock the “oceans pathway” into the Framework processes. It was imperative the 1.5°C target be kept alive. Therefore, large nations must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Leaders who cannot summon the courage to unveil these commitments and policy packages at COP26 should not bother booking a flight to Glasgow, he stated, adding: “Instead, they ‑ and the selfish interests they stand for ‑ should face consequences that match the severity of what they are unleashing on our planet.” If the international community did not tolerate war between nations, how could it tolerate the war being waged against the planet, upon which life depended. “That is the firm red line Pacific nations will draw in Glasgow. We are demanding net-zero emissions and accepting zero excuses,” he stated.
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