Father Muliau Stowers
Heads of Pacific Sports Ministries
Representatives of donor and development partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to provide the opening address at this Pacific Islands Sports Ministers’ Meeting in Apia.
Samoa and all our people are ready to welcome our Blue Pacific family to the 16th Pacific Games with its apt theme ‘One in Spirit’. The Sports Ministers meeting is a fitting prelude to the panoramic vista of sports talent, sportsmanship, competitive edge and fair play, health benefits of sport and Pacific culture at its best that we will be witnessing over the next two weeks.
Pacific Leaders in 2014 adopted the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which set out the vision, values, objectives and approaches that will ensure all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. In 2017 Forum Leaders endorsed the “Blue Pacific” narrative as the core driver of collective action to advance this vision.
Central to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism is the concept of ‘inclusivity’ and promoting a more open, engaging and meaningful approach to regional public policy development. Through new public engagement mechanisms, such as the Private Sector Roundtable, and the Civil Society Forum Troika Dialogue, Pacific communities are connecting with regional decision makers.
Sport is gaining prominence in the Pacific as a tool for regional cooperation. For example, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and its association civil society engagement mechanisms, have brought sport alongside other development thematic areas to the attention of Pacific Sports Ministers and Pacific Island Forum Leaders.
Sport brings a new dimension to regional cooperation for the development of Pacific Island Countries and an opportunity to explore new partnership models that engage government via a multi-sectoral approach across sport, health, education, gender, disability, foreign affairs, tourism, trade and economics.
Leaders have recognized the importance of sport in the overall development of Forum countries and as a potential tool for development and peace, within the broader social, political and economic wellbeing of the people of the Pacific. In 2015, Forum Leaders also included references to sport in the Hiri Declaration on “Strengthening connections to enhance Pacific Regionalism” in relation to building people to people connectivity and the promotion of sporting activities, as a tool to strengthen connections to enhance Pacific regionalism.
The 2019 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting also noted the progress on the establishment of the Pacific Sports Physical Activity Physical Education (PSPAPE) Action Plan 2019-2030 through the Pacific Regional Sports Taskforce; and endorsed the research report on ‘Maximising the Contribution of Sports to Economic and social development of Pacific Island countries: The Case of Fiji and Samoa’
Your discussions today should continue to focus on how we as the Blue Pacific collective can strengthen the strategic foundations in place, and support them through the critical milestones that enable physical and sporting excellence to be fully realised and surpassed – repeatedly.
Where excellence is enabled, the role of sport in showcasing national identity and shaping Pacific regionalism, is powerful and cannot be understated. Sport has come a long way in the Pacific and our prowess in boxing, weightlifting, netball, rugby, especially the fast, fury and action packed 7’s, continue to marvel nations globally, many of whom provide support for our peoples to compete internationally.
As the Blue Pacific continent, our lifeline resources are – the land, our oceans and healthy peoples. Hence, the importance of physical education, physical activity, sport and recreation as a fundamental human right and an important enabler of sustainable development. There is much to be said for the saying, “a healthy body and healthy mind will make you healthy, wealthy and wise”.
Honourable Ministers, at the last meeting in Nadi Fiji, a key decision reached was the need for coordination of Pacific representation in regional and international sports organisations. Furthermore, there must be closer links between and among the Oceania sports governing institutions and those we are members of, such as the Commonwealth Games Associations.
Importantly, let us ensure all national policies for sports and physical education are a comprehensive vision of inclusive access for all; a maximal contributor to sport for sustainable development and peace; and a protector of the integrity of sport.
Finally honourable ministers, climate change is the single greatest threat to our Blue Pacific continent. Let us all in a oneness of Spirit through sport, determine and strategise how a Pacific Games Climate Challenge could be promoted, so that we are able to meet within the qualifying times, the commitments and contributions all of our countries have pledged to implement.
In closing, I leave you with one of our proverbial sayings: “Ia sagai ane ‘ai o le tai, ma ia faaosofia moega luaga” – my best wishes for your deliberations and may you reach a successful outcome.