United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Dennis Francis says no effort should be spared to safeguard and defend the ‘inalienability of affected Member States’ sovereignty and statehood.

He made the remarks when he addressed the Smaller Islands States (SIS) meeting on Monday, 06 November 2023 in Rarotonga, a first for a UNGA sitting President to speak at the Forum Leaders Meeting.

The SIS of the Pacific Islands Forum represent the most vulnerable and its membership comprises the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu.

Francis said the reality is that the future of smaller states and vulnerable coastal communities is contingent upon their ability to act decisively on the threats of climate change and sea level rise.

“The questions I speak of pertain to very poignant, very profound issues; questions around sovereignty and statehood, around self-reliance, and around culture and identity”.

“We know that rising seas threaten to wash away vulnerable islands. But what we do not know, not with any degree of certainty is, what is to become of the peoples, their homes, and their heritage when these homelands are lost”.

“Do we allow communities to be dispersed – and be bystanders to the loss of millennia of history – or do we choose to be the authors of our own destiny”

“I understand the gravity of the situation and I understand the challenges faced by Smaller Island States, who are even more vulnerable, often more remote, with fewer resources to cope,” the UNGA President told SIS leaders.

And I am committed to working with you – with the Pacific Island Forum and its Members – to do something impactful about it; to bring to a close the uncertainty that exists, and to support you in safeguarding what is yours for all times, he said.

“This includes working with the Director-General of UNESCO to help protect irreplaceable cultures and heritage”.

“It means working with each of you to unlock climate finance for communities. Particularly, to meet the unique and particular needs of your communities through quick, accessible, flexible, and dedicated grants”.

“It means promoting sustainability though helping to protect homes, livelihoods, and jobs, which lie at the core of maintaining social cohesion and national identity”.

“And it means asking those very profound questions and definitively putting to rest any misunderstanding, any anxiety, any lingering doubt about the full future statehood and sovereignty of these Member States,” he said.

This story was written by Pita Ligaiula, originally published at PACNEWS on 08 November 2023.

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