Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have started arriving in Australia's northern city of Cairns for the 40th Forum which official opens on Wednesday 5th August 2009.In his welcome printed in the Delegates' Handbook, Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. Kevin Rudd, MP said:
"Australia is proud of its Pacific identity, underpinned by strong historical, sporting and people-to-people ties. We share maritime borders, harvest our livelihoods from fishing stocks and hold the same aspirations for a better future for ourselves and for our children. We look forward to strengthening these connections, and developing new ones, over the coming week."
Prime Minister Rudd, who is the incoming Forum Chair said: "This year's Leaders' meeting occurs against a backdrop of transformation as the global economic crisis unfolds, and the international community looks afresh at its political and economic institutions."
"The Forum is respected internationally as the pre-eminent decision making body for our region, and it will be up to us to craft a response to the global crisis that provides a strong base for sustainable development in our region."
Prime Minister Rudd also urged the region to take up the challenge of responding to climate change.
"The December meeting in Copenhagen of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change must advance a global solution that is comprehensive, effective and fair with support for vulnerable countries, such as those of the Pacific.
"It will be crucial that the nations of the Pacific Islands Forum come together as one and underline to international community the magnitude of the challenge our region faces."
The Australian Prime Minister told his Pacific colleagues: "The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting is our forum to ensure that the collective voice of the Pacific is represented unequivocally on the world stage and heard clearly by world leaders.
"I look forward to working with you to build opportunities for future generations so that they may be able to enjoy a secure and sustainable Pacific future."