Remarks at the Reception for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Delegations and Australian Alumni
Ministers, friends of the Caribbean,friends of Australia, thank you for coming today and for your warm Caribbeanwelcome, especially to Grenada as our host.
Of all the many things we have incommon, one of the strongest is our love of sport. The Caribbean has produced aseemingly endless stream of world class athletes.
I well recall seeing the great UsainBolt win the 100m in Beijing in 2008. We were witnessing the emergence of asuperstar.
I was fortunate to be at the RioOlympics. Bolt won the 100m and the 200m.
While he has now retired, we still hopeto see your champion athletes at the Commonwealth Games in April 2018 on theGold Coast.
I'm sure we'll see more of your risingstars.
The small island states of the Caribbeanhave a range of issues that are similar to the island nations of the SouthPacific - Australia's region.
The small economies are dominated by ahandful of industries, such as fishing and tourism. The distance from marketschallenges potential export industries to join global supply chains.
I am aware of the growing concern aboutclimate change, where small islands states feel uniquely vulnerable.
Australia is the only donor to theCommonwealth's Climate Finance Access Hub and we have been able to provideaccess to experts who can help Small Island Developing States, in particular,find their way through the complex world of accessing international climatefinance. We have already been able to provide an expert for Jamaica.
It might not be known by all here, butAustralia is in fact the largest provider of overseas development assistance toSmall Island Developing States – the largest provider in the OECD at USD857million.
Australia's contribution is far inexcess of the United States and European Union, for example, but we take ourresponsibility as a voice for small island states seriously and we are seekingto ensure that small island states have their voice heard on the worldstage.
That's why we are one of the largestfunders of the UN trust fund that enables Small Island Developing States tohave access to, for example the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva.
In fact, our funding ensured at itstenth anniversary meeting last year there was universal attendance at the HumanRights Council in Geneva.
We also provide funding through theCommonwealth for small island states to have offices in Geneva and New York. Weare also the co-chair of the Group of Friends of Small Island States at the UN.
We want to ensure your voice is heard inthe multilateral forums around the world and that is why Australia is runningfor a seat on the Human Rights Council for the period 2018 to 2020. We are unashamedly promoting ourselves as avoice of the small island states.
We are up against European countries inWEOG – that's just a historical anachronism, but there are two spots and threecontenders, so Australia will be running as the champion, as the advocate, asthe voice, for small island states.
We have not ever served on the HumanRights Council. Our two competitors havebeen on there before. The South Pacifichas never had a candidate win a seat on the Human Rights Council, so we arevery keen to get your support so we can be your voice on that Council.
We also strongly believe that everycountry should have the opportunity to serve, that no country regardless of itssize should be prevented from being able to serve on these multilateral boardsand forums.
There is an issue where I think Australiaand the Caribbean have so much in common and where we can really help eachother, and that is in relation to coral reef preservation, conservation andmanagement.
As you would know, Australia is home tothe Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on earth. It's a coral reef the size of Italy, just offthe coast of Queensland. We have invested a lot of time and money and researchand resources into ensuring that this magnificent global treasure is preservedand maintained and conserved. We have a lot of experience in doing that.
We have the Reef 2050 Plan, with aboutAUD30 billion of funding to support it. It has been endorsed by the WorldHeritage Committee.
I know there are equally beautiful coralreefs here in the Caribbean and we want to share experiences, ideas andthinking and perspectives so that we can, together, benefit from the workthat's been done in our respective regions on preserving coral reefs.
Yesterday I was able to visit theGrenada Fisheries Department where we have a project together called ReefGuardians. It involves education students at schools, it involves working withlocal farmers to change agricultural practices and the like, to ensure that wegive our reefs every possible opportunity to flourish and thrive.
To that end, I am delighted today toannounce that the Australian Government will be providing fellowships, thoughour Australia Awards Program, for coral reef management.
We will have six fellowships for nextyear for coral reef management to bring young people – or whomever you selectas being the appropriate person to come – to Australia to work with our coralreef managers and our organisations that are dedicated to preserving the GreatBarrier Reef.
And of course there is a lot we canlearn from you, as well.
I am also very pleased as ForeignMinister to be able to announce that we are inviting members of the CaribbeanCommunity who are eligible for ODA to take part in our Diplomatic Academy,which is within my Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I think it is so important for diplomatsfrom different regions to spend time in other countries, of course asdiplomats, but as graduates they have the opportunity to access Australia'sperspective on diplomacy and on foreign policy.
So with those two initiatives, I hope weare underscoring the deep connection that we have with the people of theCaribbean.
This two way exchange, which I think isso very important - whether it is sport, whether it is culture, whether it isthrough our climate change initiatives, through diplomatic means, but mostimportantly through people-to-people links.
Australia is very friendly, outgoing andwarm, as are the people of the Caribbean, so we want to be sure that wecontinue the strong, deep and growing friendship that exits between Australiaand the countries of the Caribbean.