Intervention Speech delivered online for UN High-level Thematic Debate on Universal COVID-19 Vaccination

Pacific Peoples

Tena koutou katoa, talofa lava, warm Pacific greetings to you all.

 Thank you, Mr. President of the General Assembly, for convening this event and for the opportunity to represent Aotearoa New Zealand, and I respectfully acknowledge all Excellencies, Ministers, and representatives of Member States.

 The world has reached a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic.

 We’ve made remarkable progress in the global effort to overcome COVID-19.  Safe and effective vaccines have given us a key tool to protect communities. 

But we’re not there yet. 

 Before we can shift our collective focus to recovery, it is crucial that no communities, anywhere, are left behind. Widespread, universal vaccination is key to this.

 Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all is the best way to protect the vulnerable, and to reduce the risk that new strains of the virus will prolong the crisis.

 In Aotearoa New Zealand, we believe in — and are bound by — the value and responsibilities of whanaungatanga: this value speaks to our deep connections and sense of belonging as human beings and our geneaological ties. We share as whanau, or family, through history, experiences (good, bad & sad), cultures and working together.

 Whanaungatanga underpins our place in the Blue Pacific Continent, as neighbours, and as part of the Pacific family. It also underpins Aotearoa New Zealand’s place as part of a global family. And when our family suffers, we have a duty — a responsibility — to respond. Our elders often say – in times of crisis – we put aside our differences and support one another – for we are one body, we are flesh and blood.

 This is why we must do all we can to meet the World Health Organisation’s 70 percent vaccination target by June, this year.

 The global community has already made significant advances to scale-up vaccine supply, and I acknowledge the work of international organisations, business and many interest groups in that effort. Our next major challenge is ensuring that this supply is made available to those who need it most, wherever they live.

 Achieving equity at national, regional and global levels will require different approaches to immunisation for different communities; and it will require additional resources. 

 This is especially true for indigenous peoples, people in communities that experience poorer health outcomes, and for those facing crises on multiple fronts. 

 Aotearoa New Zealand is playing our part.

 We were proud to kick-off the 2022 COVAX fundraising campaign with an additional NZ$9 million contribution, which will support vaccine uptake and roll-out in developing countries.

 We are also providing additional direct support to the Pacific, working with Pacific governments to align with their priorities and programmes for vaccination. 

 And, we will continue to work alongside the World Health Organisation and COVAX to ensure all communities can access the vaccines they need. We encourage all donors and vaccine companies to do the same.

 We have a traditional alagaupu, or proverb, in my motherland, Samoa, that I feel demonstrates the strength of our collaborative efforts: a malu i fale, e malu i fafo… protection for the family is protection for all.

 No reira, nga mihi, kia kaha. Remain strong. Fa’afetai, thank you