agOn behalf of our Honourable Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian Government and the Fijian people, I am honoured to extend a very warm welcome to all of our participants of the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers meeting. We are delighted to host Ministers for Education from the 52 Commonwealth nations at the Sheraton Resort on Denarau Island from 19-23 February, as we tackle challenges in expanding access to high quality education throughout the Commonwealth.

This conference is the first to ever be held in a Pacific Island nation. It is also the first to be held following the global adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and will bring leaders in government, youth organisations and education to the table to discuss our game plan for moving forward the 2030 Agenda in education. We will review progress in realising the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 and deliberate existing and emerging issues facing education systems throughout our member nations.

The theme of the 20th meeting is, “Sustainability and Resilience: Can Education Deliver?” Our discussions will cover a range of relevant topics, including skills development that helps prepare the next generation of leaders in Commonwealth societies and strategies for building resilience through our education systems, governance and management. Together, our talks will support the key role of education in driving sustainable development in Commonwealth countries.

Our theme also relates directly to the massive work Fiji is undertaking abroad to highlight issues of extreme importance for sustainable development the world over. As co-host of the first-ever UN Conference on Oceans and as President of COP23, Fiji has taken the lead of two of the great challenges facing our planet, the preservation of our oceans and the campaign against climate change. And we are keen to also place greater political will and ambition behind our collective work to boost resilience across Commonwealth education systems.

We ask that all of our participants embrace the Fijian “Bula Spirit” of inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity throughout our discussions. We ask that our meeting be guided by the Pacific concept of Talanoa, and that we speak freely and exchange ideas and experiences in an open and transparent manner. And we ask for ambition and commitment on the part of every Commonwealth nation, as we strive to set a new standard in regional and international cooperation in advancing the 2030 Agenda.

We look forward to seeing you all in Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu.