Left to right: Solomons’ Minister of Education and Afghanistan’s representative witness presentation of Gold Award to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Leingkone (fifth) by Founder of Crans Montana, Jean Paul, while organisation’s President looks on

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Internal Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone, was taken completely by surprise when he was called on stage by the Founder of Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla City in Western Sahara, kingdom of Morocco, to receive a Gold Award from Crans Montana Forum in Recognition of Vanuatu’s stand in the face of climate change.

The award was announced only an hour after the Minister personally invited Crans Montana and Morocco’s Minister of Environment, to consider coming to Vanuatu and the Pacific, to see in person climate change impact on the lives of the people and what the Governments are doing to protect their peoples and island countries in the face of the worsening global threat.

The Minister was applauded when he said, “My country was twice voted the happiest place on the planet…until Cyclone Pam came on March 13 and 14 and … destroyed and devastated our islands”.

The Minister paused to hide his emotions as he paid respect to the families of the victims. The Minister also named Fiji as the latest victim of a similar category five Cyclone Winston which was also recorded as the most destructive cyclone in living memory.

In the spirit of Vanuatu foreign diplomacy, the Minister invited Morocco’s Minister of Environment along with Crans Montana, to consider visiting Vanuatu and other Pacific Island countries, and host a follow up meeting in Port Vila on climate change after the COP 21 Conference in Paris last year, before a follow up meeting in Marrakech, also in Morocco, in October of this year.

Asked what he told the Founder of Crans Montana on stage as he was seen leaning towards him, the Minister replied, “I had to excuse myself to Jean Paul admitting that I was emotional thinking about the victims back home and he replied that had I cried, he would have cried with me”.

Such response from the Founder of a powerful, emerging organization from Africa to Vanuatu also demonstrates a new focus on the Pacific Region spearheaded by Vanuatu.

The Government of Morocco and Crans Montana are bringing into Vanuatu and the Region investment and academic opportunities through the South South cooperation spirit, in line with the foresight of the late Pioneer Father Walter Lini, who set the ball rolling with the first such visit to be made by the first ever Head of Government from the Pacific to Morocco in 1987.

On the eve of Independence on July 30 of 1980, when Father Lini was asked how he wanted to see his country go forward, he replied that he wanted to see his country connect with all four corners of the globe. “Now we have just about achieved Father Lini’s vision”, Minister Leingkone said in the presence of his First Political Adviser and son of the later father, Charles Lini.

The Minister returned to Port Vila with his delegation on Good Friday with joy in his heart because not only has the Government of Morocco accepted his invitation but Crans Montana has also agreed to host the event in Port Vila at a date to be announced later.

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