Foreign Ministers set the pace for Pacific Islands Forum Meet

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General and Former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna reads out the Communique on July 8, 2022, watched by Fiji’s Minister Faiyaz Koya (Forum Photo)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 9, 2022

The growing influence of China in the South Pacific region and the need for better geo-politic balance will be among the major issues that will be discussed with the Member-States of the Pacific Islands Forum meet in Suva from July 12, 2022.

Prime Ministers and Presidents of the 18 countries including Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, will also discuss Climate Change, Covid, economic recovery and other issues.

This would be the first Regional Summit for Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese since he took office less than two months ago.

Australia is likely to sound its Pacific partners concern over the defence and other economic pacts offered by China as a part of its efforts to gain a firmer foothold.

The Blue Continent

Forum Secretary-General and former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna set the tone for the forthcoming Leaders Summit while speaking at a concluding session of the Foreign Ministers in Suva on July 8, 2022.

He spoke of the ‘intensifying geostrategic competition that has catapulted our region to the centre of global attention in 2022.’

“If we are to maximise the opportunities that this increasing interest and attention present for us, we must protect the sanctity of our solidarity and leverage as the Blue Pacific Continent. To this end, I welcome the Suva Agreement that was concluded last month,” he said.

According to Mr Puna, the Agreement provides the course to maintain continued solidarity as a Forum Family, and the promise that it carries for the realisation of the vision for 2050 which will be tabled for final endorsement by our Forum Leaders.

The 2050 Strategy

Stating that the Forum officials have been mapping out the transitional arrangements for the implementation of the Suva Agreement, he said that the Forum has been guided by the Co-Chairs Fiji and Vanuatu, with the support of all Members, private sector and civil society, in developing the draft 2050 Strategy on Securing the Blue Pacific Continent.

“This strategy is opportune for us, and the collective foresight of our Leaders to call for its development in 2019 has proved to be timely, taking into account the context of fierce geopolitical competition, as well as worsening climate change projections and impacts.
These trends have the potential to shape our region in deeply fundamental and potentially irreversible ways. So, to have a strategy that sets out where we want to be as a region is critically important at this juncture in our history,” Mr Puna said.

Recovery from Covid

The Foreign Ministers discussed the devastating effects of Covid-19 on their respective countries and the harsh measures that had to be taken including the closing of borders.

“It seems the worst is behind us, and we can begin to look ahead with some optimism, despite the current and evolving challenges we continue to face. Although the pandemic is not over, I must commend members for their over-whelming feats of leadership, planning and service to their people, tackling the challenges posed by Covid-19 that ravaged us all,” he said.

The Forum Foreign Ministers stressed the need for regional cooperation and coordination and the need to pool the resources for better economic outcomes and stand united in their commitment to continue to serve and protect the people,” they said.

About the Pacific Islands Forum

The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organisation aiming to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean, including the formation of a trade bloc and regional peacekeeping operations. Established in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum (SPF), it changed its name in 1999 to Pacific Islands Forum, to be more inclusive of the Oceania-spanning membership of both north and south Pacific island countries, including Australia. It is a United Nations General Assembly observer.]

The mission of the Pacific Islands Forum is “to work in support of Forum member governments, to enhance the economic and social well-being of the people of the South Pacific by fostering cooperation between governments and between international agencies, and by representing the interests of Forum members in ways agreed by the Forum.”

Its decisions are implemented by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, which grew out of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). As well as its role in harmonising regional positions on various political and policy issues, the Forum Secretariat has technical programmes in economic development, transport and trade. Its Secretary-General is the permanent Chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).

Australia and New Zealand are generally larger and wealthier than the other countries that make up the rest of the Forum, with Australia’s population being around twice that of the other members combined and its economy being more than five times larger. They are significant aid donors and big markets for exports from the other island countries. Military and police forces as well as civilian personnel of Forum states, chiefly Australia and New Zealand, have recently been part of regional peacekeeping and stabilization operations in other states, notably in the Solomon Islands under the auspices of the Forum.

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