Showing posts with label Pacific affairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pacific affairs. Show all posts

Monday, August 05, 2013

Opening of Pacific Islands Development Forum

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MSG Talks In Fiji.

Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Economic Ministers meeting begins in Suva, followed by the Leader's Summit later in the week. The MSG Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) which began over the last few days, had met, to discuss key points of cooperation; as reported by Solomon Star (S.S) article.

The excerpt of S.S article:

MSG meets key cooperation issues

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Senior Officials from the five members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group met key cooperation issues to be presented to the Foreign Ministers Meeting this week.

Chair of the MSG Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), Mrs Saipora W. Mataikabara thanked delegates from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, FLNKS and Fiji for their contribution and cooperation on addressing these key issues of common interest at the two-day meeting.On the first day, SOM endorsed among other issues the Director General’s Report to the Leaders, Secretariat papers on MSG Properties, Corporate Planning Process and the MSG Secretariat Soft Reforms.  SOM Chair confirmed that the Secretariat papers were to strengthen the organization’s administration arm of the MSG organization.

Mrs Mataikabara said on the second day of meeting the other reports presented to SOM were all endorsed.  She said the members’ endorsements reflected the common interests of the MSG in strengthening cooperation amongst member countries in particularly on cultural cooperation for instance the endorsement of the draft MSG MOU on Cultural Cooperation presented by the MSG Council of Arts & Culture.  She said other issues that will promote more cooperation between member countries include the preparation for the first Melanesian Games in 2013 as mandated by Leaders on 31st March 2011 was also endorsed by the Senior Officials Meeting today.

Mrs Mataikabara said the Special SOM was also able to endorse key recommendations presented by the Subcommittee on Institutional Issues (SCLII) to complete discussions on the Review of the Agreement Establishing the MSG. 

SOM Chair said legal and institutional issues are backbones of MSG as an organization and that is why members felt that careful consideration on the legal and institutional issues will help guide senior officials, foreign ministers and leaders in making sound decisions to strengthen the organization.  A key recommendation that was endorsed by SOM is that SCLII meet in July to further complete important discussions on the Review of the Agreement Establishing the MSG, Reporting Requirements, Membership Issues (Observers & Associate Members) and MSG Visa Arrangements.

Reports from the different subcommittees and technical committees such as Security, Trade and Economic Officials Meeting (TEOM), and the Police Commissioners’ Conference were also endorsed.  The draft MOU for the MSG Skills Movement Scheme and the MSG Trade Agreement on Rules of Origin and principles for enhancing fiscal management in Melanesia were all endorsed this special SOM.
Mrs Mataikabara thanked all delegates for their participation and cooperation in the pre-Summit SOM and confirmed that the SOM outcomes will be presented to the Foreign Ministers Meeting for their consideration this week.

Fiji Times article, quoted from MSG Director General, Peter Forau, who alluded to the absence of "power play" within the MSG; in comparison to the regular undue influence from larger metropolitan countries, in  the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Mr Forau highlighted the growing influence of the MSG, which could over shadow the PIF.

Excerpt of Fiji Times article:

No 'power play'

Elenoa Baselala
Monday, March 26, 2012
"This should have happened long time ago," MSG director general and former Pacific Islands Secretariat deputy secretary general Peter Forau said.
In an interview with The Fiji Times, Mr Forau who has been on the job for the past six months said the MSG, made-up of the five big economies in the South Pacific region Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands had great potential to become influential.
In fact, Mr Forau said the MSG trade agreement was the only trade agreement that was working with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement "all over the place".
And while, many see the MSG as a threat to regional unity, Mr Forau said this was not the intention of the MSG.
Mr Forau said unlike PIFS, the MSG members had equal rights and there was not much "power play" or influence from bigger countries.
"If the MSG is seen as a threat that is not our intention, we are just working in the best interests of our members.
"If we are to become influential that is the natural cause of things," Mr Forau said.
Mr Forau, however cautioned, that for the MSG to grow to greater heights it must be united.
And they must do things to international standards to be recognised globally.
"Things are starting to happen. There are a lot of opportunities," he added.
The MSG Foreign Economic Ministers meeting starts today and ends tomorrow. The Leaders Summit will follow on Thursday and Friday.
In a Fiji Village (FV) article, Forau also addressed the need for the MSG countries to bring the benefits to their citizens.

Excerpt of FV article:

MSG issues to benefit citizens- Forau  

Publish date/time: 26/03/2012 [11:21]
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The Melanesian Spearhead Group cooperation must bring gains for their citizens at the national level.

That was the message Director General for the MSG secretariat Peter Forau urged regional Foreign Affairs ministers at the opening of the meeting this morning in Suva.

The Foreign affairs ministers will consider political, trade, economic, social and Secretariat organizational issues of interest that have been endorsed by the senior officials last week.

The Foreign Ministers Meeting will then present to the Leaders' Summit to make decisions which will be implemented accordingly.

Forau has encouraged the ministers to discuss and think thoroughly on the issues put forward.

Leaders attending later this week include Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, spokesperson of the FLNKS Victor Tutugoro, PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Ano Pala,  Prime Minister of Vanuatu Sato Kilman and Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Darcy Lilo

Fiji's Foreign affairs minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola officially opened the meeting at the GCC complex in Nasese.

Story by: Sofaia Koroitanoa

Fiji News footage (video below) of the recent discussions among MSG Trade officials.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ab Absurdo Australis

Australia's meddling into the political affairs of Pacific island nations, has now received a stern rebuke by the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
China Post article dissects the news of this dispatched communique which included a statement of solidarity and support of Fiji's new interim Government.

An article by The Age newspaper title uses the word "Bully" in the title. In another opinion piece by The Age, reflects on the foreign policy and the diplomatic engagements designed by Canberra, which is described in the article as "lacking in imagination".

This is the excerpt of the article:

Our parlous region

January 13, 2007
Page 1 of 3 | Single page

Australia's policy in the South Pacific is obsessed with security concerns and market-driven solutions to theproblems of poorer nations, write Shahar Hameiri and Toby Carroll.

THE recent release of a commissioned progress report into the largest Australian-led state building program in recent history demonstrates the need for a qualitatively new approach to assisting the Pacific. After three years of extensive involvement through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the report paints a disturbing picture.

Although the security situation has thankfully improved under RAMSI, the same cannot be said for the economy, with Solomon Islanders suffering prohibitive prices for basic goods and low employment prospects.

Unfortunately, the Australian Government's approach to the Pacific region is constrained by a lack of imagination that does little to improve the development prospects of our neighbours or advance Australia's long-term security interests.

Indeed, not a day has gone by in the past year without news of political and social unrest in the Pacific. In some circles, the island states to Australia's north and east have acquired the dubious moniker of the "Arc of Instability".

Important questions relating to the nature of this instability, as well as to Australia's approach to ameliorating it, need to be raised. This is because the fundamental reading in Australia of the Pacific quagmire is biased in favour of promoting stopgap measures that are difficult to implement and, when implemented, can amplify the root causes of the problem.

Crucially, the Australian Government's short-term interests are with curbing immediate regional security threats in the form of migrant outflows, international crime and breeding grounds for terrorists.

In the long-term, the Government's plan is to stabilise the region and implement so-called "good governance" programs, which are seen as the bedrock of market-led development. Market-led development, in turn, is seen as generating stable societies, thereby guaranteeing Australia's security.

The short-term concern for stability goes some way towards explaining the Howard Government's recent decision not to intervene in Fiji after the military coup — preferring the use of diplomatic sanctions and other softer measures. In sum, the existence of a capable Fijian military, while detrimental to democracy, is congenial to Australia's immediate security interests, as perceived by the Australian Government.

In the Solomon Islands, the situation has been very different. In the Solomons, before the Australia-led intervention, no such circuit-breaker existed to control unlawful elements. This meant that the Australian Government had a more elemental interest in stabilising the security situation as a precursor to governance and economic reforms.

The problem with the Government's approach in the Pacific is that it almost never works. Even in the Solomon Islands, where the intervention was initially lauded as a great success, devastating riots and increasing tensions reversed this appraisal drastically, as the report suggests. In Fiji, where Australia is a leading donor, we also see the limits of "good governance" programs.

A report such as the RAMSI one can lead to knee-jerk reactions from those who are already sceptical of the utility of Australian aid. We should be clear that we do not advocate reducing or eliminating Australia's efforts in the Pacific. We do, however, argue for a qualitatively different framework.

Pacific states are geographically small and widespread, have limited natural resources and face significant environmental challenges — especially those associated with climate change.

The problems of the Pacific cannot be solved with the logic of comparative advantage, so critical to market-led development approaches. For example, in the Solomon Islands, deforestation has created massive social and environmental problems, making the industry unsustainable and divisive.

There are many possible policy alternatives to those being promoted by Australia and other major donors.

First, there should be a stronger shift away from "boomerang aid" that often ends up in the pockets of Western companies and consultants. Rather than playing a Keynesian-style role in developing local economies, this form of aid has very little impact on kick-starting domestic markets.

While critics might be concerned about corruption in the process of financial distribution, this should not preclude considering such policies in tandem with suitable checks and balances.

This is because corruption has both played a part in the development of Western economies and actually continues to play a role in promoting Western economic interests in developing countries. To focus on corruption as the primary cause for development failure is to miss the bigger picture.

A second measure has been endorsed by the Labor Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, and the World Bank. This involves opening up Australia's labour market to temporary workers from the Pacific. At present, Australian employers in seasonal industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, cannot meet staffing demands. In the Pacific, on the other hand, we see a "youth bulge" and massive unemployment. In the Solomon Islands, for example, the median age is just under 19, whereas in Australia it is about 37.

The final policy option relates to a combination of tax concessions to promote Australian foreign direct investment in the Pacific, controlled transfer of technology associated with productive output, and preferential trading arrangements for Pacific states.

But preferential trading should not take the form of free trade agreements, which invariably give preference to the most powerful party.

New trading regimes should nurture budding industries and protect them from competition, where appropriate, within a regional framework.

The World Trade Organisation is a potential barrier here, but the present international trade regime is part of the problem that needs to be tackled.

Far from radical, some of the policies were flagged in 2003 by a report of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. But the report's recommendations have found little expression within Australian Government policy.

The present approach of the Australian Government is not only tight-fisted, it is inefficient in generating outcomes congenial to regional stability.

The debate on regional engagement needs to be expanded beyond its ideologically and politically constrained boundaries.

Shahar Hameiri and Toby Carroll research regional economic development and security issues at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University.

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