Showing posts with label South-South Cooperation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South-South Cooperation. Show all posts

Saturday, July 27, 2013

X-Post: The Strategist - Another BRIC In The Wall.

Talks between Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister of Fiji Voreqe Bainimarama
Image courtesy of the Government of the Russian Federation.

Is Russia about to become another brick in the wall between Fiji and its Western friends? The official visit by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, to Russia in late June has further developed a relationship that has been growing significantly closer over the last two years. In the course of the visit, he and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed five agreements, covering topics from financial security cooperation and the abolition of visa requirements through MOUs on health and University cooperation to military-technical cooperation. For a brief hyperbolic moment, Fiji media reports prior to the visit even suggested that Russia was about to open an embassy in Suva to substantially deepened the political relationship.

Fiji’s pursuit of non-traditional friends has intensified while the grip of international sanctions has shown no sign of relaxation, despite the progress made by the Bainimarama Government toward elections by September 2014. Fiji targeted Russia as part of diplomatic initiative centred on the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—from early 2011. In February 2012, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Fiji. This was followed up a few months later by a delegation of Russian officials including military officers.

The nature of the mutual interest at that time was subject to the speculation that Russian interests lay in western Asia not the Pacific. This conjecture rested on Moscow’s pursuit of support for its position in the Caucasus region regarding the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Australia’s then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, openly accused Russia of cheque-book diplomacy in seeking to buy international recognition for the two break-away enclaves .

Russia does have some Pacific objectives of its own, as Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear in open the May 2012 Vladivostok APEC Summit. In its own pivot to the Pacific, RADM Sergei Avakyants, Commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, announced that, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia would send new warships to the Far East in 2014.

Whatever Russia’s motives for encouraging the relationship, Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, promoted the Moscow visit as furthering Fiji’s BRICS initiative. This begs the question of what a BRICS strategy might be. Is it more than a slogan?

The BRICS initiative is, of course, consistent with Bainimarama Government’s pursuit of greater South-South cooperation and support. Undoubtedly the prospect of the BRICS Development Bank is especially attractive in light of difficulties associated with other banks, where perceived Australian interference has worked against access to loans. The more immediate objective is political—to reinforce the Government’s increasing independence from its traditional friends as evidenced by its ‘Look North’ policy.
Richard Herr

" Fiji has joined the Non-Aligned Movement, sought greater South-South cooperation and elevated those regional arrangements that exclude Australia and New Zealand. "
At one level, the ‘Look North’ policy isn’t materially different from any other state beating a path to Beijing’s door in the Asia-Pacific Century. Yet, in Fiji’s case, it’s routinely contrasted with the less sympathetic treatment Suva receives from Canberra, Wellington and Washington, with the implication that China’s an alternative to these traditional friends.

Fiji has joined the Non-Aligned Movement, sought greater South-South cooperation and elevated those regional arrangements that exclude Australia and New Zealand. The BRICS aspect of this agenda has been bolstered bilaterally with the opening of resident diplomatic missions in Brazil and South Africa In the past two years. Fiji has had diplomatic ties with China since 1975. The Bainimarama Government is open in its desire to establish new relations with states that understand and will support its domestic reform agenda. Russian Prime Minister Medvedev gave Fiji his backing, openly asserting that Fiji had the ‘right to be left alone’ by ‘other countries’, implying Australia and New Zealand.

The potential military linkage is raising eyebrows externally especially in the wake of reports that Russia will help to equip nearly 600 Fiji troops on UN peacekeeping deployment to the Golan Heights. Western sanctions have restricted Fiji’s access to military equipment resupply and modernisation since the December 2006 military coup brought Commodore Bainimarama to power.

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces have made small arms purchases from Indonesia and talked with China about more significant assistance. The prospective loss of NATO interoperability with the RFMF has been a source of concern amongst some Western states during this time but not enough to address Fiji’s resupply and modernisation issues. Russian support for the Golan Heights deployment may just be the thin edge of the wedge—a trial prior to a more general re-equipment of the RFMF that will move it and Fiji further away from the country’s traditional Western alignment.

Even if the Russian materiel for the Golan Heights proves more limited, it would still pose some significant challenges for Fiji’s diplomacy and even for the RFMF, which has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for professionalism in its UN peacekeeping roles. Nevertheless, it has also maintained the confidence of the Israelis when deployed along their borders.

The Fiji mission is fraught enough due to the difficulties that have seen peacekeepers from other countries withdrawn from the Golan Heights, as well as the Hezbollah activity through this area. Russia’s military support for Syria including the recent supply of anti-aircraft missiles to prevent Israeli attacks on Syrian weapons facilities made Tel Aviv suspicious of Moscow’s influence on Fiji peacekeepers. That might be behind the clarification by Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, the RFMF Land Force Commander, that the Golan Heights deployment already had the equipment they needed.

Just how far Fiji will push the military relationship with Russia and what Israel’s reaction will be are yet untested. Nevertheless, the Bainimarama Government will continue to pursue its BRICS strategy, creating further impediments to a return to a normal relationship with its traditional friends until the impasse over sanctions is resolved.
Even then, Fiji seems committed to new directions that will be more resolutely independent and Asia-focussed than pre-2006 and certainly with less of the ‘traditional’ in its relationships.

Richard Herr is the Adjunct Professor of Pacific Governance and Diplomacy at the University of Fiji where he is also the Honorary Director of the Centre for International and Regional Affairs. 

Source: The Strategist

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Friday, June 21, 2013

X-Post: PACNEWS - 19th MSG Leader's Summit Communique 2013

By Online Editor
6:15 pm GMT+12, 21/06/2013, New Caledonia
  1. The 19th MSG Leaders’ Summit was held in Noumea, New Caledonia from 19-21 June 2013. The Official Opening of the Summit was held on 19 June 2013 at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and included a traditional welcome ceremony by the Wetr Cultural Group from Lifou of the Loyalty Islands Province. The Leaders then convened their Retreat at the Escapade Resort on 20 June, 2013 followed by the Plenary at the Conference Room of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in the morning of 21 June, 2013. The closing ceremony was held at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre in the afternoon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

X-Post: Grubsheet - The Pacific Axis Shifts.

Source: Grubsheet

An outstanding success: Voreqe Bainimarama arrives in Port Moresby (Photo:ABC)
An outstanding success: Voreqe Bainimarama arrives in Port Moresby (Photo:ABC)

There’s elation in Fijian Government circles over the highly successful outcome of this week’s visit to Papua New Guinea by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, at the head of the biggest Fijian trade and investment mission ever to visit another country. The original aims of the visit were ambitious enough – to lay more of the foundation for the creation of a single, integrated market for the countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Yet the results exceeded even the most ambitious expectations of the PM, his Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, and the trade delegation of 65 Fijian business leaders from 47 companies. 

Commodore Bainimarama described himself as being “on a high”. And the normally ultra-calm and measured Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry, Shaheen Ali, said he was “overwhelmed” by the “marvelous” outcome of the visit. Within hours, some of the Fijian companies were already receiving orders and entering into agreements with PNG suppliers and distributors. And by day two of the mission, two more Fijian businesses had registered as foreign investors in PNG. This is in addition to the F$180-million investment by Fiji’s national superannuation fund, the FNPF, in Bemobile – a major telecommunications provider in PNG and Solomon Islands – and the management takeover of its operations by Vodafone Fiji.

The Fijian Government sees itself as equal partners with PNG in ultimately leading the other MSG countries into an economic union to improve the lives of every Melanesian. There’s a notable absence of rivalry of the sort we’ve witnessed over the years in Europe, where Germany, France and Britain have consistently maneuvered for advantage in the European Union. As Fiji sees it, Papua New Guinea has the biggest market – seven million people compared to around 900,000 here – plus the massive wealth that flows from its minerals and energy sectors. And Fiji has an established manufacturing base, a skilled and educated workforce and is positioned at the crossroads of the Pacific. 

In other words, their assets are complimentary. Each country has its particular challenges – Papua New Guinea with corruption and lawlessness and Fiji still grappling with finally putting to rest the divisions that have hampered its development since Independence. Yet there’s a strong feeling on both sides that working in tandem in a joint leadership role is the best way to improve the lives of their own citizens and their Melanesian brothers and sisters in the smaller MSG states. 

There’s no doubt that Melanesian solidarity generally was a big beneficiary of this visit. As Commodore Bainimarama put it, PNG -Fiji ties go way beyond the mutual respect and cooperation that is the traditional benchmark of diplomacy. The peoples of both countries genuinely like each other, enjoy each other’s company and share a vision of a stronger Melanesia building a common economic and political future for all its citizens. And of course, both Governments bear significant grudges against the most dominant power in the region, Australia, which they regard as generally arrogant, overbearing and indifferent to Melanesian sensibilities. The same applies to New Zealand, albeit to a lesser extent.

As Grubsheet has written before, Australia’s mishandling of its Pacific neighbours – and especially Fiji – is a mistake of historical proportions. Its failure to fully engage with them, let alone comprehend their challenges, and its propensity to prescribe and even hector, has driven influential Pacific countries like Fiji and PNG further into each other’s arms and the arms of others outside the region. The Australian trade union heavies and their stooge of a Prime Minister who currently determine Pacific policy – and the foreign affairs establishment which implements it – seem to have little concept of Melanesian sensitivities and protocols. 

It’s well known in Suva than even the mention of Australia can trigger a surge of anger in Prime Minister Bainimarama, who feels sorely aggrieved that Canberra chose not to even  sit down with him, let alone try and comprehend his reforms. During this visit, the PM kept his counsel, adhering to the diplomatic convention of not criticising another country on someone else’s soil. In fact, it was the Papua New Guineans who made unflattering public comments about Australia. PNG’s Trade Minister, Richard Maru, accused Canberra of using his country as a “dumping ground” for its goods and said it wasn’t in Australia’s interests for the Melanesian countries to become self sufficient in anything. If that was what was being said publicly, then we can be sure that the language behind the scenes would have been a lot more colourful. The shared grievances of both governments about Australia would have been fully aired.

Certainly, there was general astonishment about the way in which this visit appeared to have been downplayed by Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, which also has a significant presence in PNG. Aside from one story that correctly cited a series of “historic” agreements, the rest of the visit was generally ignored. Indeed on the first day, Radio Australia’s current affairs program, Pacific Beat, chose to lead with an item criticising Fiji’s constitutional process rather than give weight to the region’s two biggest and most influential island countries forging closer ties. It merely reinforced the notion in Fijian minds of the ABC’s chronic bias against the Bainimarama Government and Radio Australia as a lapdog of Canberra’s foreign policy. By any normal journalistic standard, this was a big Pacific story of significant interest to the populations of PNG and Fiji and, to a lesser extent, those of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Kanaks of New Caledonia, who make up the rest of the MSG. It was buried. 

Is Australia sensitive about the fact that its so-called smart sanctions against Fiji haven’t turned out to be smart at all? You bet. American diplomats report that far from modifying their policies in the face of defeat, the Australians have stepped up their efforts internationally to isolate Fiji. Was Commodore Bainimarama’s visit a collective two-finger salute to Australia? Well, maybe just a little. Yet the overriding sentiment in official circles in Suva nowadays is that Australian attitudes are irrelevant. In any event, Blind Freddy can see that Julia Gillard’s Government is toast -with a 29 per cent primary vote in the most recent opinion poll – and that Australian policy towards Fiji is bound to be more realistic, if not more favourable, when the Coalition’s Tony Abbott storms into power in the Australian election in September. A full year out from the promised Fijian poll, Abbott and his likely foreign minister, Julie Bishop, will have ample time to end Labor’s vendetta and rebuild the relationship. 

There were many highpoints of this visit, not least the Bemobile signing -Fiji’s biggest foreign investment on behalf of all Fijians through the FNPF in one of the most dynamic sectors of the global economy- telecommunications. The Government’s critics continually harp on about the FNPF putting the retirement savings of ordinary Fijians at risk. Yet with Vodafone Fiji running Bemobile, the potential to grow that investment seems rock solid. In Fiji, there are more mobile phones than people – a penetration rate of 105 per cent. In Papua New Guinea, the penetration rate is 35 per cent. That’s a lot of potential customers and a lot of mobile phones.

Among other highlights of the visit:

  • ·      The announcement that citizens of both countries will no longer require visas to visit each other. This is on top of existing plans to achieve a seamless flow of labour between the MSG countries.

  •  ·      The provision for retired Fijian civil servants – who are obliged to vacate their jobs at 55 – to work in Papua New Guinea to boost the local skills base.

  •  ·      The plan for a permanent Fiji Trade Mission in Port Moresby and the continuation of the joint effort to break down the remaining impediments to trade and investment, with a view to developing a common market.

  • Most important of all – at least in the shorter term – is the financial support Papua New Guinea has offered Fiji to conduct its election in September 2014 and introduce the first genuine parliamentary democracy in the country’s history of one-person, one vote, one value.

According to officials travelling with Commodore Bainimarama, the PM couldn’t believe his ears when the amount of the PNG contribution was announced out of the blue by his opposite number, Peter O’Neill. “What did he say?”, he asked. At first, the Ministry of Information flashed a media release that the amount was 15-million Kina. But it soon became clear that the fifteen was actually FIFTY. A sense of astonishment, delight and gratitude swept the Fijian delegation and text messages lit up in the corridors of power in Suva. More than 40-million Fijian dollars!  By any standards and especially in the Pacific, it is an astonishingly generous amount. 

This contribution has sealed the Fiji-PNG relationship and laid to rest the concerns of some that PNG was more intent on cementing its own interests during this visit than pursuing a genuinely equal partnership. It means that Fiji no longer requires other outside assistance to finance the poll, and especially from those countries or groups of countries like the European Union, which appear more interested in using the money as political leverage than in assisting Fijians to determine their own future. Instead of having election observers from the EU – as happened controversially in 2006 – the Prime Minister wants election observers from PNG and the other MSG countries. He accused the EU observers of endorsing a “flawed” election in 2006 and said Fiji wanted an observer group with “integrity”. This will not be music to the ears of Fiji’s voluble EU Ambassador, Andrew Jacobs, who before the PNG announcement, was telling people that Fiji would need to  approach the EU for assistance and accept certain conditions that are now decidedly moot.

With Commodore Bainimarama having now travelled across the world to New York to chair a meeting of the G77 Plus China and the rest of the Fijian delegation making its way home, it’s clear that this visit has been an outstanding success. History may also judge it as the week that Fiji and PNG cemented their common future and came to realise more fully the potential they have – working together – to establish the MSG as the pre-eminent regional grouping and its integration as the best way to improve the lives of all Melanesians. One thing is certain. The axis of power in the Pacific is gradually shifting, whether Australia, NZ and their Polynesian client states such as Samoa like it or not.  

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

X-Post: Prensa Latina - Cuba Willing to Strengthen Relations With Fiji.

Source: Prenas Latina
Imagen activa
Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez
Havana, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez today reiterated Cuba's will to continue strengthening relations with Fiji, after meeting with the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister of that nation of the Pacific Ocean , Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
In the meeting at the Foreign Ministry's headquarters in this capital, Rodriguez expressed satisfaction for the positive development of bilateral links and the traditional relations of friendship and brotherhood. The Cuban Foreign minister said that the two nations share common positions and challenges in many world agenda topics, including those issues linked to the environment protection and the climate change problems.

Rodríguez stressed that Cuba will continue working within Group 77, whose presidency is hold by Fiji, for a more equal international order, and will support that nation in its performances. "In our condition of president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), we also reiterate you our will of working together with the Islands of the Pacific, and continue strengthening links between our regions," said Rodriguez.

The Cuban Foreign minister also thanked Fiji's stance in favor of the international right, the freedom of trade and navigation, the rejection to the blockade measures, and the implementation of extra territorial regulations.
For his part, Kubuabola said that his country will continue supporting Cuba in all the international forums, and thanked the Cuban government for supporting Fiji's work as president of Group 77.

Kubuabola, who is in an official visit in Cuba, is also scheduled to meet with Cubans ministers of Health and Foreign Trade and Investment, Roberto Morales and Rodrigo Malmierca, respectively, as well as with young people from his country who are studying at the Latin American School of Medicine.

Cuba and Fiji established diplomatic relations in 2002, and their main links have been seen in the health and education sectors.

Modificado el ( jueves, 04 de abril de 2013 )

Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brazil's New Embassy in Fiji

In a follow up to a 2011 SIFM post regarding Brazil-Fiji diplomatic relations.

 Source: Fiji MoI


The Federative Republic of Brazil will be opening its new embassy in Fiji early next year.

This was confirmed by the Brazilian Under Secretary General of Political Affairs, Ministry of External Trade, Ambassador Maria Reis while paying a courtesy call to for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, permanent secretary Amena Yauvoli last week.

Mr Yauvoli said the new initiative would deepen political, economic and developmental cooperation between the two countries considering that Brazil was one of the strong members of developing countries of the Group of 77 and China.

“Its economic prowess, its technological advancement and its membership of BRICS, are a testimony of its standing as a leading world power,” Mr Yauvoli said.

“Brazil is also well regarded by developing countries including Fiji as a leader in addressing the ‘South’ issues in the international arena including the multilateral trading system of the WTO.”

Mr Yauvoli said with the plan of opening the new embassy, Fiji looked forward to co-operating with Brazil in pertinent international foras to ensure developing country concerns in areas such as trade, climate change, security, the environment and sustainable development were addressed in a tangible fashion.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Reis said an ambassador had already been appointed and now awaited His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau’s endorsement.
Radio Fiji article

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Flying Solo - Fiji High Commissioner to UK, Speech at SOAS, University of London

Solo Mara
Remarks by Mr. Solo Mara
High Commissioner
Republic of Fiji High Commission to the United Kingdom
Before the
Spring Ambassador Speaking Series
Pacific Islands Society at SOAS
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
March 5, 2013
Source: SOAS


I am pleased to speak to you this evening on the future of traditional and non-traditional security in the Pacific Islands.  I am sure that many of you are familiar with the Pacific Islands region; few in the general population know much more than the information featured in tourism literature, and many from outside my region have no desire to look much further beyond those images of tropical idyll.

However, with fourteen votes in the UN and rich marine resources, the Pacific region has a voice on the global stage. A voice that is beginning to be recognised, first in the name change of the UN Asian Group to Aisa-Pacific and Fiji’s current Chairmanship of the G77+China. Its internal security, and international security, are of growing interest outside the region; to scholars, such as yourselves, to politicians, and to business.  Some commentators have suggested that the Pacific Islands region is a new geo-strategic political pitch for the super-powers, particularly China and the United States.

A Snapshot of the Region

The Pacific Island region is defined by more than the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean; there is a rich bio-diversity of fish stock, and untapped underwater mineral deposits.  The small Pacific Island Countries vary greatly in terms of natural resources and population; the total population of the region is relatively small.  The region’s total population is about 7 million, and half of these are in PNG.

Selected statistics will give you a snapshot of the Pacific Islands region.  First, the combined total land area of the 14 Pacific Island Countries [PICs], namely Cook Is., Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, PNG, Marshall Is., Samoa, Solomon Is., Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, is 526,724 sq km [which is bigger than Spain, and a little smaller than France].

One of the most significant assets of the Pacific Island Countries is the size of their combined Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ- which amounts to 19,927,900 sq km.  This is slightly greater than the combined land mass of the USA and Canada.  The World Bank’s statistics suggest that this important asset is not being used to its full potential however, as the total combined GDP value of the 14 PICs is US$ 20 billion.  In contrast, New Zealand’s GDP, at US$ 142.48 billion, is 7 times bigger.  The most prosperous Pacific Island Country, measured in GDP per capita, is Palau, at US$ 8,730; whilst the least prosperous is the Solomon Islands at US$ 1,517.

These statistics put into perspective the factors that define the Pacific Islands concept of security, whether it be economic, geographical or political in nature. The Pacific Islands region, vulnerable in terms of its small size and relatively low level of development, yet possessing enormous untapped resources and a youthful population that can be educated for the global knowledge economy, is bordered by the world’s superpowers.  These larger nations, including the US, Russia, and China, all take considerable interest in what’s developing in this region.

Different Views of Security Threats

If I were to ask the room this evening to suggest 3 issues that you would consider to be significant threats to security in the Pacific Islands, it is likely that your collective list would be dominated by traditional security issues, such as superpower rivalry, terrorism, people smuggling, drug trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-crime, and internet fraud…

Were I to, at the same time, ask a group of Pacific Islanders which three threats to security are most pressing, I am sure that their answers would differ to yours.  This does not mean that the traditional threats you are likely to have mentioned do not feature or are unimportant; the Pacific Islands region does face, and manage, traditional threats to its security.  The active participation of the Pacific Small Island Developing States within the UN framework, and the positions we have taken on those issues in the global arena, are proof of our regional concerns relating to traditional security threats.

A group of your peers in the Pacific Islands might agree with your assessment of security threats in general, and over the long-term, and might note that the issues that dominate western thinking on security are most relevant to large, developed states in the short-term.  They would likely localise the discussion of “security”.  “Security”, as considered from the perspective of the governments on coral atolls or volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, features a wide mixture of issues.  Some of those factors, that I will now discuss, will be familiar to you, whilst others have not yet been considered widely outside the Pacific Islands region.

Traditional Security Threats

The Pacific regional security environment, which for simplicity’s sake I will consider since the early 1970s, when most of the PICs were gaining independence, has become increasingly complex and diverse. It has faced, and continues to be challenged by, traditional threats to security, including an increase in various types of transnational organised crime, internal conflicts and crises, which have threatened the stability of governments; the ever-present global threat of terrorism; governance challenges; and limited legal and law enforcement resources and capacity.

Consistent with global trends, transnational criminal activity has increased in the region. The emergence of a globalised economy, a huge growth in international trade, greater mobility of people and services, and advances in communications and information technologies have resulted in the Pacific region being more prone to the presence and activities of criminals and crime syndicates. Transnational crime includes the illegal movement of people, narcotics, wildlife and goods, as well as illicit financial transactions linked to money laundering.

Resources to address these security challenges are limited, and challenges are great.  The limited resources that Pacific Islands Countries have are good resources; by and large, the Pacific’s human resources are well-trained and supported by many generous international partners.  But resources are limited in number and in support.

Furthermore numerous instances of violent conflict, civil unrest, and political crisis have had serious consequences for internal stability and sustainable development in a number of Pacific Island Countries.  Stability is absolutely essential if gains are to be made in education and in health to support economic growth.  The reactions of development partners to internal security issues have varied widely, and this has had an impact on donor relations with Pacific Island Countries.

Traditional security threats described above are being managed by the Pacific Island Countries within existing regional infrastructure, which includes several regional agencies.  Given the region’s geopolitical importance, many donor countries are also involved in regional discussions of and management of security threats.
The regional security framework, which was developed by the region’s leaders as part of the mandate of the Pacific Islands Forum, and has been revised and enlarged over time, was primarily designed to ensure the cooperation of national law enforcement authorities with each other and to ensure a standard regional approach to security activities.

Significant security instruments, all of which continue to be used as the basis for discussions and decisions of a regional nature, include the 1992 Honiara Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation,  the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration on Regional Security Cooperation, the 2000 Biketawa Declaration, which relates to regional crisis management and conflict resolution initiatives.

Non-Traditional Security Threats

It is crucial however to consider other new and emerging threats to security; these are the threats that occupy the thinking of your peers in the South Pacific.  Non-traditional security issues, the most prominent of which is Climate Change, are dominating the agenda of governments of the Pacific Island region; resources are being spread thinly- perhaps too thinly- according to need.

The priority security issue in most Pacific Island countries now is human security.  The most prominent amongst these is the impacts of Climate Change on the continuing existence of Pacific Island societies in their current form and environment. Climate change threatens human security in the Pacific now- not in the next few decades, or ten years, but now.

Society and livelihoods are under threat, a threat that is so large and seemingly interminable that it is proving extremely difficult to manage. However, there are other threats to human security that are also competing for the attention and very limited funds available to Pacific Island governments.

Climate Change

Pacific island countries are bearing the brunt of the impacts of Climate Change. The tidal surges that are engulfing atoll nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are having an immediate impact on their livelihoods. Climate change will continue to impact on all aspects of Pacific life – the health of the oceans, including acidification and cleanliness, and the availability of fish in the sea; changing patterns of agricultural production and access to fresh water; and rising sea levels.

The region is acting collectively to effectively make its voice heard by the international community. But it will certainly need the support of- and funding from- the international community to find ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change. I applaud the EU for having provided eight million euros for a five-year research and adaptation project, working in fourteen countries, to conduct research on Climate Change, equip communities with knowledge and practical tools for adaptation, and train young Pacific Islanders to postgraduate level, so that the region has the human resourced required to formulate effective and enlightened policies.

The PSIDS Group in New York attempted, with the support of some EU countries, to place Climate Change on the agenda of the UNSC in 2012, but failed due to strong lobbying from some members of the UNSC.


Further impact of Climate Change is also evident on the fisheries resources that in some instances provide the only income to some island countries. Changes in sea temperatures have been reported to have forced the migration of marine life away from its natural grounds and have negatively impacted the growth and development of many marine creatures.
Given the huge EEZ of the Pacific Island region, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing fleets are taking much-needed income from the region and are also proved to be linked to other traditional security threats, such as people smuggling and drugs and weapons trafficking.

Health – HIV/AIDS and NCDs

Another relevant non-traditional security issue for the PICs can be found in the Health Sector. The spread of HIV and the rising incidence of NCDs, such as diabetes and strokes, are two threats to human security that are of increasing concern to Pacific Island Countries. These feature very prominently on government agendas primarily because very limited funds must be diverted to address these issues, both of which have a sustained negative impact on productive labour resources.

Who Determines Which Security Threats are Addressed?

It is clear that the variety of threats to security is staggering.  And resources are limited- I refer not just to limited funds, but to limited human resources to implement policies and carry out projects.  Pacific Islands need to have the space and support to prioritize for themselves which security issue in their own region need to be addressed.

Pacific Islanders have their own view of security threats and needs; their development partners, interested neighbours, and metropolitan powers interested in the region have another.  Like Japan’s renewable [solar] energy assistance programme currently being rolled out in rural Pacific communities. As much as is possible, there needs to be a meeting of the minds to deliver outcomes that will benefit the human security of Pacific Islanders whilst supporting a stable and crime-free region.

The regional security agenda has changed over time.  An examination of the regional security agenda discussed within regional organisations like the Pacific Islands Forum some ten years ago reveals that issues such as the development of legislation on aviation and maritime security, law and order training and the ratification and implementation of international and regional human rights and security related conventions dominated the agendas.

Whilst these may have been important to some developed members like Australia and NZ, they did not necessarily address the development needs of the PICs. This often led to accusations being levelled against Australia and NZ, and suggestions that they pursued a self-serving security agenda with relation to the Pacific Island countries. The example of Australia’s Pacific Solution to the issue of the illegal “boat people” migration from Indonesia comes to mind.

More recent discussions on regional security vary considerably in their focus.  Non-traditional security issues, such as Climate Change, are still being viewed from the perception of the metropolitan powers, however, and do not address the needs of the Pacific Islands. There is a general perception, amongst Pacific Island peoples, that their immediate development needs are not being addressed in favour of longer-term human security issues.  There is growing dissatisfaction over the lack of infrastructural development and the provision of basic public services like health, water, education. And when one adds growing unemployment figures, rising costs of food and their corresponding negative impacts on living standards, the result can be worrying. The 2006 riots in Tonga and Solomon Islands were said to be indicative of the growing frustrations of the population with the lack of tangible benefits from development on the islands.

It is a common assumption that, in this day of globalisation and modern information technology, we share the same understanding of important issues like security.  This is believed to be particularly true when we are speaking in terms of geographical proximity.  That is a common misconception- there is a marked difference in viewpoints between the PICs and its more affluent Pacific neighbours.  This misconception often leads to the “misunderstandings” that have marred the partnerships between the PICs and neighbouring metropolitan powers.  Some have even argued that it has led to increasing engagement with China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

How Security Concerns have contributed to the Pacific’s Closer Relations with China

To most Pacific Island leaders, adopting a “Look North” policy anchored on improved and closer relations with China was an inevitable progression. PICs have for years been warned by metropolitan neighbours of China’s “questionable security intent” in the region.

However, after three decades of interacting with the Chinese leadership, marked by high level visits to China by Pacific Island leaders, Pacific Island Countries have come to recognise in China a valuable and sincere development partner. The then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Fiji in 2006 and held a meeting with 10 other PICs leaders in a development-focused meeting aimed at strengthening the “China-PICs Cooperative Partnership” in all sectors of development.

China stepped in when other western development partners, such as the US and the UK, withdrew.  Australia did not adequately fill the vacuum that was created- or one can say that they did not do it as effectively as the Chinese.

The increasing involvement of both China and the US in the region is hard to ignore.  It seems that Washington has ramped up its presence and involvement in response to China’s increasing activities and influence.  The attendance of the US Secretary of State at the PIF Leaders Meeting in 2012- never before had such a high-ranking American official visited the region- was a clear confirmation of Washington’s realization that it must be more involved in the Pacific Islands or risk losing its influence entirely.  It is interesting that Mrs Clinton was beaten to the islands by a multitude of senior Chinese Government officials- including Xi Jinping, who will assume China’s presidency this month.

To Pacific Islanders this renewed interest by the US is welcomed.  China is also a valuable “development partner” that has demonstrated its active support in addressing non-traditional security issues.  Access to the Chinese Exim Bank loans is providing much needed infrastructure development for economic development in the islands.  And China is trading more with the region and contributing to economic growth in the process.
But one lesson that the PICs have learnt from its engagement with China, India, Indonesia in its “look north policy” is the importance of the word partnership. Particularly, partnership based on mutual respect, which was evidently lacking at the 2007 meeting of Pacific Island leaders with the than US Secretary of State , Ms Condoleezza Rice in Washington, where she was reported “to have appeared only for a 10 minutes photo opportunity” with Pacific Island leaders who have travelled thousands of miles for that meeting. The changes in five years- from that photo opportunity to Mrs Clinton’s trip to Rarotonga- are quite remarkable.


Bridging the difference in the perception of security threats is fundamental to effectively ensuring the future security of the Pacific Islands. The Pacific Islands region must accept that the interests of its donors and superpowers will at times dictate what security activities they prioritize and fund.  However, interested foreign “development partners” must engage from a position of respect and understanding with Pacific Island Countries, and realize that they will always need to prioritize human security, as limited funds mean that the most pressing issues must be addressed.  Once Western countries understand this, they will understand why the Pacific Islands have sought closer ties with Asia in their pursuit of “security” in the Pacific Island sense.
The Pacific Islands region will do well to engage productively with both superpowers.

The US and China to Pacific Islanders represent the two sides of the same coin. And the Pacific Island region geographically is big enough to accommodate all of our development partners including the EU. It is in everyone’s interests to safeguard fisheries, limit and manage the impacts of Climate Change, and reduce transnational crime.

Improved health and educational outcomes, which can be supported with foreign aid, will contribute to socioeconomic stability in the island countries.  This stability is what all involved wish to see. One thing is indisputable.  To Pacific Islanders, Climate Change is not a distant concept or an emerging threat.  It is a threat today; when villagers have no fresh water because it has not rained for months, when they cannot plant because the soil has too much salt, when roads are washed away by “King tides”, they see Climate Change.

It is the greatest threat to human security in the Pacific.  So China and the US can jostle for position, and fund security initiatives and development projects, but the biggest contribution they can make to security in the region is to acknowledge their own role in and responsibility for Climate Change.  They can help Pacific Islanders, who are most affected- and who are affected now.

Club Em Designs

Sunday, January 27, 2013

X-Post: Island Business - Reconfiguring Regionalism in the Pacific

by Nic Maclellan

Last month, Sir Mekere Morauta launched a new website, calling for public submissions into his review of the Pacific Plan. Over the next eight months, the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister will lead a team around the region to look at the plan, which is supposed to set priorities for key regional institutions—the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the other members of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP).

According to the Forum’s Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the review will be “an ambitious scope of work that will involve leaders, officials, and a range of non-state actors from across the region in assessing past performance and mapping out a path ahead.” As a framework for regional co-ordination, the Pacific Plan grew out of a 2004 Forum Eminent Persons Group, which called for a new vision for Pacific regionalism.

However, the resulting policy framework—the 2005 Pacific Plan—was one of the least visionary documents to appear in recent years. It was widely criticised for down-playing issues of culture and gender, and its recommendations often reflected the existing agenda of regional intergovernmental bodies. Morauta’s review comes at a time when there is widespread debate about regional institutions as Pacific governments and communities face a complex range of international challenges.

The regional agenda has broadened, with significant pressures on the region’s institutional architecture. Looking to the year ahead, there are a number of challenges: elections in key states; debates over Fiji’s transition to parliamentary elections in 2014; the challenge of integrating the remaining Pacific territories into Forum activities; and deadlines to review the Millennium Development Goals and regional frameworks on climate, trade and other issues. But just as the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? How can churches, women’s groups, customary leaders and young people carry their voice into the regional structures?

Reviewing the Forum 

In recent years, there has been quiet—and not so quiet—criticism of the Forum Secretariat, suggesting that it is not fully engaging with the needs of member states. A comprehensive review of the Forum Secretariat last year by Peter Winder of New Zealand;Tessie Lambourne of Kiribati; and Kolone Vaai of Samoa highlighted competition between CROP member agencies and made a series of recommendations on reforming the Secretariat’s structure, leadership and priorities.

Last August in Rarotonga, Forum leaders deferred action on the Forum Secretariat’s review, agreeing that its recommendations be rolled into the wider review of the Pacific Plan. But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). For many years, the Small Islands States have caucused before Forum leaders meetings and issued communiques on their particular concerns.

In the Northern Pacific, the Micronesian Chief Executives meetings are slowly expanding, with talk of a new secretariat. Last year also saw the first meeting of the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG). The idea of a Polynesian bloc within the Forum has been floating around for decades—as France’s Secretary of State for the Pacific in 1986-1988, Gaston Flosse, tried to create a Polynesia sub-group in an attempt to blunt the MSG’s solidarity work with the FLNKS independence movement in New Caledonia.

Now, Samoa has taken the lead, driven in part by Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s very public disdain for the Bainimarama regime in Fiji. The Polynesian nations are also seeking to develop common fisheries policies, with the New Zealand-supported Te Vaka Moana initiative, at a time when the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) nations and Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are perceived to be driving regional policy. At the PLG meeting in Apia last year, there were also invitees from Hawai’i, Rapanui and Aotearoa—the far-flung inhabitants of the Polynesian triangle. Will indigenous peoples living with constrained sovereignty form a stronger part of this new regional network?

PACP and regional trade 

Over the next year, long-running debates over regional trade policy will reach a new tempo. In a major change last November, leaders of the Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group (PACP) agreed that Fiji should re-join the fold. All countries of the PACP Group will now participate in all meetings relating to PACP. In a significant shift, Papua New Guinea has offered to host the secretariat of the PACP Leaders meeting—until now, administrative and support services for the PACP have been provided by the Forum Secretariat.

After a battle with the Forum Secretariat over trade policy, the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila already hosts the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA). Trade policy has led to extensive critiques of the Forum in recent years, amid perceptions of excessive Australian influence in Suva (not helped when the Forum’s Director of Economic Governance Roman Grynberg was replaced by AusAID’s former trade adviser Chakriya Bowman between 2007 and 2011). Just as OCTA was established to provide independent advice and support in the negotiations of PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, the new PACP Secretariat will eventually provide an alternative source of trade policy advice, especially for negotiations with the European Union (EU).

For years, the Forum has been discussing a comprehensive regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. But the EPA is in trouble, more than five years after it was supposed to be finalised. Once again in 2013, the European Union looks unlikely to seriously address key Pacific concerns in the trade negotiations such as labour mobility and market access for fresh and frozen fish. Inter-islands trade through PICTA has been slow to get off the ground, but the PACER-Plus and EPA processes have largely failed to create innovative trade and development linkages.

The European Commission has a long way to go to engage SIDS leaders, according to Niue Premier Toke Talagi: “There is a degree of frustration on our part at the fact that this agreement has not been signed. There is also suspicion on our side that they may be trying too hard to get all that they want, and there is no degree of compromise in the arrangements we need to put in place.” The revitalisation of PACP in 2013 and new sub-regional initiatives are showing more promise. This year, the MSG Trade Agreement will take on a new life after Papua New Guinea agreed to reduce duties on almost all of its protected goods. PNG’s notoriously protectionist business community now recognise the need for more regional support to enhance the LNG boom with small but growing investment from Fiji.

New spaces to talk 

There are other signs of sub-regional networking. With the signing of an MOU between Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the MSG Skills Movement Scheme is slowly getting off the ground at a time when Australia and New Zealand are focused on seasonal worker programmes. In the education sector, Fiji National University (FNU) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) are discussing extending their operations beyond existing Forum islands countries, to include Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation with Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. Through the Fiji Volunteer Service, the first 12 teachers headed off to the Marshall Islands last September.

Nick Maclellan

" [A]s the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? [...]
But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)[...]
Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy[...]
Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies [...] "
Former USP economist Dr Wadan Narsey has noted that Papua New Guinea and Fiji’s role in the region’s economic and political life is significant, telling Radio Australia: “The Forum Secretariat is very seriously in danger of being marginalised in the Pacific. I think to some extent when you look at the recent re-admission of Fiji to the Pacific-ACP negotiations, in a way that is a symptom of the fact that the Melanesian countries are not going to allow one of their own to be marginalised from regional and international trade negotiations.”

The Forum is deeply rooted in regional frameworks and has become a focal point for international engagement—highlighted by recent visits to the Forum leaders’ meetings from Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary Clinton, Juan Manuel Barroso and other international dignitaries. But just as islands leaders stepped out of the South Pacific Commission in 1971 to create a forum where they felt free to talk politics, Pacific islands leaders are again seeking spaces where they can address their concerns and visions, without the major powers setting the agenda.

To create a new venue for governments and civil society to meet outside the Forum, Fiji’s Voreqe Bainimarama initiated the “Engaging with the Pacific” meetings in 2010. This year, these meetings will evolve into a new Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). The PIDF will extend debates about “green growth”, the Pacific Conference of Churches’ “Rethinking Oceania” proposals and work on alternative development indicators, such as “Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia” (the 2012 pilot study produced by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office and other government and community representatives).

Over time however, it will be worth watching to see if the PIDF becomes the venue for inter-islands dialogue without Australia and New Zealand in the room (along with all the other official Forum observers like the World Bank, the ADB, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations etc). After the 2012 Rio+20 conference, there’s plenty of work to do this year on environment and development—especially as the Pacific will host the Third Global Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Nauru’s President Sprent Arumogo Dabwido has said that “Rio infused new energy into making the islands a model for sustainable development by agreeing to convene the Third Global Conference on SIDS.” But the latest global climate negotiations in Doha have put a damper on hopes for urgent action on global warming. Before the Doha summit, President Dabwido noted: “It is revealing just how much our ambition to address this crisis has been downscaled in just three years. Copenhagen was the conference to save the world. Cancun was the conference to save the process. Durban, it seems, was the conference to save the rest for later.”

Fiji’s foreign affairs 

This year will be a major test for the Bainimarama regime as Forum member countries monitor its progress towards a new Constitution and free and fair elections in 2014. On the domestic front, Fiji faces severe problems, with the declining sugar sector, ongoing rural and urban poverty and the damaging effects of cyclones and flooding.

The Bainimarama regime is widely condemned for harassment of trade union leaders and restrictions on union rights. Relations with the independent commission to develop a new Fiji Constitution have been fraught. But on the international stage, the post-coup regime in Fiji has begun to transform the country’s foreign policy. In the last few years, Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy. The signs are everywhere.

In April 2011, Fiji joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in recent years has established diplomatic relations with a range of key developing nations—from Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, to Iran, Cuba, North Korea—and, of course, China. Passing through Beijing last year, Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated: “We appreciate China’s position on South-South co-operation and its decision to provide funding to Fiji through bilateral mechanisms and not through the Pacific Islands Forum’s Cairns Compact. “This funding option is more effective and really addresses the real needs of the people.”

Not everyone is sure these changes will last. In a December 2012 essay in the journal Security Challenges, Fiji historian Brij Lal argues that “these are short-sighted and eventually counterproductive diplomatic games Fiji is playing with no serious expectation of any far-reaching benefits.” Lal, one of the co-authors of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution, says: “Perhaps all these new initiatives will be allowed quietly to relapse once Fiji returns to parliamentary democracy,and once no benefits are seen to derive from them.” However, there is evidence that Fiji’s role in the Group of Asia and Pacific Small Islands Developing States at the United Nations is coming up with results.

Last September, Fiji was nominated by the UN’s Asia-Pacific group to chair the “Group of 77 and China” for the duration of 2013. This is the first time in nearly 50 years a Pacific country has led this developing country network (with 132 members, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations.) In part, Fiji’s diplomatic tensions with Canberra and Wellington are driving its links to China and the developing world. But they are also a reflection of emerging strategic shifts on a global scale, at a time when China, India, Korea and other countries are transforming global economics and politics.

New friends 

Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies. Seeking to link Pacific states with the dynamism of Asia, many Forum member countries are looking north (indeed, last October, the Gillard government released the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper, a road map showing “how Australia can be a winner in the Asian century”.)

At the 2012 Cooks’ Forum, Premier Talagi of Niue told the Chinese news agency Xinhua: “From Niue’s perspective, we’re very happy that China’s in the Pacific. I don’t believe that China’s incursions into the Pacific should be seen as a negative thing. I see it as a very positive thing and I have also heard US President Obama say the same thing.” As we move into 2013, new leaders in Beijing and Tokyo will review their policies towards the region (though the conservative Shinzo Abe government in Japan, elected in December 2012, will likely turn back the clock on nuclear and fisheries policies).

The United States too is turning to the Asia-Pacific region, with the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot, including the Forum Islands countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won plaudits for her appearance at the 2012 Forum leaders meeting (although she will leave the post in 2013, with Senator John Kerry the front runner as her replacement). Beyond the obvious delight of Forum islands leaders that the United States is paying attention again, there are still a number of issues where there are fundamental policy differences with Washington, on climate change, decolonisation, maritime boundaries and the renewal of a key tuna deal with the islands.

The Obama administration has yet to persuade the US Congress to increase compensation for the health and environmental impacts of 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs tested at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands—an issue that will be high on the agenda when Majuro hosts the Forum leaders’ meeting later this year.

Integrating the territories 

Since its founding in 1971, Forum membership has been limited to Australia, New Zealand and the independent islands nations. In contrast, other CROP agencies like SPREP and SPC include all the countries and territories as well as colonial powers like France and the United States. In the original 2005 Pacific Plan, the status of the non-self-governing territories was largely ignored, with action plans relegated to the footnotes.

This silence on decolonisation is belied by the steady integration of the remaining French and US Pacific colonies into Forum activities. After the 1998 Noumea Accord, New Caledonia and then French Polynesia gained observer status at the Forum. Both were upgraded to associate members at the 2006 meeting in Apia, where Wallis and Futuna was also introduced as an observer. In Auckland in 2011, the Forum also gave approval for the US dependencies—the territories of Guam and American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the North Marianas—to obtain observer status. They attended the Forum meeting for the first time in Rarotonga last year. The names are different—associate member, special observer, observer—but fundamentally the US and French dependencies are all in the room (apart from the annual leaders retreat).

This trend will continue in the coming year, but the renewed engagement across colonial boundaries opens new debates about the criteria for full membership of the Forum. As the team led by PNG’s Morauta conducts its review of the Pacific Plan over next year, the long-term status of the territories remains a difficult issue.

Last year, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs Richard Marles told ISLANDS BUSINESS that Australia now supported New Caledonia becoming a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, even before the French colony makes a final decision on its political future after 2014. Marles said: “We would support New Caledonia’s full membership of the Forum now, in terms of Australia’s position.

But in saying that, we acknowledge that we’re just one member and for New Caledonia to become a full member of the Forum, it may need to win the support of the majority of Forum members. “My observation is that they’re a fair way off doing that at the moment…We see that New Caledonia is an important member of the Pacific family and that full membership of the Forum is supported by all political elements in New Caledonia, as it is supported by France itself.”

For many people, it’s timely that the US and French territories are now closer to the Forum, which remains the key inter-governmental organisation concerned with political and security issues in the region. But as barriers to participation at Forum events are lowered, does this mean that the region still supports the call for self-determination amongst indigenous communities in Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and beyond? Or will improving regional ties with France and the United States re-affirm the colonial status quo?

A year for the French Pacific

The call for self-determination and independence will again be highlighted this year if Oscar Temaru, the current President of French Polynesia, is re-elected in the March 2013 elections. The MSG will also hold its annual leaders meeting in New Caledonia in mid-2013, with the FLNKS taking up the rotating chair of the Melanesian bloc at a crucial time (elections for New Caledonia’s Provincial Assemblies and Congress in 2014 will determine the balance of forces for any subsequent decision on the territory’s future political status, scheduled between 2014-2018).

Last August, at the same time Clinton was attending the Forum meeting in Rarotonga, Fiji’s Foreign Kubuabola was in Tehran, attending the 16th summit of the NAM. Recognising Fiji’s role on the UN Special Committee for Decolonisation, the summit communique stated: “The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia—Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).”

A month after the Rarotonga Forum, the leaders of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia’s right to self-determination, explicitly called for action on decolonisation. As Samoa celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand, Samoa’s Tuilaepa told the UN General Assembly: “Half a century later, there still remain territories today even in our Pacific region where people have not been able to exercise their right of self-determination. “In the case of French Polynesia, we encourage the metropolitan power and the territory’s leadership together with the support of the United Nations to find an amicable way to exercise the right of the people of the territory to determine their future.”

French Polynesia’s President Temaru will continue to seek support from Pacific states for French Polynesia’s bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, even though the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum re-affirmed the Australian and New Zealand position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Papeete. Given the Forum’s policy, the MSG will play an increasing role on this issue. The MSG sent a mission to New Caledonia in July 2012 to monitor the progress of the implementation of the Noumea Accord, and subsequently establish an FLNKS Unit within the MSG Secretariat, to act on initiatives that in the past were undertaken by the Forum Secretariat.

The commemoration of the MSG’s 25th anniversary, to be held in New Caledonia in June, symbolises the links across colonial boundaries. The issue of nationalism and statehood across Melanesia will soon be bumped up the regional agenda by a coincidence of events. After Congressional elections in 2014, New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on its political status between 2014-2018.

At the same time Bougainville is coming to the end of its 10-year autonomy transition under an autonomous government. As well as New Caledonia, Fiji and Indonesia are scheduled to hold elections in 2014—with both countries vital for the future of Melanesian stability. By 2015, countries must decide whether to sign on to a global climate treaty, and the development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals. This year is a time for reflection and review – and after that, there’s a lot to do.

Source: Islands Business

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

G77 Group Executive Secretary's Press Conference on Fiji.

Press Conference at Fiji Government Building by Mr Mourad Ahmia - Executive Secretary of G77 Group, the largest group of nations within the U.N. Mr Ahmia touched on the changing leadership and the 2013 agenda of the group. Ahmia further expressed confidence in Fiji in chairing the group and pledged his support. (Video posted below)

Fiji's Permanent Representative to the U.N, Peter Thompson addressed the Press Conference and outlined some background and explained the genesis of Fiji's decision to chair the G77 group. (Video posted below)

Club Em Designs

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

X-Post: IPS - Fiji’s Leadership of G77 a ‘Rare Opportunity’ for the Pacific.

Source: Inter Press Service 

BRISBANE, Oct 15 2012 (IPS) - For the first time in 48 years, a Pacific Small Island Developing State (PSIDS) is gearing up to assume chairmanship of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China.

In 2013, the Republic of Fiji – located between Vanuatu and Tonga in the South Pacific and currently under a military government led by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama – will take leadership of the largest intergovernmental coalition within the United Nations, replacing the incumbent chair, Algeria.
“Fiji’s election to the Chair of the Group of 77 and China (G77) for 2013 demonstrates the international community’s (confidence in us) to preside over the 132-member organisation in its endeavour to advance international matters that are of great importance to all developing countries,” Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, told IPS.

The G77 was formed in 1964 with 77 founding member states, representing a collective ambition by developing nations to advance their international voice and influence on world trade. Since then, the G77, now comprising 132 member states, has championed South-South cooperation as a key strategy to boost standards of living and economic fortunes in the global South.

Catherine Wilson

" Fiji’s chairmanship of the G77 will give the country’s leadership a chance to reach out to the rest of the region by way of consultation in order to make sure a regional voice can be heard on the international stage "

The intergovernmental group, which has identified the eradication of poverty as one of its greatest challenges, was also influential in developing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to a United Nations report last year, South-South cooperation has boosted development and investment between developing countries and is a formidable driver of economic growth.  Between 1990 and 2008 world trade expanded four-fold, while South-South trade multiplied more than 20 times.

Fiji’s rising role

Fiji’s new role within the U.N. was confirmed at the G77 foreign ministers’ meeting in New York on Sep. 28. The island state, with a population of about 868,000 spread over more than 330 islands, has an economy dominated by the sugar and tourism industries, as well as the highest national human development ranking within the Pacific sub-region of Melanesia.

However, an ongoing struggle for political power between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians – descendants of nineteenth century Indian immigrant labourers – has fuelled four military coups since 1987. During the most recent one in 2006, Bainimarama, commander of Fiji’s military forces, took over the presidency and dissolved parliament in an alleged attempt to stifle corruption. His declared aim is to reform the race-based electoral system and draft a new constitution, following nationwide consultations, ahead of planned democratic elections in 2014. But Fiji’s refusal to hold democratic elections by 2010 led to international sanctions and its suspension in 2009 from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional intergovernmental group of independent and self-governing states.

The government of Fiji currently receives significant economic aid and political support from China.  It also remains politically engaged in the South-west Pacific as an active member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an intergovernmental group comprising Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Nikunj Soni, board chair of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP), an independent regional think tank based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, told IPS that with the emergence of a range of advocacy platforms, such as the MSG and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Pacific Islands Forum was no longer the sole organisation through which the islands could coordinate a voice.

“Fiji’s chairmanship of the G77 will give the country’s leadership a chance to reach out to the rest of the region by way of consultation in order to make sure a regional voice can be heard on the international stage,” Soni told IPS. “The Pacific will have a rare opportunity to represent itself on the global stage…”
This is becoming increasingly important for the Pacific Islands as neighbouring superpowers like China and the U.S. set their sights on the archipelago as a crucial geo-strategic location.

China is increasing its investment and presence in the islands, while the U.S. has made moves to renew its engagement with the Pacific region in areas ranging from aid to security, and has deepened defence ties with Australia. The Pacific Islands are also rich in mineral, forest and marine resources. The PIPP emphasised that increasing the region’s international voice on issues of security and resource management in the context of climate change was a top priority.

“With the Pacific Ocean covering half of the world’s ocean area and one third its total surface area, the region contains some of the largest unexploited natural resources and some of the most climate vulnerable nations on earth,” Soni explained. “It remains important that small island developing states are not used by larger powers as proxies for their own geopolitical battles. At the same time, we must be able to protect our natural resources for the benefit of our own peoples.”

The global influence of the G77 will only increase as developing countries, especially Brazil, China and India, emerge as the new leaders of world economic growth. According to this year’s U.N. global economic outlook, developing countries will grow an average of 5.9 percent in 2013, while developed countries are likely to average only 1.9 percent growth.

But this year’s G77 Ministerial Meeting in New York also highlighted many challenges ahead for the coalition of developing nations, including the impact of the global financial crisis on world trade, food security, the fight against poverty, technology transfers and efforts to combat the severe effects of climate change.
“More recently, the G77 has taken on negotiating positions in areas of climate change and sustainable development, the two areas which PSIDS focuses on in New York,” Kubuabola stated.
“These are the two areas Fiji wishes to place emphasis on to ensure that the interests of all developing countries, including those of PSIDS, are effectively addressed.”

During a speech at the G77 meeting in September, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for economic and social affairs, Wu Hongbo, pointed out that the G77 also had an influential role to play in drafting the global Sustainable Development Goals, one outcome of the Rio+20 Earth Summit held in Brazil in June.


Club Em Designs