Samoa is in the spotlight this week as the nation welcomes leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum descending upon Samoa for the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting.
The President of French Polynesia, Tagaloa Eduard Fritch, was among the first leaders to touch down at Faleolo International Airport yesterday.
He was immediately ushered to Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel in Apia where he is staying. Tagaloa will be joined in Samoa by other senior Pacific leaders including Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gerry Brownlee.
The Sunday Samoan understands Mr. Brownlee is expected to represent New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Leuluaiali’iotumua Bill English, who is unlikely to be able to attend because of the General Election.
A Vice Minister from China is scheduled to lead China’s delegation, the Sunday Samoan has been told, while the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Susan Thornton, is leading the U.S. government‘s delegation.
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, is also expected to attend.
The pre-Forum programme starts with the Smaller Island States Leaders Meeting tomorrow before the official opening on Tuesday evening at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
The meeting ends with the Leaders Retreat at the Taumeasina Island Resort on Friday. The theme of this year’s meeting is “The Blue Pacific.”
Speaking to a group of media representatives yesterday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi highlighted the importance of the meeting in terms of “putting the Blue Pacific at the Centre of Policy making.”
“By the sheer fact of our geography, such as trends associated with shifts in the centres of global power, this places the Pacific at the centre of contemporary global geopolitics,” Tuilaepa said.
“Embracing this as a unique opportunity in the history of the region, The Blue Pacific provides a new narrative for Pacific regionalism and how the Forum engages with the world.
“This new narrative calls for inspired leadership by the Forum and a long-term commitment to the benefits of acting together as one Blue Continent, has the potential to define a Blue Pacific economy, ensures a sustainable, secure, resilient and peaceful Blue Pacific as well as strengthens Blue Pacific Diplomacy to protect the value of our Ocean and peoples
“Implementing The Blue Pacific will require a ‘whole of Forum’ commitment to the benefits of acting together as one Blue Continent. Above all else, it will require a different way of working together that prioritises The Blue Pacific as the core driver of Forum policy making and collective action. The Forum political dialogue needs to be informed by The Blue Pacific, which in turn supports Forum actions in a manner that empowers the region.”
According to Tuilaepa, concept of the Blue Pacific is not new.
“In 1949, Albert Norman – writing in the wake of the establishment of the South Pacific Commission – wrote, “the trends of powerful national policies, originating outside the region, beset the desire of Oceanic peoples to improve their over-all economy.
“It will be the task of the South Pacific Commission to find means of resolving such problems and to activate latent economic resources and so promote the social reclamation of the world’s seventh ‘continent’ and its people”.
“A first step towards ‘reclamation’ would be to overlook the divisions and restore the essential regional viewpoint and unity.”
Tuilaepa also highlighted the importance of the ocean, saying it is crucial to survival.
“Exercising a sense of common identity and purpose linked to the ocean has been critical for protecting and promoting the potential of our shared Pacific Ocean. It is this commonality of the fundamental essence of the region which has the potential to empower the region through collective and combined agendas and actions.
“The Blue Pacific will strengthen the existing policy frameworks that harness the ocean as a driver of a transformative socio-cultural, political and economic development of the Pacific. This approach also gives renewed impetus to deepening Pacific regionalism.”
The Prime Minister also spoke about the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, endorsed by Leaders in 2014, highlighting a number of regional activities such as:
• The Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy endorsed in 2002 promotes “sustainable development, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Pacific region” through five guiding principles based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
• The Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape endorsed in 2010 catalyses regional action and initiatives covering an area of approximately 40 million square kilometres of ocean and island ecosystems as well as strengthens the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy
• Forum Leaders have collectively promoted peace and security within our shared ocean space. Most notable in this regard, is the establishment of the Rarotonga Treaty in 1985 in which Leaders emphasized ownership of the bounty and beauty of the land and sea in the Pacific region and in doing so, asserted their shared ocean geography to establish a nuclear free zone across the South Pacific
• While Oceans diplomacy has also been a key feature of the Forum’s engagement internationally, wherein Forum members’ leadership and advocacy for a Sustainable Development Goal on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their marine resources – SDG 14 is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda
• The preparatory committee process relating to Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) and advocacy to consider the strong links between the Ocean and Climate under the UNFCCC – could be seen as the hallmarks of a renewed, invigorated interest and commitment by Forum member states to recover their traditional stewardship of the Blue Pacific.
• Fisheries continue to be an integral part of the region’s ocean policies. In 2007 Leaders’ endorsed the “Vava’u Declaration on Pacific Fisheries Resources: Our Fish, Our Future”. In 2015, Leaders, under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism called for regional, priority action, to increase economic returns from the region’s shared fisheries resources, endorsed the Fisheries Roadmap as well as emphasized coastal fisheries for the sustainable management of coastal fisheries resources that are critical for the wellbeing, livelihoods, and resilience of Pacific Peoples in 2016.