Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, led the Samoan delegation to the first standing meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji, last week.
She was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peseta Noumea Simi.
A key objective of the meeting was to build on the work already done by the Forum Officials Committee and the Specialist Sub Committee on Regionalism to present a streamlined and prioritised agenda for Forum Leaders that supports the objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Foreign Ministers described the meeting as a way of bringing greater focus to the topics that require genuine regional action and integration and expressed a desire to help shape the regional political agenda.
Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management
Improving and increasing regional cooperation around disaster risk management and responding to the adverse effects of climate change were a central area of discussion, as was simplified access to climate finance.
Ministers reflected on the successful efforts in Paris at the U.N.F.C.C.C C.O.P. 21 in December 2015 as a clear example of the power of cooperation and what can be achieved when Forum countries work together.
They agreed that ratification of the Paris Agreement, and prioritising the implementation of key obligations under the Agreement, are two objectives that Pacific countries must continue to push for both within the region and internationally. They also reiterated the need for a united Pacific voice at the upcoming U.N.F.C.C.C C.O.P. 22 negotiations to be held in Marrakesh in November.
There was agreement on the need for coordinated regional actions on climate change and disaster risk management to ensure resilient sustainable development. Ministers encouraged Leaders to endorse the draft Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (F.R.D.P): an integrated approach to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.
There was broad recognition of the need for an effective and engaged Pacific Resilience Partnership to be established as climate resilient growth becomes an important area of focus.
Ministers observed that a positive shift had occurred, with the business sector now being more engaged, and pointed out that business will be a powerful driver of success in this area into the future.
The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (R.A.M.S.I.) which will conclude by 30th June 2017 was acknowledged as a shining example of Pacific diplomacy and cooperation. Ministers congratulated the Government and people of Solomon Islands on the hard work and the achievements over the last thirteen years, and thanked all who have participated and contributed to RAMSI.
The need for genuine and durable partnerships was discussed by Ministers who acknowledged that having a unified Pacific voice at international gatherings would further develop opportunities for the greater good of the region.
Ministers noted that the recommendations of the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism (S.S.C.R.) to Leaders consisted of a combination of existing and expanded 2015 priorities, as well as three new initiatives identified through the 2016 call for submissions - relating to regional mobility and harmonisation of business practice, coastal fisheries, and a framework for the rights of persons with disabilities.
Foreign Ministers discussed progress that has been made in implementing the 2015 Leaders’ decisions around increasing the economic benefits of fisheries, engaging with Indonesia over allegations of human rights violations, reducing the burden of cervical cancer, and effectively coordinating ICT services.
Ministers commended the work done on the Economic Returns Work Programme for Fisheries and on the Monitoring Control and Surveillance Evaluation Report and were pleased to refer them onto Leaders for endorsement.
West Papua (Papua)
Ministers discussed the proposals tabled through the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism around West Papua (Papua). They reiterated the importance of upholding human rights across the region and also the need for continued engagement with Indonesia on this issue.
Ministers agreed on the importance of Leaders giving the issue of cervical cancer high level visibility noting the advances that have been made since they began advocating for action around it last year. They agreed that Health Ministers should now take carriage of national policies relating to reducing the burden of cervical cancer and encouraged Members to avail themselves of the existing bulk procurement programme managed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.), in order to facilitate equitable access and benefits across the Region.
Ministers supported the idea of the relevant national ministers taking control of national level policy responses around I.C.T. and encouraged closer work with the expanded I.C.T. Regional Working Group.
There was heartfelt appreciation expressed to the Government of Fiji for the hospitality accorded to the meeting and congratulations were warmly offered to Fiji on winning a gold medal in rugby 7s at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum will meet in Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia between the 7th and 11th of September.