Why regionalism matters
The people of the Pacific must benefit from the policies and initiatives by the Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat.
That’s the opinion of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor. She made the point during a pre-Forum media workshop held at S.P.R.E.P, Vailima.
It is organised by the Pacific Islands News Association (P.I.N.A.) and P.I.F.S.
Looking ahead at the Forum this week, the Secretary General shared about the importance of regionalism.
“I believe that the Framework for Pacific Regionalism has provided the platform for a reinvigorated regionalism over the last two and a half years. A regionalism that is increasingly inclusive, innovative, adaptive, and producing results,” she said.
“We now have a regional policy agenda that it is both focused and political.”
She said sustained and collective regional diplomacy around climate action from the Pacific was instrumental in getting the Paris Agreement signed and then ratified.
“The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, and the Pacific Resilience Partnership that will implement it, are ground-breaking world first regional initiatives that will guide our approach to addressing climate change and disaster risk management into the future."
“The Forum’s Smaller Island States have a new joint strategy that is focussed on addressing a handful of key issues that are mutually specific to their well-being and prosperity."
“P.A.C.E.R. Plus has been signed by 10 Countries, demonstrating ongoing commitment by Members to trade and economic integration as a driver of economic development.”
She spoke about the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (R.A.M.S.I.), which concluded in June.
“It is a shining example of regionalism at its best. When the Solomon Islands were in internal conflict, every country from the Pacific, no matter how small sent somebody in their capacity as a police officer to come and be part of the regional team that assisted Solomon Islands to rebuild itself, to maintain peace, to strengthen its own police force so that they could maintain law and order within their own community.”
She pointed out the spirit behind R.A.M.S.I. is one of ‘helpem fren’ and its something that she believes is thriving at the moment.
According to Dame Meg, there has been substantial cooperation across the region to influence and progress the Sustainable Development 2030 Agenda and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
“In particular, this year there has rightly been a concerted and collaborative focus on SDG14 and ocean management and conservation, because, as the Prime Minister of Samoa said at the Ocean Conference in New York in June – the Pacific “is the one natural assets that all our islands have in common, and in abundant supply."
The theme for this year’s Pacific Islands Forum “Blue Pacific” and according to Dame Meg, it’s a strong expression of Pacific regionalism.
“It’s about reclaiming that identity that we are ‘one oceanic continent’ – and that as Big Ocean Stewardship States we can do more together than we can alone. It encourages us to see the collective potential of harnessing the energy and opportunity that lie both above and below our Pacific Ocean."
“It is an empowering identity that can spur us to greater ambition when it comes to building the secure future our people pray for. It also puts forward a clear portrait of Pacific Regionalism that our people and partners can see and interact with.”
"The Pacific Leaders and the stakeholders will explore the myriad possibilities of the Blue Pacific as the week unfolds.”
Lastly, Dame Meg highlighted the importance of the media in shaping and sharing the story of the region’s collective efforts to ensure a healthy, safe, and prosperous environment, for all its people.
“This means engaging in ongoing dialogue and discussion with our many communities – from community and church groups, and business owners to non-government organizations, public servants and students,” she said.
“An independent, well informed, and passionate Pacific media can, and do provide an immensely valuable space for these conversations to take place.”
Dame Meg thanked the media for the work done in the past and encouraged to continue following the “regional” stories.
“Stories like managing the effects of climate change and disaster risk for our communities, growing the economic benefits that flow to our people from our fisheries, maintaining security, upholding human rights, promoting gender equality, and opportunity for those who are living with disability. These are stories that speak to a few of the biggest challenges facing our people today.”