High Commission in Samoa part of new British leader's Pacific "uplift"

The foreign policy of Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson will see its diplomatic presence in the region "double", with three new High Commissions including in Samoa, a UK diplomat says. 

Samoa’s British High Commission on Cross Island Road will open in November and have four local staff and local contractors for facilities work. The new resident High Commissioner is scheduled to arrive in early December.

New High Commissions are also scheduled for Tonga and Vanuatu, which will join the existing British diplomatic presence in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. (High Commission staff in Fiji will also double to accommodate a new focus on oceans and development). 

“The U.K’s Pacific Uplift was devised under Boris Johnson, when he was Foreign Secretary," said Auckland-based Deputy High Commissioner Rob Contractor. “Now that he is P.M, we expect this effort to go from strength to strength."

The Uplift will see the new Foreign & Commonwealth Minister for Asia Pacific, Heather Wheeler, attend the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Tuvalu next week.

She hopes to hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi, Mr. Contractor said. 

Last month, High Commissioner to Samoa Laura Clarke said “for good or ill,” the United Kingdom and the Pacific are united through Captain Cook, and the British Empire.

“Whatever we may think of the Empire and its legacy, the ties that are left are strong,” she said, in a public talk at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Auckland.

The focus for the renewed relationship between the U.K and Samoa will be decided on in consultations in the region, with not only the Pacific Islands but other partners in the region to “complement rather than duplicate” their work.

“So what is our focus? I don’t want to preempt the results of those consultations,” she said.

But I can say now that it is a given… our shared values, climate change and oceans will be at the heart of our agenda.”

Mr. Contractor was appointed in early June, and will be based in Auckland. He is also the Deputy Consul-General there.

He said he hopes to see a senior member of the British Government attend a formal opening of the High Commission in January 2020.

When last in Samoa, Ms. Clarke said the establishment of a new permanent presence for Britain is an exciting time for the two nations, who have “a huge amount that we can do together.”

Climate change will be a big focus in the region, with the U.K already contributing millions towards adaptation and mitigation projects.

It spent 1.2 million on the Pacific Nationally Determined Contributions (N.D.C.) Hub in Fiji, which should be operational early next year according to the N.D.C. Partnership.

Oceans, through the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, will be a top priority with particular attention to reducing plastic pollution and cruise ship marine waste, working with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (S.P.R.E.P) on its eight year action plan on the issue.

“We share a recognition that we live on a shared planet with finite, common resources that must be managed for the benefit of all: that we have a duty of guardianship, for our land and oceans,” Ms. Clarke said.

The U.K is also bidding to host the 26th meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2020.

“If successful – we will deliver a robust agenda to support the mitigation and adaptation challenges facing Small Island Developing States.

The nation has also committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, or “net zero” – an improvement from its previous target of 80 per cent by 2050, the BBC reports.

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