Pacific Island Forum summit postponed

The 51st Pacific Island Forum (P.I.F.) leaders’ meeting scheduled for August has been postponed due to COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold, according to the Government of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers said the two disasters and the uncertainty of the future of the pandemic were among the reasons for the decision, after advice from the National Task Force. 

Still eager to host the next meeting, Vanuatu is now hoping to talk to Fiji, due to host the 2021 meeting, to ask if they can host instead. It would have been the second time for the island nation to host the meeting after its first time in 2010. 

But if Fiji declines the country will wait for a new opportunity, according to the Vanuatu Daily Post. 

P.I.F. Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor did not respond to a request for comment. It is not yet known whether the leaders will meet virtually in place of the summit. 

At the announcement of Vanuatu as the host of the 2020 meeting, then Minister for Foreign Affairs and now leader of the opposition Ralph Regenvanu called out Australia, which was the centre of controversy at the 2019 meeting for its stance on climate change.

“As incoming Pacific Islands Forum chair, Vanuatu has a message for Australia: we ask that Australia prepares well ahead of the next forum meeting in 2020 and comes to the table ready to make real, tangible commitments on climate change.

“The Australian Prime Minister has had the opportunity to hear directly from Pacific Island leaders – he knows what we want. The Pacific wants real commitments on climate change […] because the Pacific faces a climate emergency, with real existential threats to the future of atoll nations.”

Mr. Regenvanu is also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee for P.I.F.

The theme was to be One Blue Pacific – “investing in a shared climate resilient future founded on human dignity and wellbeing.”

With a focus on climate change, oceans, and sustainable wellbeing, Vanuatu was expecting a throng of civil society, private sector and development partners to attend the summit.

It was also supposed to coincide with the nation’s 40th anniversary of independence. Vanuatu was the last Pacific country to gain independence in the 20th century.

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