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Angelo, Tony --- "Commentary on the Pacific Islands Forum 2010" [2010] NZYbkIntLaw 6; (2010) 8 New Zealand Yearbook of International Law 167

Last Updated: 10 August 2015


Tony Angelo*

I. Introduction

The 41st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting (PIF) was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, from 3 to 6 August 2010.

The meeting was attended by Heads of State and Governments of the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and the Republic of Vanuatu. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade represented Australia and the Minister for Planning and District Development represented Papua New Guinea. Solomon Islands and Tuvalu were represented by Special Envoys. New Caledonia and French Polynesia attended the formal session as Associate Members. Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations attended as Observers. It was decided that the World Bank Group would henceforth have official observer status.[1]

Pre-forum debates focused on a stocktaking of the achievements of the PIF. Those debates, especially concerning further and stronger implementation of the Pacific Plan and the Cairns Compact, continued at the Forum. In this context the Leaders adopted the Port Vila Declaration on Accelerating Progress on the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.[2]

The PIF meeting comprised the Smaller Island States (SIS) Leaders meeting[3]; the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) leaders meeting; PIF Formal Session; Forum Leaders Retreat and Post-Forum Dialogue Partners Meeting[4]..

The lead-up to the PIF was overshadowed by the issues with Fiji that led to its suspension in 2009 from Forum activities. The Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting (MSG) was scheduled to be held in Fiji in July 2010. The MSG chair rotates and Fiji was due to take it over at this year’s meeting. This occasion gave cause for Fiji to invite not only members of the MSG but also to include non-Melanesian countries. This “MSG Plus” meeting did not get the agreement of the members. The proposed meeting was also strongly criticised by the Australian government. To prevent the MSG meeting being used as an umbrella for other plans by Fiji, the group meeting was cancelled by the chair of the MSG, Vanuatu Prime Minister Natapei. He saw it as a contradiction of the MSG values and of the Paris Principles, to which the MSG was committed, that a leader without a democratic mandate should chair the Group.

Fiji then called another meeting naming it “Friends of Fiji”. The name of that summit changed twice – “Engaging Fiji” and finally to the more neutral “Engaging the Pacific”.. The meeting was attended by the leaders of Kiribati, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands and there were official representatives from Timor-Leste, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.

II. Pacific Plan

The Pacific Plan is now in its fifth year of operation. The Pacific Plan Annual Progress Report 2010 included as key achievements –
1. strengthened regional approaches to fisheries conservation and management;
2. a sub-regional shipping feeder service for the SIS of the central Pacific;
3. enhanced efforts to strengthen development cooperation and coordination by implementing key principles of aid effectiveness;
4. strengthened regional cooperation in the areas of audit and ombudsman services;5. progress on trade negotiations; and
6. development of frameworks for action on food security, energy security, and information communication technology.

Leaders reaffirmed the Pacific Plan priorities for 2010-2013 as adopted at last year’s Forum meeting and highlighted five key issues[5]
1. finalise the delineation of permanent maritime boundaries;[6]
2. sustainably increase the coverage of safe drinking water and basic sanitation services;
3. focus education efforts on increasing literacy and numeracy rates in selected Pacific island countries;

4. expand the definition of disaster risk management beyond climate change to be people focused;

5. recognise the seriousness of the lack of technical and managerial capacity in the power utilities area.

III. Climate Change

Forum Leaders discussed the mid-term review of the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change and its action plan, which provides an over-arching strategy to ensure that national and regional climate change initiatives are relevant and coherent.

Climate change is perhaps the most prominent issue for the PIF, with SIS such as Kiribati and Tuvalu facing the prospect of rising sea levels forcing their people off the land, and other nations facing flooding and increased cyclones. Australia and New Zealand are likely to come under pressure from the SIS to contribute more to helping those countries adapt or find options for relocation.

Substantial funding commitments are expected from the Copenhagen Accord. This prompted the SIS Leaders to consider the need to develop a robust arrangement to absorb and manage the influx of funds into the region in particular from the Accord.

The SIS Leaders adopted a set of principles to promote more effective coordination and implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.

IV. International Issues

A. Security

The Biketawa Declaration celebrated its 10th anniversary. It has been used to provide Forum assistance for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (R AMSI) and the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru and was the basis for the Forum’s responses to developments in Fiji since late 2006 including the eventual suspension of Fiji from participation in the Forum. The efforts of R AMSI were gratefully acknowledged by the Forum.

Also under this umbrella are the Pacific Partnerships for Development by which Australia provides increased development assistance to the signatories and, in return, Pacific partners commit to improve governance, enhance private sector development, increase investment in economic infrastructure and achieve better outcomes in health and education. At this Forum Australia signed Pacific Partnerships for Development with the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau and Samoa. Pacific Partnerships for Development have previously been signed with Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.[7]

B. Pacific and The European Union

The eighth meeting of the Pacific Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (PACP) Leaders was held in Port Vila immediately before the Forum. It discussed progress on European Union (EU) assistance through the European Development Fund (EDF) to the region as well as trade issues. Fiji was denied access to this meeting.

Three Financing Agreements were signed early this year under the EU’s 10th EDF Pacific Regional Indicative Programme for a total value of € 21.9 million:
1. € 4.7million – Deep sea minerals;
2. € 9 million – Scientific support for management of coastal and oceanic fisheries; and
3. € 8.2 million – Development of tuna fisheries.

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU is proceeding slowly. Fiji and Papua New Guinea initialled an interim EPA with the EU in

2007. Papua New Guinea signed it in July 2009, and Fiji signed in December 2009.

In February 2010, the Pacific EPA was submitted by the European Council to the European Parliament for the consent procedure. The EU requires any final agreement to be WTO-compatible. The EU suggestion that the EPA should employ the WTO dispute settlement procedure would raise serious problems for the non-WTO PACPs.[8]

C. Forum Secretariat Agreement

No progress has been made towards the bringing into force of the 2005 Agreement.

V. Conclusion

The next meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum is scheduled to be held in Auckland, New Zealand from 6-9 September 2011, immediately before the Rugby World Cup.

* Professor of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
1 “Forum Communiqué” (2010) Forty-First Pacific Islands Forum <http://www.tahiti-infos. com/attachment/217674/> at [77] [‘Forum Communiqué’].
2 Ibid at Annex 1.
3 The Smaller Island States meeting was attended by Leaders from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau. A special envoy of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu also attended the meeting. The Ulu o Tokelau attended as an observer.
4 Those participating in the Post-Forum Dialogue were Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and representatives of the European Union. The 18th Taiwan/Republic of China—Forum Countries Dialogue was also conducted in Port Vila on 6 August 2010 hosted by the Republic of China, chaired by the President of Kiribati and attended by Nauru, Marshall Island, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu.
5 Forum Communiqué, above n 1, at [29].
6 This is an important matter at least in relation to fishing licensing. It is interesting that the Forum should affirm and reaffirm when often the only apparent bar to finalisation is lack of political will.
7 There is none with Fiji, nor with Niue or the Cook Islands.
8 Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga are members of the World Trade Organisation.

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