Heads of the 17 Forum member countries concluded the week-long 51st Forum Leaders meeting in Suva this week with the endorsement of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the Suva Agreement, a consensus not to let up in efforts to continue dialogue with Kiribati, all of which and more captured in a communique that is still in draft form.
With no definite timeline from the secretariat as to when the confirmed communique will be released, indications are that changes if any will not be extensive, but it captures almost all of the Forum Minister’s recommendations including the declaration of climate emergency in the Pacific, and while there was no direct mention of China and the United States, the document made reference to the intensifying geopolitical competition in the region, as well a push for a review of the regional architecture.
In closing the leaders’ meeting, Forum Chair and Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and the Secretary-General, Henry Puna, re-emphasized the need for the region to remain united as it contends with issues, existing and emerging, that threaten the peace and security of the people of the Pacific.
Indeed, unity was the overriding focus of discussions, Mr. Bainimarama said.
“I am my colleague Forum Leaders recognised that we are in unprecedented times and this collective is at a critical juncture in its history. As we face a multitude of complex challenges across the region, we recognise our strength in numbers. It is without any doubt that we stand our best chance to address these common challenges together as a family.”
An approach, Mr. Puna says is achievable via the 2050 Strategy given that it is about Pacific regionalism “an expression of our shared vision, and ambition, and it is about how we come together to address our shared challenges and to make the most of our shared strengths and opportunities.”
With the strategy endorsed, the focus shifts now to its implementation, a task he adds requires all crop agencies to work together and align their agencies to support the vision and objectives of the strategy.
“This is indeed our shared commitment to leaders to members and to the wider people of the blue Pacific continent.”
Mr. Puna also credited Bainimarama’s leadership in unifying the Forum, in a manner he said the grouping needs going forward.
The closing ceremony held at the Forum Secretariat in Suva yesterday brings to an end four days of deliberations between leaders and stakeholders, including non-state actors, behind closed doors at the Grand Pacific Hotel.
The leaders’ meeting, their first in-person engagement in nearly three years, the opening of which was clouded by Kiribati’s withdrawal from the Forum, also marked a number of side engagements including the singing of the Fiji-Solomon Islands maritime boundary agreement, and the United States Government’s announcement, of stepping up its engagement and assistance to Pacific Island countries by way of a number of initiatives including the $US60 million per year spend, nearly three times the current package, towards the South Pacific Tuna Treaty over the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, the leaders are expected to meet again before Mr. Bainimarama’s term as chair ends this year, and among items expected to be on the agenda are the roll-out mechanics of the Suva Agreement, and the status of the reach out to Kiribati to rejoin the Forum the door to which the leaders have said remained opened to the Micronesian island country.
Mr.Bainimarama also confirmed having spoken with Kiribati President Taneti Maamau on the phone yesterday afternoon to relay the leaders’ position, reaffirming with him their collective agreement to continue dialogue to resolve the impasse.