By JAMES LAKI
THE lead-up to the Pacific Island Forum – PIF leaders meeting in Apia, Samoa, next week – has involved wider consultation that included civil society organisations.
These consultations have been based on some of the leaders’ expressed desires for Pacific regionalism, The Samoa Pathway – Blue Ocean Agenda, that espouses navigating our blue ocean as the tsunami of developments encroach on our space.
In its communiqué, leaders noted that in 2016, the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism (SSCR) had identified persons with disabilities, oceans, regional mobility and harmonisation of business practices as having met the tests for regionalism specified in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (Framework) and warranting leaders’ consideration.
Leaders commended the progress made in the implementation of the five priorities endorsed in 2015, which had been identified and proposed by the SSCR through the public submissions process under the framework – greater economic returns on fisheries and strengthening of maritime surveillance and enforcement; climate change; information communication technologies (ICT); cervical cancer; and, West Papua (Papua).
Leaders also highly commended the national and regional interagency coordination and cooperation in implementing the priorities, including with international organisations.
In support of the leaders, economic ministers commended the region’s efforts to prepare the Pacific SDGs roadmap for endorsement by forum leaders in September 2017.
They noted the importance of localising indicators and ensuring that they are measurable and achievable to reduce the burden in country reporting
Furthermore, foreign ministers discussed a wide range of issues affecting the political and security environment of the Pacific, including current shifts in global power relations, challenges to multilateralism, and increased incidence of transnational crime and illegal fishing.
Ministers emphasised the importance of enhancing regional cooperation to address all aspects of existing and emerging security threats (including health, environmental, economic, human and cybersecurity).
The Pacific Head of Health (HoH) meetings, HoH recognised considerable actions were undertaken regionally to address non communicable diseases (NCD), however, that is insufficient given the extent and scale of the NCD crisis where up to 75 per cent of our Pacific peoples are dying prematurely and 8 out of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes are from our region,.
In keeping with the framework for Pacific regionalism, the values of inclusivity, equity and equality the regional CSO forum in support of the PIF leaders who strive for effective, open and honest sustainable relationships, based on mutual respect and accountability, has become part of this engagement.
To this end, CSOs call for a strengthened and institutionalised partnership which will realise the leaders’ vision for a Blue Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy and productive lives.
The Prime Minister of Samoa and forum chair, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, said: “With the current global uncertainty associated with shifts in geopolitics and globalisation, it seems pertinent to reassess our region’s collective engagement with the world and with each other – and to reassert our collective Pacific regionalism as The Blue Pacific.”
The CSO recommend;
- On a Blue Pacific Economy: recognising and affirming leaders’ vision in placing oceans at the core of the 2030 agenda; recognising and affirming the SAMOA (SIDS – Small Island Developing States – Accelerated Modalities of Action) Pathway; recognising that the youth population in the region has an annual growth rate of 2.01 and that the youth unemployment rate is 23 per cent; recognising the need for protection of new and infant industries, improved working conditions and adequate living wages for working class people; and recognising the Pacific tsunami of NCDs, CSOs call on leaders to:
a) Incorporate into the monitoring and evaluation of the Fisheries Roadmap data-driven digital technologies that evolve into a Pacific-owned and operated system; including measurements of the social benefits to our communities and the sustainable health of our fisheries, ensuring the findings are openly shared;
b) properly regulate the commercial use of our oceans, including taking a firm stand against seabed mining as it poses a risk to the long-term sustainability of our oceans. The history of extractive industries in our islands region is not a happy one. We must divert resources to economic activities that will build a more inclusive and sustainable future for our island communities;
c) establish a youth economic empowerment fund that encourages entrepreneurship, including the provision of training initiatives that contribute to start-up and maintenance of entrepreneurial activities;
d) review all labour legislation to ensure the occupational health and safety of workers in the fishing industry and all sectors including migrant and seasonal workers;
e) defer the ratification of Pacer (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations) Plus until independent impact assessments, in consultation with CSOs, are conducted, including adequate food safety and security conditions, and issues identified are addressed with appropriate amendments to the text of Pacer Plus;
f) align national health budgets to the non-communicable disease profile and the epidemiological burden that Pacific Island countries face; and,
g) Act regionally and across all government sectors to focus efforts on the prevention of NCDs at a primary and secondary level.
2. On a sustainable and resilient Blue Pacific: recognising leaders’ vision in prioritising the need for a resilient people of the ocean; recognising a better and inclusive Pacific that “leaves no one behind”, recognising the value of the framework for resilient development in the Pacific; recognising and affirming the progressive Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration; and, acknowledging the presence in our region of climate change financing, CSOs call on leaders to:
a) Endorse the proposed Pacific Resilience Partnership governance arrangements which recognises the need for shared responsibility and ownership with and across all stakeholder groups;
b) Enact legislation that will increase participation for women in politics through temporary special measures and encourage the adoption of affirmative action policies in politics;
c) Reaffirm compliance with Free Prior Informed Consent as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and recognising the dignity and human rights of our indigenous peoples;
d) mainstream sexual orientation and gender identity, expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) language across all government programmes, sector policies and legislations; and,
e) Operationalise a regional mechanism that facilitates local governments, provincial councils and grassroots NGOs to access climate change financing; and to make a strong push in COP 23 for increased allocation to adaptation financing which is key to our region.
3. On a secure and peaceful Blue Pacific: CSOs reiterate that security in the region is inherently tied to governance that ensures equitable, sustainable and people-centred development. Leaders must seek a balance between short-term financial stability and longer-term equitable growth if they are to build sustainable peace in the region and security for the future. In this light, recognising regional security efforts such as the Biketawa Declaration (2000), the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2012-15), the Human Security Framework for the Pacific (2012-15) and the Pacific Forum Principles on Security Sector Governance (2012); recognising the heightened security threats to our region; recognising that in 2018 there will be referenda in Bougainville and New Caledonia; and, recalling that leaders have in previous communiqués’ expressed deep concern over ongoing violence and loss of life in West Papua, and acknowledging leaders’ recognition of the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua and the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue, including the need for West Papua to remain on Leaders’ agenda, CSOs call on Leaders to:
a) Implement the UN Arms Trade Treaty on disarmament;
b) continue to implement the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga);
c) develop systematic programs of support for Bougainville and New Caledonia, in areas such as training, scholarships, development funding and political education;
d) build on the recommendations of the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2012-15) as well as the Pacific Forum Principles on Security Sector Governance (2012);
e) include civil society representatives in the election observer missions for the Indonesian elections in 2019;
f) endorse the creation of multi-stakeholder forums on Pacific peace, security and development that allows for an exploration of structural conditions of conflict and armed violence and its impact on development and invite multistakeholder recommendations and shared action for conflict prevention and peace-building for the long term stability of the region;
g) acknowledge, revitalise and promote time-tested Pacific traditional methodologies and approaches to conflict resolution, resilience and peace building in regional policy making and programmes; and,
h) Foster the sustainability of ongoing regional human security efforts by investing in a next generation multi-stakeholder Pacific leadership pipeline aligned to regional priorities and Pacific values.
- James Laki is retired military officer, former Research Fellow at NRI, Executive Director of Peace Foundation Melanesia, Member of Pacific mall Arms Action Group, Advocate of the Arms Trade Treaty, Member of PNG CSO Forum.