Pacific Regionalism & The Blue Pacific

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders embrace Pacific Regionalism as:

“The expression of a common sense of identity and purpose, leading progressively to the sharing of institutions, resources, and markets, with the purpose of complementing national efforts, overcoming common constraints, and enhancing sustainable and inclusive development within Pacific countries and territories and for the Pacific region as a whole.”

 

In their Framework for Pacific Regionalism (2014), Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum endorsed a Pacific Vision calling for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives.

In 2017 Forum Leaders endorsed the “Blue Pacific” identity as the core driver of collective action to advance this vision.

The Blue Pacific seeks to re-capture the collective potential of the region’s shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean based on an explicit recognition of its shared “ocean identity”, “ocean geography”, and “ocean resources”.

Through the Blue Pacific Forum Leaders’ seek to reaffirm the connections of Pacific people with their natural resources, environment, culture and livelihoods.

Forum Leaders recognise the Blue Pacific as being about all Pacific peoples, who recognise their needs and potential, who plan and own their development agenda, and who can act collectively for the good of all, rather than a few.

Four principal objectives underpin the Framework for Pacific Regionalism: sustainable development, economic growth, strengthened systems, and security for all.

The Framework sets out a number of ways in which ambitious and transformative initiatives best addressed through a regional approach can be identified. Governments of the Pacific, through existing Ministerial and Officials’ driven processes are one important avenue. Another is the regional public policy consultation process. Through these mechanisms the Framework provides a political platform that enables Forum Leaders to assert their collective sovereignty over the Pacific Vision into the future.

Regionalism can be expressed in a number of ways:

Regional Cooperation consists of regional agreements between national governments, where implementation is left at the national level. This has been the primary vehicle for regionalism in the Pacific since the 1960s.

In some instances cooperation has led to Regional Delivery and Regional Service Provision such as the University of the South Pacific and its regional delivery of tertiary education.

Economic and Political Integration represent two forms of deeper regionalism that can lead to shared sovereignty, shared political and legal institutions, and increased flows of people, goods, and capital.

Deeper regionalism requires coherence and conformity across regional stakeholders. The Framework prioritises the regional political agenda, and in doing so provides all stakeholders the opportunity to align their strategic direction and resources behind it.

Implementation of effective forms of regional cooperation and integration is underpinned by emphases on:

Greater political oversight and discussion by Forum Leaders around key issues such as political settlements, pooled resources and sovereignty, and what is to be gained and forfeited for the greater regional good.

Ensuring focused political discussion takes place that considers only issues best serviced through a form of regionalism. This does not downplay the importance of other issues that are not considered through the processes articulated in the Framework, but recognises that they may be best addressed at the national level or through a multi-country approach.

Promoting a more inclusive approach to regional public policy development. The regional public submissions process set out in the Framework enables coherent and meaningful public engagement in regionalism. In addition, mechanisms like the Private Sector Roundtable, and the Civil Society – Forum Troika Dialogue, Pacific communities are connected with regional decision makers.

Further reading on the Blue Pacific:

Opening address by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailed Malielegaoi of Samoa to open the 48th Pacific Islands Forum 2017

Remarks by Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa at the High-Level Pacific Regional Side event by PIFS on Our Values and identity as stewards of the world’s largest oceanic continent, The Blue Pacific

Further Reading on Pacific Regionalism:

Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor’s Remarks to 2017 Pacific Update

Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor’s keynote speech to ACFID on Pacific Regionalism

 

The specialist sub-committee is appointed by the Forum Troika Panel and reports to the Forum Officials Committee. It plays a vital role in the implementation of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. This expert panel makes important decisions on the regional priorities to be put forward for Pacific Islands Leaders consideration at their annual Forum. The SSCR applies the tests for regional action set out in the Framework, and draw on advice from a broad range of sources, including CROP agencies, to determine where the region’s needs are, and how best these can be addressed.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum is the standing chair of the sub-committee, and the seven other members are drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds, all possessing key skill sets and areas of expertise. You can read the Sub-Committee’s Terms of Reference here. The current seven members of the SSCR are:

Secretary General

Dame Meg Taylor

Dame Meg Taylor is a national of Papua New Guinea. She studied at the University of Papua New Guinea, and received her LL. B from Melbourne University, Australia and her LL.M from Harvard University, USA.

She began her professional life as Private Secretary to Chief Minister Michael Somare during self-government of Papua New Guinea, and then during his tenure as Prime Minister at the independence of Papua New Guinea. She practiced law with the Office of the Public Solicitor and in the private sector, and served as a member of the Law Reform Commission.

She was Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the United States, Mexico and Canada in Washington, DC from 1989-1994. In 2002, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Meg Taylor has served on the board of the Bank of Papua New Guinea and on the boards of a number of companies in Papua New Guinea in the natural resources, financial, and agricultural sectors, as well as on the boards of companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. She has also served on the boards of international conservation and research organizations.

 She was appointed to the post of Vice President and Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the World Bank Group in 1999 following a selection process led by civil society, industry, and academia. Having set up CAO, which is a key part of the governance structure of the World Bank Group, Meg Taylor led the office for 15 years and established a rich body of work. CAO provides independent accountability and recourse for communities impacted by projects supported by the private sector arms of the World Bank Group – the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). Through her leadership, CAO has become internationally recognized for its cutting edge work in addressing corporate-community conflict around the globe, with a model that has been replicated by other multilateral institutions. Meg Taylor concluded her term at CAO in August 2014.

In August 2014, Dame Meg was appointed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing states.

Representing Micronesia

Mr Gustav Aitaro

Mr Gustav Aitaro (Palau) is the current Director of Foreign Affairs in the Government of Palau, and has experience and expertise in economic planning, public policy formulation and implementation, sustainable development, gender issues and geopolitical relations in the Pacific region. Mr. Aitaro has represented Palau on a range of CROP agency governing councils.

Representing Polynesia

Mr Lopeti Senituli

Mr Lopeti Senituli (Tonga) currently holds the position of CEO of the Tongan Ministry of Internal Affairs. He has extensive experience in civil society organisations, having previously headed the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre and Tonga’s Community Development Trust. Mr. Senituli has also served as Press Secretary and Political Advisor to the Prime Minister, and Senior Executive Officer of the Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries

Representing Australia/NZ

Mr John Davidson

Mr John Davidson (Australia) has extensive experience in the implementation of policy and loan- and grant-based programs. He has particular expertise in regional approaches to development issues, governance and public sector reform, service delivery in decentralised governance systems, organisational development, and alternative activity delivery modalities. Mr. Davidson has worked extensively in Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, as well as with the World Bank.

Representing Smaller Island States

Ms Teresa Manarangi-Trott

Ms Teresa Manarangi-Trott (Cook Islands) is a founder of the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation. She has experience in strategic priority setting and high-level advisory work, and knowledge of economic management, public policy and sustainable development. Ms. Manarangi-Trott has supported the implementation of both Cook Islands Government initiatives, and projects undertaken by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, European Union and Australian and New Zealander Development Programmes.

Representing Civil Society

Mr William Kostka

Mr William Kostka (FSM) is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei and the Micronesia Conservation Trust. He has served as Coordinator of both the Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Areas Community (PIMPAC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature Marine Program. He has a strong background in non-profit management, conservation financing, organizational capacity building and development, community engagement, and civil society-government relations.

Representing Private Sector

Mr Peter Kiely

Mr Peter Kiely (NZ) is currently Chair of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, an independent partnership between the private and public sectors in New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. A lawyer in private practice in Auckland for 30 years, he has extensive knowledge of the Pacific’s private sector, having provided advisory support to business councils in PNG, Fiji, French Polynesia and New Caledonia. Mr Kiely has actively participated in Private Sector Dialogues at various Pacific Islands Forum Meetings. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Pacific Island Trade and Invest.

Many reports have been written about the state of the Pacific on a range of different issues, including economics, the environment, urbanisation, youth, education, and sustainable development. However, although such reports provide valuable analysis of key issues facing countries in the region, there is a recognized need for a geopolitical analysis that identifies the trends, threats and opportunities that impact on the region’s ability to collectively realise its political and development ambitions. As the Pacific Plan Review highlighted, “regionalism is not just about geography and economics; it is also about the governance of a region that is, collectively, under increasing strain, and whose societies are experiencing new vulnerabilities”.

Therefore, the report seeks to provoke discussion amongst the people, communities, organizations and governments of the Pacific about where it makes sense to work together to advance the Leaders’ vision for the region.  The report highlights a range of issues which may impact on the development and political ambitions of the region, and points to some opportunities for advancing those ambitions through collective regional action.

In short, the State of Pacific Regionalism report suggests that the best way to collectively navigate the region through the increasing geopolitical and economic uncertainty currently facing the world, is to focus on making the most of what we have got. That is, our shared Pacific ocean identity, ocean geography, and ocean resources can provide the basis for strengthening Pacific regionalism’s contribution towards a sustainable, prosperous and resilient Blue Pacific.

If you would like to contribute your thoughts on the report, or suggest additional research that has been carried out in the Pacific that you feel could enhance future reports, then we would love to hear from you.

Download a copy of the State of Pacific Regionalism 2017 Report.

Inclusivity is at the heart of Pacific regionalism. This means ensuring everyone has an opportunity to inform the standing meetings of Pacific Leaders and Ministers.

Each year the Forum Secretariat oversees an inclusive and public process that allows the people of the Pacific to submit initiatives that can help drive regionalism.

Any interested stakeholder can submit an initiative but it must be in line with the values and objectives outlined in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and it must meet the tests for regional action. You can download a submission form here.

The Secretariat will compile all submissions and they will be considered by a specialist sub-committee of the Forum Officials Committee.

The subcommittee, known as the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism, will review new initiatives alongside progress reports for existing initiatives. It will evaluate whether any existing priorities should be halted due to lack of progress or unfavourable re-evaluation against the tests; and whether any new initiatives should be put forward for the consideration of Leaders.

The specialist sub-committee’s decisions are public and will follow clear and transparent principles aligned with the values and objectives of the Framework.

The Forum Officials Committee receive the specialist sub-committee’s report to Leaders, and have an opportunity to provide comments or further advice to Leaders.

This advice is then passed on to Forum Foreign Ministers who consider the initiatives in light of the proposed agenda for the annual Forum Leaders meeting.

At their annual Forum, Leaders consider the specialist sub-committee’s recommendations and identify a small number of initiatives for the region to focus on. They also provide directions on further policy development, implementation, and reporting for the initiatives.

If an initiative is selected by Leaders for their oversight, the relevant agencies, organisations, and partners involved in proposing the initiative work together on its implementation.

Work on regional initiatives selected by Leaders through this Framework should be consistent with the work plans already agreed on by the governing bodies of the relevant agencies, organisations, and partners. In addition to their broader programme of ongoing work in the region, these agencies may develop future regional initiatives, which would be subjected to the evaluation and priority-setting process set out above.

Regional initiatives that are not recommended by the specialist sub-committee for Leaders-level oversight may be overseen by Ministers—who retain decision-making responsibilities in their areas of sectoral expertise—by officials or by the Governing Council of the relevant CROP agency.

The Forum Secretariat compiles progress reports for existing priority areas on an annual basis. Progress reports will detail actions taken and costs incurred, and provide an updated evaluation against the tests for regional action. These progress reports are shared with the original proponents and implementers for comment before being forwarded (along with stakeholders’ comments) to the specialist subcommittee, FOC and Leaders and be made publically accessible.

You can read an archive of regionalism proposals submitted to the Forum Secretariat here.

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