Acting SG Forau speech at opening of 2008 FRSC Meeting

Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji
5-6 June 2008



Ladies and Gentleman, I would like to begin by offering you a warm welcome to the 2008 Forum Regional Security Committee Meeting. In a sense it is with some sadness that I am presenting the opening address in the absence of our Secretary General Mr Greg Urwin who, as you all know, is recovering in Australia. I think we would all agree that Mr Urwin’s subtle but firm stewardship of political and security matters during a difficult time for the region has been the foundation for the emergence of a strong unified Forum confronted by an increasingly complex political and security environment. His presence at these meetings will be sorely missed.

2. We are coming together at another demanding time for the region and the Secretariat. The persistence on our regional agenda of many issues relating to security requires that we continue to consider new and creative strategies for addressing law enforcement, human security and political challenges. As I look around the room, and also reflect on the increasing number of partners present, I am pleased to observe that we are not alone in this endeavour. In fact I think it would be fair to say that one of the major opportunities for members, development partners and regional bodies alike is to harness our collective resources and experiences to continue to find better ways of managing the cross cutting nature of the issues before us over the next two days.

3. I find it encouraging that the FRSC has, over the years, demonstrated the requisite skills and willingness to do exactly that in the best interests of the Pacific people as envisaged in the Leaders’ vision. As we all know, in October 2005, Leaders articulated that vision in the form of the Pacific Plan structured along four pillars. While I do not believe that any one of these pillars is more important than the other, it is a reasonable point to make that economic growth, good governance and sustainable development cannot occur in an environment of political and security instability.

Pacific Plan – Pillar Four Security 

4. The Pacific Plan’s fourth pillar – Security - looks to strengthen the conditions for a safe and stable environment within which the benefits of its other pillars can be realised. What is significant about this pillar’s strategic objective is its inclusion of human security. While not neglecting the importance of ‘state’ security, the desire to ‘secure’ human conditions in a manner that enhances stability, safety, and opportunity are equally important. In fact, I believe the two are interlinked, and the development of strategies to ensure our work in these different areas is complementary will require ongoing discussion and cooperation in coming years.

5. Like the Pacific Plan’s other pillars, progress in implementing initiatives under this pillar has been varied but pleasing over the past 12 months. Key achievements under the Security pillar have included strengthening of maritime safety and security, significant progress in developing a natural disaster Regional Early Warning Strategy through a process of comprehensive multi-party consultation and progress in addressing the intensifying problems of unchecked urbanisation across the Pacific. Issues under this pillar are not restricted to those just listed and if you will permit me, I will now turn to the agenda for the next two days where we will discuss matters of equal significance.

Transnational Crime and Counter Terrorism 

6. This year, the Forum Regional Security Committee is being asked to consider a variety of security related issues as well as the role and responsibilities of the Committee and the Forum Secretariat in this regard. As we enter the third year of the Pacific Plan, perhaps it is now time to reflect on our performance; especially when considering the importance of positioning our members to face the domestic and regional security challenges seen today.

7. Transnational Crime (TNC) and its influence on regional security remain significant. The Committee will consider an assessment on which policy recommendations in respect of transnational crime can be formulated. The Pacific Transnational Crime Assessment - a compilation of specialist agency reports - demonstrates that TNC continues to be a human and economic security threat in the Pacific and combating it remains a high priority for law enforcement agencies in the region. It is clear from the variety of investigations in 2007 that the region is targeted by individuals and groups attempting to undertake a range of TNC activity. For example, illicit narcotics including cocaine, heroin, amphetamine precursors and cannabis have been seized from Papua New Guinea and through the major tourist centres of Vanuatu and Fiji and across to French Polynesia. All communities are open to attack from transnational crime and the 2008 assessment highlights the range of criminal activities in the Pacific region and notes that legislation and capacity remain the primary impediments to effective law enforcement.

8. Previous Committee meetings recognised the issue of data quality and quantity and enhancements are ongoing. National and regional agencies are implementing activities designed to alleviate collection concerns and the re-designed assessment for 2008 reflects improvements with new data to enable a basic strategic analysis. Future strategic assessments will benefit from the augmentation of collection, storage and analytical processes.

9. Border management and the success of border protection initiatives remains patchy as many of the TNC incidents were detected having already transited entry points. Document examination training and the implementation of border currency reporting regimes have been a positive development to address these issues. For the continued enhancement of a border detection capacity, there is a need to ensure the sustainability of these programmes and introduce others such as intelligence and profiling.

10. Several emerging issues have been identified in the maritime sector. The pleasure vessel study, requested by the Committee in 2006, discusses deliberate illegal and non compliance activities and lists wide ranging recommendations. Another report that forecasts an increase in the numbers and size of cruise ships identifies opportunities of exploitation by transnational criminals and highlights the logistical challenge to border agencies in managing mass passenger and crew movements.

11. Also in the maritime sector, the increasing number of Pacific based offshore shipping registries has been raised. This practice, that enables the registration of a vessel in a jurisdiction or state that is different to the owner - in other words a flag of convenience - may generate a financial gain; however ship owners have the opportunity to avoid internationally accepted standards leaving the region and host country open to criticism. Further, it is well known that transnational criminal groups seek out these types of practices to hide their activities and identities.

12. In other areas, the Committee will examine the progress of a variety of activities including the implementation of the suite of legislative reforms arising from the Honiara and Nasonini Declarations, the information management and data collection models, the regional exchange of law enforcement-related information as well as the results of other research projects such as criminal deportees and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

13. Counter terrorism efforts are ongoing. The threat from terrorism is a grave and growing one, and as more regions and countries face the horrors of terrorist violence, we can no longer remain complacent. The risk of terrorism remains and unfortunately will do for the foreseeable future. While we can recognise that the risk of an actual terrorist attack remains low, groups and entities engaging in support of terrorist activity still remain a significant risk. It is only though collective international action that terrorism can be defeated especially as we are a region with limited resources.

14. The Legal Drafters finalised the Model Law on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime in July 2007. Adaptation of the Model Law to suit Forum Island Countries’ particular requirements forms a significant component of the Legal Drafters work programme in 2008. The “face to face” work strategy adopted by the Secretariat’s Legal Drafters is beginning to bear fruit. This was demonstrated by the Cook Islands Parliament approval of the Terrorism Suppression (Amendment) Bill in October 2007. Adaptation of the updated model laws giving effect to the Honiara Declaration: Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, Proceeds of Crime and Extradition is on-going. The Secretariat is confident that the addition of the UNODC Terrorism Prevention Expert to the Political and Security Programme will complement the Legal Drafter’s drafting of security related legislation. We have also completed a model counter terrorism policy and plan for adoption by Members. These highlight strategic roles and responsibilities for government agencies in responding to a terrorist emergency, and this plan is complementary to the proposed Regional Framework for Counter-Terrorism Assistance and Response as proposed by New Zealand at the 2007 Working Group on Counter Terrorism meeting. In this regard, I would like to thank New Zealand for its continued support of this meeting.

15. Our Pacific region can do its part in global efforts through working collaboratively and intelligently. Terrorist groups require support, financial and human, to implement their agendas. Introducing such measures as strengthening the legal regime against terrorism across the region, and implementing national plans for counter terrorism management and response can deter those who would act against us, and the international community.

16. I think it is also important to note the resource intensive nature of fulfilling these international obligations and preparing for these possibilities while acknowledging the significance of other national priorities for Forum Island Countries. Our challenge is to strike the right balance in allocating our scare human and financial resources, and refining our coordination practices. On that note I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the regional law enforcement secretariats present today for their important work in the region and their ongoing cooperation with the Forum Secretariat to tackle issues of great importance to us all.

Anti-Money Laundering 

17. Anti-money laundering activities are also a key area of the region’s counter-terrorist and transnational crime prevention efforts. While you will hear more about the Anti-Money Laundering Assistance Team (AMLAT) and the Pacific Anti Money Laundering Project (PALP) later today, a regional joint project which is worthy of mention at this stage is the Border Currency Reporting (BCR) project between the PALP, AMLAT and OCO. The joint project was launched in December 2007 commencing with a pilot phase in Fiji. The purpose of the BCR project is to build the capacity of Members to ensure that illegal currency is not smuggled and laundered through the region. The BCR project seeks to mitigate against this rise by ensuring that adequate legislative, policy and procedures for currency reporting at the border are in place. I believe that both projects are an important element of our regional law enforcement effort.


18. Resource and funding constraints during 2007-08 have delayed progress on the Secretariat’s support to anti-corruption institutions under initiative 12.1 of the Pacific Plan. Nevertheless, in 2008 the Secretariat is working with UNDP and other stakeholders toward holding the first sub-regional anti-corruption planning workshop for the Pacific region. Further, the Secretariat has been assisting UNDP develop and commission a broad review of Forum Island Countries’ accountability institutions, which is now underway. The outcomes of that review will be a valuable foundation for shaping future work on supporting appropriate anti-corruption mechanisms in the region under the Pacific Plan.

Legal Infrastructure 

19. In 2007, the Pacific Plan Action Committee recognised that there was a need for an increased emphasis on regional legal infrastructure in the Pacific Plan. PPAC approved the creation of a new legal initiative (12.9) under the Governance pillar of the Plan, which was endorsed by Forum Leaders at their annual meeting in Tonga in October. Initiative 12.9 mandates the Forum to deepen regional cooperation between key actors in the legal sector in the region, including senior government law officers, legislative drafters and judges and explore the possibilities for regional support, including through pooling of resources and regional integration, in legal institutions and mechanisms providing legislative services, and in the area of judiciaries, courts and tribunals.

Ministerial Level Security Meeting 

20. We will also be hearing from the Secretariat a proposal to hold a Ministerial meeting on regional security. FRSC has discussed on many occasions the difficulty of implementing regional security mandates at the national level. Members have noted that one reason for this is that the distance between the officials on the Committee and the Leaders is too great to ensure national implementation of regional decisions about security with the timeliness and political will required. The proposed meeting would allow Ministers directly responsible for security to consider recommendations from the Committee on key regional security issues, provide political-level guidance on them, drive their implementation at a national level, and assist in enhancing coordination across the range of national and regional actors working on them.

Broader Security Issues 

21. In 2007, the Committee discussed a paper on human security, and asked the Secretariat to continue further work on the applicability of this concept to the region in order to improve conflict prevention capacities. This was approved by Leaders and placed as a priority for this year under the Pacific Plan’s Security Pillar. With the support of the UNDP Pacific Centre, work has been progressed in this area with a focus on building upon existing mechanisms, and ensuring that Pacific ways of resolving conflict are taken into account, including customary practices. This is based on the preliminary results of four case studies in four Forum Island countries. In Session Two you will be briefed on this progress on a Human Security Framework for Conflict Prevention.

22. The linkages between women and conflict are important to consider when furthering work on conflict prevention. Women have suffered in different and often disproportional ways from large-scale violent conflict in the past. At the same time, they have played specific and important roles in conflict resolution processes. In Session Two we will discuss these issues in more detail, and look at how we can ensure that the roles of women in conflict prevention can be supported.

23. Another important aspect of conflict prevention is to consider how land underlies conflict in the region. Land is a source of contention and conflict at the local level, in particular where it concerns the wish to utilise customary land for economic purposes. Land-related grievances also underpinned larger-scale conflict and crises. The Land Management and Conflict Minimisation project has investigated these linkages, and the results of the first phase of the project will also be shared with you in Session Two. The Committee will be asked to endorse a set of principles to guide economic access to land in such a way that it minimises the chances and scope for conflict, as well as a framework to implement these principles.

Election Observation 

24. Election observation is increasingly seen by our members as a valuable tool to assist them strengthen their electoral mechanisms, and support the maintenance of peace and democracy in circumstances of heightened political tension. The success of election observation depends to some extent on the political will of the Governments concerned to request observation missions, and their cooperation in ensuring that the mission is able to operate effectively and that its recommendations are taken seriously and followed up. To date the Secretariat has experienced a high degree of engagement and cooperation for the deployment of observers, while in some cases more work needs to be done on post-election follow up to realise the full benefits of the missions. This year (2008) will see four elections in Forum Island Countries (Tonga, Niue, Vanuatu and Palau) and the Secretariat anticipates receiving at least two requests for election observer teams. We have already had the opportunity to observe the 26 April snap election in Nauru and found that the 2008 electoral process was a credible one, whose result accurately reflected the will of the people of Nauru. I would like to underline the value these observer missions add to the transparency and international credibility of elections, particularly where member states confront difficult internal circumstances.

Security Developments in the Region


25. As the Committee was advised in 2007, the Pacific Islands Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group on the Situation in Fiji (the “Working Group”) was formed in April 2007 in accordance with the decision of Forum Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Port Vila. The Working Group meets regularly – generally fortnightly – in Suva and has now met 29 times. The Working Group submitted two three-monthly reports to the Eminent Persons’ Group, in July and October 2007, which were forwarded to Foreign Ministers; and reported directly to Foreign Ministers at their March 2008 meeting in Auckland. 

26. The Working Group’s assessment is that despite some delays and difficulties to date, the agreed election timing of March 2009 remains achievable, but only if there is sustained commitment and prioritisation on the part of the interim government. Constructive engagement and support from international partners will also be required, and to this end the Working Group has also been seeking to assist Fiji quantify and mobilise the necessary financial and technical resources for the electoral process. In August 2007 the Working Group commissioned an Election Scoping Mission to provide a detailed assessment of the resources required to meet the election timetable. Drawing on the recommendations of the Scoping Mission, an Election Donor Coordination Committee (EDCC) has been established, comprising key donors and the interim government, and is actively working to coordinate international assistance to Fiji in its preparations for the election. 

27. Foreign Ministers convened in Auckland on 26 March 2008. In their discussions, Ministers encouraged the Fiji interim government to intensify its efforts toward holding elections by March 2009 in accordance with Fiji’s Constitution. Ministers also regarded it as important that the People’s Charter process not delay or distract from the holding of an election in the first quarter of 2009. Ministers further reinforced the importance of the undertaking made by the Interim Prime Minister to Leaders that the outcome of the election would be accepted by the Fiji interim government and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. 

28. Ministers acknowledged that an overall resolution of issues in Fiji would be a long-term exercise that should be independent and inclusive, while affirming the importance of elections as a crucial prerequisite to creating the conditions in which a longer term resolution could be promoted. Ministers agreed that the Working Group should remain constituted to continue its engagement with Fiji at officials’ level. In addition, they endorsed the formation of a Ministerial Contact Group to further monitor the progress of Fiji’s preparations for the election and the return to democracy, and report to the 39th meeting of Forum Leaders. The Ministerial Contact Group consists of Ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. The decision to form a Ministerial Contact Group reflects Ministers’ desire for a heightened level of monitoring and engagement with Fiji at the political level in the lead up to the 39th meeting of Forum Leaders, and as the March 2009 election deadline approaches.

Solomon Islands 

29. It has been no secret that relations between the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the previous Solomon Islands Government and some members of the Forum were less than cordial throughout 2007. I think it important to note the fact that interventions throughout the world encounter, from time to time, bumps in the road. I believe that RAMSI’s ability to ride these bumps rests very much in the strong partnerships developed between Solomon Islands parliamentarians, officials, the Solomon Islands people, RAMSI’s principals and Forum members since its inception, some of whom I am pleased to see here today. The broad Pacific character of RAMSI reflects an underlying regional commitment to ensure that the people of Solomon Islands are able to rebuild their country to enjoy the benefits provided through law and order, strong institutions and economic recovery.

30. In this respect the Forum was pleased to learn that the new Solomon Islands Government has decided to rescind the decision to reject the findings of the 2007 RAMSI Review Task Force report endorsed by Leaders’ in Tonga in 2007. Further to this decision, the first Forum Ministerial Standing Committee Meeting comprising Foreign Ministers from Australia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga was held in Honiara in February this year. The Ministers noted that a far more positive relationship between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI has emerged since the time of the Leaders’ meeting and that the FMSC was held in a very positive atmosphere. While we will hear more from the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI tomorrow, Ministers also endorsed the development of a partnership framework between the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI which will among other things set the strategic direction of RAMSI in coming years and develop jointly agreed conditions based and indicative timelines for RAMSI’s phasing down across sectors.


31. In conclusion, I would like to return to a point I made in my opening remarks. And that is we all recognise that achieving the objectives of the first three pillars of the Pacific Plan cannot occur in an environment of political and security instability. This very fact underscores the importance of the Forum Regional Security Committee Meeting as a key Pacific Islands institution. In the spirit of cooperation between the FRSC and our international partners, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our guests whose presence here reflects the wide interest in and importance of our Committee’s work. You are all valuable partners in ensuring that our responses to the security challenges we are facing are comprehensive. There is a great deal of ground to be covered over the next two days across a myriad of themes and issues which reflects, I believe, the complexity of the global and regional political and security environment in which we live. I wish you well in your discussions.