Security in the Pacific region has long been recognised as an essential prerequisite for sustainable development and economic growth.
The Pacific Plan identified security as one of the Forum’s four key goals with a strategic objective described as improved political and social conditions necessary for stability and safety. The Framework for Pacific Regionalism which replaces the Pacific Plan also identifies security as a principle objective for regionalism.
In the 1992 Honiara Declaration, Forum Leaders noted that balanced economic and social development, the primary goal of all the countries of the region, could not be achieved without the assurance of safety and security.
The Pacific regional security environment has become increasingly complex and diverse. The region has had to contend with: increasing transnational organised criminal activity in various forms; internal conflicts and crises threatening the stability of Members and their neighbouring States; the ever present global threat of terrorism; governance challenges to Government Agencies as well as limited legal and law enforcement resources and capacity.
Consistent with global trends, transnational criminal activity has increased in the region over the last decade or so. The emergence of a globalised economy with huge growth in international trade, greater mobility of people and services, and advances in communications and information technologies have resulted in the Pacific region being more prone to the impacts of transnational criminal activities. These activities include the illegal movement of people, narcotics, wildlife and goods as well as illicit financial transactions linked to money laundering. Of particular concern is the possible use of the region as a base of operations for criminal organisations and entities with the greater threat that terrorist entities may also exploit the Pacific security environment to support terrorist activity in the wider international community.
Instances of violent conflict, civil unrest, and political crises have had serious consequences for internal stability and sustainable development in a number of Pacific Island Countries. Often reflecting underlying tensions and human security concerns such as socio-economic disparities, land disputes and challenges to good governance, these incidents have in some cases impacted neighbouring States across the region.
In addition to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, four Forum Declarations provide a mandate for law enforcement cooperation and security initiatives. These Declarations include:
- 1992 Honiara Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation: Recognised that an adverse law enforcement environment could threaten the sovereignty, security and economic integrity of Forum members and jeopardise economic and social development.
- 1997 Aitutaki Declaration on Regional Security Cooperation: Forum Leaders agreed to a number of principles governing security cooperation in the region.
- 2000 Biketawa Declaration: The declaration sets the framework for regional crisis management and conflict resolution initiatives.
- 2002 Nasonini Declaration on Regional Security: Leaders recognised the need for immediate and sustained regional action in response to the current regional security environment
In addition, the annual Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC) meeting coordinated by the Political Governance and Security Programme brings together Members, representatives of the regional law enforcement secretariats, stakeholders and development partners to discuss various law enforcement and security related issues. These discussions on topics such as transnational crimes, terrorism, identifying underlying sources of internal conflict and capacity building for regional and national agencies often result in coordinated regional responses aimed at assisting national efforts to combat identified threats.
The Forum Secretariat recognises that there is a need and an opportunity for assistance at the regional level to support national institutions in the law and justice sector, the security sector and broader governance and accountability mechanisms. There is also a regional role in working with security and law enforcement institutions and officials to explore deeper cooperation and integration at the subregional and regional level that will assist in enduring, effective sustainable governance.