Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
3 – 4 June 2015
Distinguished representatives of Forum
Member countries and Associate Members
Distinguished representatives of regional
law enforcement and legal agencies, and Observers
Ladies and gentlemen
- It is my honour to welcome you all today to the 2015 meeting of the Forum Regional Security Committee. I see many familiar faces around the table and it is a pleasure to see you back at your Secretariat, and a particularly warm welcome to you who are coming here for the first time.
- I would like to firstly convey the regrets of our Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor in not being able to attend to open this meeting. As I am sure many of you know Secretary General Taylor assumed office 6 months ago and has embarked on an intensive travel schedule to visit all Forum Member countries in advance of this year’s Leaders’ meeting. This week the Secretary General is undertaking her first official visit to Kiribati.
- Your presence here today attests to the priority your respective governments place on maintaining and strengthening security in our region.
- We know that, in comparison to many other regions of the world, we in the Pacific largely enjoy a peaceful and secure environment. But we also know that this is not something that can be taken for granted and that our security environment is constantly evolving. Transnational and organised crime, for example, has long been recognised as a regional security issue and indeed was the reason that motivated Forum Leaders to establish this Committee in the early 90s. But even within this category of threat, we are seeing new forms of illicit and harmful practices, influenced by a wide range of factors including changing geo-political circumstances and technological advances.
- The Forum’s understanding of and approach to security is expansive and human-focused. It recognises that threats to security do not derive just from unlawful behavior by other states or external organisations and individuals, but can arise from how we manage – or not – economic, environmental and social conditions in our region.
- Colleagues, since we last met a year ago, there have been a number of developments relevant to our collective efforts to promote regional security, including the Leaders’ endorsement of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. I will talk more on this shortly but another significant development has been New Zealand’s election to the UN Security Council.
- New Zealand takes on the presidency of the UNSC next month, following in short succession Australia’s presidency. I would suggest that New Zealand’s presidency, like Australia’s, presents a strategic opportunity for the Forum to advance regional security concerns through the UN system.
- Since we last met, Fiji held democratic elections in September last year which were regionally and internationally recognised as being peaceful and credible. I am sure I speak for all Members in conveying to Fiji our appreciation for your presence here today. I would also like to acknowledge Fiji’s role in leading the recent Forum election observing mission to the general elections for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
- Colleagues, we have an agenda item this morning dedicated to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism but I would like to briefly highlight some of its key features, as well to emphasise the importance placed by Secretary General Taylor and the Secretariat on promoting a common understanding of the Framework and encouraging a shared commitment to deeper regionalism.
- The Framework for Pacific Regionalism was developed to address a range of concerns about the effectiveness of regional cooperation and integration efforts under the Pacific Plan, which had been in place since 2005. These concerns had been identified and tested through an extensive process of consultation and analysis by the Pacific Plan Review Team, which had been commissioned by Leaders and led by Sir Mekere Moruata, a former prime minister of Papua New Guinea.
- Chief amongst these concerns were: the dominance of technically focused initiatives on the regional agenda and conversely an absence of ambitious ‘game-changing’ regional initiatives; the limited opportunity for Leaders to engage in high-level and forward-thinking political dialogue; and the limited opportunities available for the private sector and civil society to contribute to the regional agenda.
- Notwithstanding these problems in progressing regionalism, Sir Mekere’s team concluded that the Pacific region was at a crossroads and needed regionalism more than ever before.
- Forum Leaders agreed with this assessment and endorsed the re-casting of the Pacific Plan as the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
- The Framework sets out the Leaders’ vision that the Pacific is a ‘region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy and productive lives.’ It articulates a set of regional values, to be reflected and upheld in all regional policy-making. And it states that the Forum’s principal objectives are sustainable development, economic growth, strengthened governance and security.
- Unlike the Pacific Plan, the Framework does not list any specific priorities. Rather it sets out a process for prioritising which regional initiatives should be referred to Leaders and which can be progressed within existing regional policy development mechanisms, such as ministerial and officials level meetings.
- A key innovation of the Framework is that anyone in the Pacific can contribute proposals for regional action. This call is currently open, due to close next week on 12 June. The Framework also establishes a specialist sub-committee of the Forum Officials Committee, which will be responsible for assessing regional initiatives under the Framework and making recommendations as to which proposals should be elevated for consideration by Forum Leaders.
- Colleagues, we will discuss these reforms in more detail this morning but at this point I would like to encourage you all to start thinking of how this Committee can work to advance regional security that, as envisaged by the Framework, ‘ensures stable and safe human, environmental and political conditions for all’.
- A key motivation for Leaders in endorsing the Framework was their interest to engage in more high-level political discussions on the future of the Pacific, rather than simply being called upon to vet a long list of initiatives undertaken by regional organisations. This clear expectation from Leaders in turn calls for the advisory mechanisms within the Forum – such as the FRSC – to ask ourselves the question: what can we do to ensure that we are supporting Leaders in this cause?
- Obviously this is not a question with a straightforward answer, and we are not expecting that we will come up with an answer at this meeting. Rather, this is just the beginning of a conversation about how we can ensure that regional dialogue and cooperation in relation to security issues meet our Leaders’ ambitions for deeper regionalism. And so I encourage you to think openly and creatively about invigorating and progressing the region’s security agenda.
- Colleagues, we have a very full agenda ahead over the next two days. This meeting occurs just once a year and brings together a wide range of stakeholders dealing with regional security issues. It is your meeting, an important opportunity to bring to the table the concerns of your country about the regional security environment. Your experiences and your proposals are all invaluable to our discussions and identification of solutions for addressing our region’s security challenges.
- Chair, you are a longtime friend of this Committee and we know that you will ably guide these discussions. The Secretariat of course stands ready to assist.22. Colleagues, I wish you well in your deliberations.