Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting
12 August 2016
Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji
The first standing meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers was held at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji, on 12 August 2016. The Meeting was chaired by the Honourable Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, and was attended by the President of Kiribati, the President of Nauru, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Premier of Niue, the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, and Ministers from Australia, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The President of French Polynesia and a senior official from New Caledonia also attended as Associate Members. Palau and Tokelau conveyed apologies.
2. Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Government of Fiji for the warm hospitality accorded delegations at the traditional Fijian welcome ceremony. Ministers congratulated Fiji on winning the gold medal for Sevens Rugby at the 2016 Olympic Games.
47th Pacific Islands Forum and related meetings
3. Ministers commended the preparations for the 47th Pacific Islands Forum by the Federated States of Micronesia and welcomed the theme of the Forum ‘Small and Far: Challenges for Growth.’
The role of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting
4. Ministers thanked Australia and New Zealand for funding the first standing Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting (FFMM).
5. Ministers agreed it was important to clarify the decision making powers of the FFMM and its relationship with: the Leaders’ and other Ministerial Meetings; the Forum Officials Committee (FOC) Meeting; and the FOC Specialist Sub Committee on Regionalism (SSCR). It is important that there is clarity in the roles and responsibilities to ensure no overlap and duplication.
6. In line with the 2015 Forum Communique, Ministers expect to play a leading role in focusing the Leaders’ agenda on a few strategic priorities best addressed through genuine regional action and integration. Foreign Ministers are mandated by their governments to advocate internationally and should use the FFMM to identify issues where a collective Pacific voice would have a greater impact.
7. To that end, Ministers recognised the ‘Provisional Charter for the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting’ should be flexible to allow cooperation on the full range of issues, and provision for review in future years be provided. Ministers tasked the Forum Secretariat to review and consult Member countries further on the Provisional Charter and present to FFMM for consideration in 2017. The timing of meetings and funding arrangements will be discussed pending the Report on the Analysis of Regional Meetings.
Review of regional meetings
8. Ministers noted progress on the review of regional meetings and agreed for more time to consult, including institutionalising the Smaller Islands States Leaders Meeting, in the Report on the Analysis of Regional Meetings.
Regional cooperation in disaster risk management and climate change
9. Ministers shared their experience of national and regional responses to disasters and emphasised the continued value of coordinated regional and international responses. Ministers reiterated the importance of regional agencies in reducing the risk of and preparing for, responding to and recovering from, disasters in a coordinated manner at a national level.
10. Ministers congratulated the seven Forum countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement and urged remaining Members to ratify the Agreement. Ministers requested key stakeholders to prioritise their support for the implementation of key obligations under the Agreement. Ministers called for a strong, united Pacific voice at the upcoming UNFCCC COP 22 negotiations to be held in Marrakesh.
11. Ministers encouraged Leaders to endorse the draft Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) as a means to coordinate regional actions on climate change and disaster risk management toward resilient sustainable development. Ministers noted that the text of the FRDP was still being finalised.
12. Ministers acknowledged the continued importance of improving simplified processes to access climate change financing and noted that Economic Ministers could advise on effective funding mechanisms for implementation.
13. Ministers recommended that Leaders task a Working Group including Members, CROP agencies, and relevant stakeholders to elaborate on the establishment of the Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP). Ministers noted that the proposed Working Group will develop governance and institutional mechanisms to strengthen cooperation and coordination for the effective implementation of regional, and support to, national climate change and disaster risk management initiatives, for resilient development. Ministers requested the Forum Secretariat to collate suggestions for a proposed Leaders’ statement to complement the endorsement of the FRDP and guide climate change and resilience action and funding.
Progress on the drawdown of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands
14. Ministers applauded RAMSI as a regional success story that also contributed to strengthening regional cooperation and capacity building on security.
15. Ministers welcomed the initiative taken by the Solomon Islands Government in addressing the underlying causes of the ethnic tension, which include prioritisation and sequencing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, land reform initiatives, legislative reforms, economic development initiatives and healing processes.
16. Ministers welcomed commitments from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand that support to Solomon Islands will continue post-RAMSI, including to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and will be developed in close consultation and coordination with the Solomon Islands Government.
17. Ministers applauded the significant progress made so far in the drawdown of RAMSI and supported the oversight role of the Pacific Islands Forum on the eventual withdrawal of RAMSI in 2017.
The review of Forum Membership criteria
18. Ministers noted that Associate Members had demonstrated their commitment to strengthening regional cooperation in the Pacific, including under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
19. Ministers considered the draft criteria for Forum membership to be too restrictive and recommended a revised statement on membership criteria (at Annex 1) for Leaders’ approval.
Strategic engagement opportunities to advance Forum Leaders’ regional priorities
20. Ministers confirmed the FOC’s agreed elements to guide the Secretariat’s external stakeholder engagement strategy and noted that the Secretariat will develop a process to measure the effectiveness of regional partnerships toward implementation of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
21. Ministers agreed on the importance of engagement with PFD partners and other stakeholders to advance regional priorities. Ministers agreed that the role of Foreign Ministers in engaging with external stakeholders would need to be considered as part of the review of the Provisional Charter of the FFMM.
The foreign policy implications of issues proposed for Leaders’ consideration in 2016
22. Ministers noted the SSCR’s recommendations to the 47th Forum and agreed to take forward the recommendations of the FOC to the Leaders.
23. Specific interventions on fisheries noted it was important to keep fisheries, including coastal fisheries, on the Leaders’ agenda. On climate change, Ministers urged all parties to ratify the Paris Agreement noting the importance of early ratification of the Paris Agreement.
24. With regard West Papua (Papua), Ministers reinforced the importance of engagement on this issue including open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia. Papua New Guinea noted that it was continuing its efforts to engage with Indonesia. Ministers agreed that the issue would need to be considered again by Leaders in 2016.
25. On Regional Mobility and Harmonisation of Business Processes, Ministers noted processes underway through the PACER Plus, Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement, and the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM).
Reform of the Post Forum Dialogue and current applications for Post Forum Dialogue partner membership
26. Ministers agreed on an approach to strengthen the annual Post-Forum Dialogue (PFD) plenary for implementation at the 28th PFD in 2016 and endorsed an agenda for the 28th PFD, to introduce arrangements for a High-Level Plenary discussion of Forum Leaders’ regional priorities that facilitates dialogue at appropriately high levels of representation.
27. Ministers agreed the need to review partnership criteria for the Post-Forum Dialogue and tasked the Secretariat to present options for revised PFD partnership arrangements to the FOC by the end of 2016.
28. Ministers further noted a potential role for the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in convening the Post Forum Dialogue after 2016, subject to confirmation of the role of the FFMM.
29. Ministers recommended to Leaders favourable consideration of the Federal Republic of Germany’s application for Post Forum Dialogue partner status.
Strategy report from the Pacific Ocean Commissioner
30. Ministers reaffirmed the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy and its companion Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape as the guiding documents for regional ocean governance in the Pacific. Ministers supported in principle the development of a strong political statement to be adopted by Forum Leaders, to be coordinated by the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, under the guidance of Members and in consultation with partners of the Pacific Ocean Alliance.
Radioactive contaminants in the Republic of Marshall Islands
31. Ministers supported the Republic of Marshall Islands’ proposal that the issue of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands be taken to Leaders.
32. Ministers recognised the importance of working together to promote regional security and recommended Leaders consider opportunities for future cooperation in their discussions. Ministers noted Australia’s proposal to convene a workshop on Marine Domain Awareness, and the inclusion of aerial surveillance in the Pacific Maritime Security Programme. Ministers also noted the importance of cyber security and recommended Leaders’ consider the issue.
33. Ministers noted the candidacies of Australia to the Human Rights Council 2018-2020, and the Cook Islands to the UNESCO Executive Board 2017.