Security in the Pacific region is an indispensable necessity for sustainable development and economic growth.
The Framework for Pacific Regionalism identifies security as a principle objective for regionalism.
When Forum Leaders endorsed the Honiara Declaration in 1992 they noted that the socio-economic and developmental objectives of all pacific island countries, could not be achieved without the assurance of stability and security.
Since then the regional security environment has become increasingly complex and diverse and it continues to evolve.
We regularly find our “Blue Pacific” region needing to contend with transnational organised criminal activity in various forms; climate change and its impacts; increasing frequency and severity of disasters from extreme events; the ever present global threat of terrorism; as well as limited legal and law enforcement resources and capacity.
In some instances, underlying tensions and human security concerns such as socio-economic disparities, land disputes and challenges to good governance, have contributed to domestic instability.
In their 2017 Communique, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders recognised the need to expand the scope of existing regional security arrangements and develop a new security declaration that could act as the foundation for strategic future regional responses. The new declaration has been dubbed “Biketawa Plus” in reference to the Forum’s Biketawa Declaration (2000) which underpinned the successful Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Fundamental to strengthening regional security arrangements is the effective sharing of information between national and regional agencies and organisations. With the region covering more than 40 million square kilometres of ocean it is important that Forum members give serious consideration to maritime security and maritime domain awareness information sharing, as a collective.
The Forum Leaders’ Vava’u Declaration (2007) provides the political commitment to enhance maritime domain awareness and maritime security. Through the availability of fisheries data for broader law enforcement use and cross vesting of law enforcement powers, Leaders envisage the enhancement of our maritime security environment.
This week the Forum Secretariat is in Honiara working with the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Australian Government to facilitate discussions around strategies to take this vision forward and see how it might be incorporated into “Biketawa Plus”.
The development of “Biketawa Plus” will further strengthen our regional resolve and resilience to face our current and emerging security challenges. The work this week is another important step toward presenting a new regional security declaration to Forum Leaders in Nauru in September.