Opening Remarks by Meg Taylor, DBE,
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General
Pacific Islands Forum Members Workshop on the Biketawa Plus Security Declaration
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Convention Center, Suva, Fiji
(18 June, 2018)
The Honourable Minister for Defence of the Republic of Fiji, Hon Ratu Inoke Kubuabola,
Senior Officials of Member Countries; CROP agencies; and Regional Law Enforcement Secretariats,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good morning to you all.
May I firstly acknowledge with deep appreciation the speech delivered by the Honourable Minister for Defence, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola this morning. We deeply value the wisdom and insights you have imparted to us. We look forward to your continuing support of the development of the Biketawa Plus Security Declaration.
As we gather to deliberate on a range of security related issues over the next two days, let us not forget our strategic security objective as framed under the FPR, that is – security that ensures stable and safe human, environmental and political conditions for all.
The security and development nexus is well known. There cannot be one without the other. Thus, security is an indispensable necessity for sustainable growth and development in our region.
In the discussions held here at the Secretariat last week by the Biketawa Plus Reference group, a comment was made: “…..that we must ensure that we do not become a region of declining relevance…”. The bigger powers, whether traditional or non-traditional, see our Blue Pacific as a strategic space for the assertion of their strategic interests. How do we, as a collective and as independent large oceanic states assert our voice into this strategic discussion? How do we ensure that we play a part in shaping, and determining the regional security oceanscape, rather than being spectators on the sidelines? How do we seize and maintain the initiative over our regional security oceanscape?
In 1971, when our Leaders first met in Wellington, they discussed the negative impacts of nuclear testing and natural disasters to development and our Pacific peoples. Over the 47 years of the Forums’ existence, our regional security oceanscape has undergone a number of shifts. It has experienced many challenges.
Our Leaders have responded in kind. The 1985 Rarotonga Treaty, created a nuclear free zone across the EEZs of 13 Forum Member states who are parties to this day. Additionally, our Leaders, over the years, have incrementally built a security architecture which engendered law enforcement cooperation, regional security cooperation, preventive diplomacy, crisis management and response and combatting the scourge of terrorism.
This morning, as so eloquently described by the Honourable Minister, we continue to face a range of security challenges. Some have been enduring, some are emerging. However, they all affect our political and developmental aspirations as a region, as individual member states and as communities of Pacific Island peoples.
At last year’s Forum meeting, Leaders agreed to build on the Biketawa Declaration and other Forum security related declarations as a foundation for strategic future regional responses. They recognised the importance of an expanded concept of security inclusive of human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritizing environmental security and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change.
Leaders also acknowledged the need to build on the lessons learned from RAMSI in an effort to ensure the momentum gained from RAMSI in terms of regional cooperation, coordination and interoperability are not lost.
The development of Biketawa Plus is seen as an opportunity to further strengthen our regional resolve and resilience to face our current and emerging security challenges.
As directed by Leaders, the Secretariat engaged in consultations on Biketawa Plus with Members through the regional policy consultation process. We also provided an on-line platform for public submissions. Members, CROP, regional law enforcement secretariats and international partners were also provided with a security questionnaire for feedback.
Further to this, the Secretariat convened a Reference Group, from the 12 – 13 June 2018, to rigorously debate, assess and test the policy paper. You will also consider their recommendations during this workshop.
Members, CROP and regional law enforcement secretariats, this workshop provides a space for us all to support and shape the development of a comprehensive Biketawa Plus regional security declaration for consideration by PIF Leaders this September in Nauru.
Over the next two days, we hope that we will be able to collectively build a greater understanding and ownership of not only our security challenges, but also our opportunities to engage, advocate and assert our collective voice to achieve security that ensures stable and safe human, environmental and political conditions for all.
We must also be able to agree on the expanded concept of security and make recommendations that will position us to actively shape our regional security oceanscape through strengthened cooperation, coordination and collaboration.
Once again, Honourable Minister, on behalf of the Secretariat and the participants, I thank you for being with us this morning and setting the strategic platform for our discussions.
To you all, I know it is always hard to leave our responsibilities and our homes. I thank you for your presence and participation.
I wish you all well in your deliberations.