2020 PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING
14 October 2020
The 2020 Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting was convened virtually on 14 October 2020.
The meeting was chaired by the Honourable Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, and attended by His Excellency Taneti Maamau, Beretitenti of Kiribati, The Honourable Mr Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, The Honourable Dalton Tagelagi, Premier of Niue, and Ministers from Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands. French Polynesia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu were represented by Senior Officials. Tokelau attended as an Associate Member.
The meeting was also attended by Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies: the Pacific Aviation Safety Office, the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the University of the South Pacific.
The Chair thanked Forum Foreign Ministers for availing themselves to convene virtually to discuss key regional priorities and issues of mutual concern to the Blue Pacific. Acknowledging the multidimensional effects of COVID-19, the Chair recognised that the progress of key regional priorities had been impacted. The Chair reaffirmed the need for Members to remain steadfast in their efforts to address regional priorities such as climate change and ocean governance.
The Secretary General welcomed Forum Foreign Ministers and acknowledged the unprecedented times in which they met. The Secretary General commended Members for their swift national, regional and international responses to the pandemic, and in particular, their commitments to the development of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway for COVID-19 (PHP-C). Acknowledging the unique platform on which they met, the Secretary General encouraged Ministers to seize the opportunity to deliberate and agree on important decisions that would chart the way forward for the region, as manifested under Members’ efforts to develop a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
The Chair and Secretary General stressed the importance of regional solidarity and unity to achieving tangible changes for all citizens of the Blue Pacific, and wished Ministers well in their deliberations.
Ministers considered an update on national and regional initiatives established to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the PHP-C. Recognising the severe health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on the Blue Pacific, Ministers discussed further policy considerations for strengthening collective response efforts to COVID-19.
(i) reaffirmed the importance of regional solidarity, cooperation and multilateralism to overcome the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic facing Forum Island Countries;
(ii) commended Members’ response efforts to COVID-19, and emphasised the need to address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, the elderly and women and girls;
(iii) welcomed the update on the region’s response through ministerial discussions, and the PHP-C platform;
(iv) commended the operationalisation of the PHP-C and encouraged its strengthened utilisation, including through improved coordination, information sharing and collaboration with development partners, and agreed that the Regional Taskforce on the PHP-C explore these synergies further;
(v) discussed Members’ efforts to facilitate the repatriation of their nationals, including consideration of repatriation support through the PHP-C to include Forum nationals both within and outside the region, and welcomed further discussions on the establishment of a PHP-C Regional Quarantine Facility;
(vi) noted the discussions on efforts to establish travel bubbles in the region to address COVID-19 related issues, including connectivity and food security, and recommended that travel bubbles be further explored by the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce;
(vii) supported the need for cooperative multilateral approaches to the equitable access to safe, effective, trusted and certified COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, and ensuring their accountable and transparent procurement and distribution
(viii) considered the issue of accessibility and affordability of health care and services within the region; and
(ix) discussed and recommended the draft Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Statement on COVID-19 for consideration by Leaders, with the view to be presented at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on COVID-19 in December 2020.
REPORT OF THE 2050 STRATEGY FOR A BLUE PACIFIC CONTINENT SUB-COMMITTEE
Ministers reaffirmed the 2019 Leaders decision on the importance of securing the future of the Blue Pacific and their endorsement of the development of a carefully considered strategy for regionalism through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
(i) noted updates on the national consultations undertaken to date, and reaffirmed their commitment to the development of a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent;
(ii) commended the leadership of the co-chairs of the Sub-Committee, Fiji and Vanuatu, and noted the update on progress to develop the 2050 Strategy; and
(iii) endorsed the revised approach and work programme for the 2050 Strategy, as conveyed by the 2020 Pre-Forum session of the Forum Officials’ Committee (FOC).
Ministers acknowledged the value in having a coordinated regional advocacy and engagement approach to international fora relating to Oceans in 2020 and 2021, and welcomed the work of the FOC Sub-Committee on International Engagement and Advocacy and the CROP Taskforce on Oceans to achieve this.
(i) acknowledged the work undertaken by the CROP Taskforce on Oceans and the FOC Sub-Committee on International Engagement and Advocacy for Oceans-related engagements in international fora, including the development of the draft 2020 Blue Pacific Ocean Declaration;
(ii) supported the development of a Forum Leaders Statement on Oceans, to advocate the region’s priorities at the Our Oceans Conference in Palau in December 2020;
(iii) welcomed the development of a Forum Leaders 2020 Blue Pacific Ocean Declaration to support the region’s engagement and advocacy in ocean governance related international fora in 2021; and
(iv) noted Samoa’s virtual hosting of the 2020 Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference, 27 – 30 October 2020.
Ministers welcomed and discussed progress updates on implementing Leaders’ decisions and commitments relating to maritime boundaries and sea-level rise, re-emphasising the ongoing threat posed by sea-level rise to securing the Blue Pacific Continent.
(i) commended the progress update regarding implementing Forum Leaders’ 2019 decisions on sea-level rise and maritime boundaries, through Members’ efforts to conclude negotiations on outstanding maritime zones and claims, to monitor extended continental shelf submissions, and to collectively contribute to relevant international law processes;
(ii) commended the technical support by the Pacific Maritime Boundaries Consortium of Partners;
(iii) commended the 2020 Regional Conference on Securing the Limits of the Blue Pacific: Legal Options and Institutional Responses to the Impact of Sea-level Rise on Maritime Zones, in the Context of International Law (9 – 11 and 17 September 2020), and supported its key outcomes and recommendations as conveyed by the 2020 Pre-Forum session of the FOC, in particular the development of a regional normative declaration for Leaders’ consideration in 2021; and
(iv) endorsed, in principle, the establishment of a FOC Specialist Sub-Committee on Sea-Level Rise in Relation to International Law, and agreed for FOC to consider and endorse its Terms of Reference out-of-session, ahead of the 2020 Budget Session of the FOC.
Ministers discussed the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on international commitments to combat climate change and reaffirmed that this should not disrupt ambitious climate action.
(i) called on the international community to meet or exceed their obligations and timelines as set out under the Paris Agreement and deliver more ambitious climate action, including by communicating or updating ambitious NDCs in accordance with the five-year cycle. COVID-19 response and recovery measures should advance the goals of the Paris Agreement and stimulate low-emissions technologies and climate resilient development;
(ii) welcomed the update from the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the Midnight Survival Deadline for the Climate initiative of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and the related call for global participation in developing urgent new efforts to combat climate change before the end of this 5th anniversary year of the Paris Agreement’s adoption;
(iii) reaffirmed their support for the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now, recognising the importance of responding to the three-pronged crisis currently facing the region – the devastating effects of climate change, the impact of COVID-19, and the fragile economic health of the region as a consequence of inherent vulnerabilities – which require regional solidarity and collective action;
(iv) called for stronger political engagement and advocacy in the lead up to and at COP26 to pursue our positions and interests, and tasked the Secretariat and the One CROP Plus team to progress the advocacy initiatives based on Option 1 and complemented by Option 2, where appropriate;
(v) supported the need for consistent senior Pacific political representation for the duration of COP26 negotiations, including clarity on the role of political champions, and tasked the One CROP Plus team to explore funding opportunities to ensure this;
(vi) recognised the value of proactively engaging with the United Kingdom to discuss and consider its priorities as the President of COP26, and to inform the region’s preparations accordingly; and
(vii) tasked the One CROP Plus team to consolidate information on the ambitious climate action initiatives adopted by Forum Dialogue Partners to inform Members’ bilateral, regional and international climate engagements.
INDEPENDENT REPORT ON THE REVIEW OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Ministers considered an update on the Pacific Islands Development Program’s standing as a CROP member, including an Independent Assessment of the Eligibility of the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) to Remain a Member of the CROP.
(i) noted the final report of the Independent Assessment of the Eligibility of the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) to Remain a Member of the CROP;
(ii) considered and supported the Secretariat’s proposed response to the findings and six recommendations of the final report of the Independent Assessment; and
(iii) commended the final report of the Independent Assessment, including the Secretariat’s response to Forum Leaders for their decision.
Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change
The Republic of the Marshall Islands tabled the proposal for the appointment of a Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change by the June 2021 session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).
(i) Supported and endorsed the proposal for a dedicated special procedure mandate holder (Special Rapporteur) of the HRC on human rights and climate change;
(ii) supported efforts to secure the creation of the HRC special procedure on human rights and climate change through Pacific Islands Forum diplomatic missions and representation to the UN, particularly in Geneva, including through engagement in HRC sessions, side events, and other relevant activities; and
(iii) tasked the Secretariat, within existing resources, to support relevant Forum advocacy and engagement activities towards the creation of the HRC special procedure on human rights and climate change.
Pacific Islands Forum Annual Women Leaders Meeting
Australia presented the proposal for a Pacific Islands Forum Annual Women Leaders Meeting.
(i) recognised the severe and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, the increasing economic insecurity and rising levels of gender-based violence, and the continued accessibility to essential health, education and other social services. These are challenges facing the full Forum membership. Additionally, women are the majority of the workers at the frontline of COVID-19 as health care professionals and are the central caregivers in the community;
(ii) noted the proposal by the Secretariat to review the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, and acknowledged the need for reinvigorated regional commitment towards gender equality; and
(iii) welcomed, supported and recommended the proposal for an annual meeting of Pacific women leaders for consideration by Leaders, with the specific timing, focus and reporting processes to be consulted further with Members and relevant stakeholders for consideration at the 2020 Budget Session of the FOC.
Wellbeing of Pacific Seafarers
Kiribati provided an update relating to the repatriation of Pacific Seafarers.
(i) noted the update on the alarming impacts of COVID-19 on seafarers as a special humanitarian case;
(ii) endorsed the development of a letter from the Secretariat to the Pacific United Nations Resident Coordinators calling on the UN to work with development partners, to urgently address this matter;
(iii) noted the existing support available through the Pacific Humanitarian Corridor; and
(iv) tasked the Secretariat to coordinate with interested Members and work with UN agencies in the Pacific to address this issue.
New Zealand and Australia provided updates on their international candidacies.
(i) supported New Zealand’s candidates:
(a) Sir Robert Martin, for re-election to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the term 2021 – 2024;
(b) Dr Penelope Ridings, for the International Law Commission for the term 2022 – 2026;
(ii) supported Australia’s candidate, Dr Robert Floyd, for Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organisation; and
(iii) recommended the candidates to Leaders for endorsement.
Update on the appointment process for the position of Secretary General and the Special Leaders Retreat
Ministers noted the update from the representative of the Forum Chair on the proposed date of the Special Forum Leaders virtual Meeting, and that the Office of the Forum Chair, with support from the Secretariat, will provide written options on the modalities and process of the appointment of the Secretary General by 16 October 2020.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva
14 October 2020