2021 Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting Outcomes
27 July 2021 (Held Virtually)
The 2021 Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting was convened virtually on 27 July 2021.
The meeting was chaired by the Honourable Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, and attended by the Honourable Dalton Tagelagi, Premier of Niue, and Ministers from Australia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands. Fiji was represented by its Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu were represented by Senior Officials.
The Pacific Aviation Safety Authority (PASO), the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), and the University of the South Pacific (USP) attended as members of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP). The full List of Participants is at Annex A.
The Chair welcomed Ministers to the Meeting, and highlighted the unprecedented circumstances in which the meeting was held. The Chair reaffirmed the region’s unity and shared ownership – kaitasi – in regional and mutual efforts to combat the effects of COVID19 throughout our Blue Pacific, and commended the steps taken in response to COVID-19 and a range of other key issues, including climate change, sea-level rise, and ocean safety.
Secretary General Henry Puna, in his inaugural statement to Foreign Ministers, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve the region and people. The Secretary General also referred to the complex and heightened geostrategic context, and encouraged Ministers’ support to continue to shape the engagement of the Forum on issues of key importance, including in working together to ensure regional solidarity moving forward.
The full statements by the Chair and the Secretary General are at Annex B and Annex C, respectively.
Ministers expressed congratulations and well wishes to the Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the new Prime Minister of Samoa, and acknowledged with gratitude the leadership and contribution of former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, to Samoa and to the region.
REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT, AND COVID-19
Ministers considered the regional and international context, including progress made through various regional mechanisms established by Forum Members to manage the region’s response to the COVID-19, including the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHPC), the Covid Economic Recovery Taskforce, and the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Taskforce. Ministers provided further guidance to improve the region’s collective response and recovery efforts over the next 6 to 12 months.
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) noted the current status of the COVID-19 situation in the region, and expressed their grave concern with the fast transmission of the delta variant in the region;
(ii) expressed condolences to Pacific families and friends that have lost loved ones during the global pandemic;
(iii) acknowledged Members’ updates on efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic at the national level, including progress on vaccination plans across the region;
(iv) reaffirmed the importance of access to COVID-19 vaccinations to economic recovery from the pandemic across the region;
(v) acknowledged the ongoing support of Australia, New Zealand, SPC and the Pacific Joint Incident Management Team, including the COVAX facility, in supporting Members with their national response measures as well as ensuring ongoing access to COVID-19 vaccines, and reaffirmed the importance of continued collaboration and coordination through existing mechanisms;
(vi) noted and reaffirmed the decisions of the Forum Economic and Forum Trade Ministers Meeting in relation to COVID-19 recovery strategies, including their support for a WTO TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines;
(vii) reaffirmed the importance of close collaboration across the region to address the socio-economic challenges posed by the pandemic, and emphasised the importance of access to timely data to inform inclusive and wellbeing-focused recovery measures, as highlighted through the report on the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in the Pacific;
(viii) reaffirmed the ongoing importance of the PHC-P, and supported the proposal to further explore a harmonised approach to vaccination certification across the region to also support ease of regional travel moving forward; and
(ix) requested that the PHP-C issue regular updates on COVID-19 vaccination implementation across the region to monitor progress towards achieving comprehensive coverage and support discussions on possible travel bubbles, whilst emphasising the importance of caution.
DECLARATION ON PRESERVING MARITIME ZONES IN THE FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE-RELATED SEA-LEVEL RISE
Ministers recalled Forum Leaders’ 2019 commitments to collective efforts on climate change-related sea-level rise and maritime zones, recognising that climate change is the single greatest threat to our region, and that securing our maritime zones is the defining issue that will underpin the full realisation of our Blue Pacific Continent as envisaged by our Leaders.
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) noted the progress made to implement the Leaders’ commitments to secure the maritime zones of the Blue Pacific Continent against the threat of sea-level rise and to preserve Members’ existing rights and entitlements stemming from maritime zones, and further noted Members’ progress to conclude outstanding negotiations on maritime boundaries claims and zones;
(ii) commended the FOC Specialist Sub-Committee on Sea-level rise in relation to International Law for its work to develop the draft Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise, and AideMemoire, which provide a strong basis for Forum engagement and advocacy on the Leaders’ commitment to secure the region’s maritime zones against climatechange related sea-level rise;
(iii) recommended for formal endorsement by Forum Leaders the draft Declaration and its Aide-Memoire, at the Opening Leaders Retreat of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings on 6 August 2021;
(iv) recognised the critical value and flagship potential of the Declaration in shaping global consideration of the issue of climate change-related sea-level rise impacts on maritime zones, and in reaffirming and elevating the Blue Pacific region’s global leadership on Oceans; and
(v) welcomed advice on immediate next steps, following Leaders’ consideration and formal endorsement, to ensure strengthened advocacy, visibility and recognition of the Declaration at the global level, including at the upcoming UN General Assembly on 14 – 30 September 2021 and the COP 26 negotiations on 1 – 12 November 2021.
CLIMATE CHANGE – PREPARATIONS FOR COP 26
Ministers discussed the critical importance of COP 26 in relation to actioning and securing global commitments under the Paris Agreement. Ministers stressed the importance of effective participation by all Forum Members to ensure that global leaders truly heard the appeal of the Blue Pacific, despite the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) reaffirmed the urgency of the climate change crisis facing Pacific Island Nations, and called on all country Parties to the Paris Agreement to conclude negotiations on the Paris Rulebook at COP 26 to enable the full implementation of the Paris Agreement;
(ii) noted the progress achieved in preparing Pacific countries to strategically engage at COP 26, and directed the Secretariat and the One CROP+ team to identify technical and financial resources to implement the two complementary approaches;
(iii) requested the One CROP+ team to develop detailed negotiation briefing papers on priority issues for COP 26, including monthly preparatory briefings and delegation of support on the key thematic priorities for the Pacific to COP 26;
(iv) reaffirmed the importance of climate diplomacy and supported regional initiatives to strengthen the capacity of Forum Island Countries to strategically participate at COP 26, at the senior political level, including through the COP 26 Political Climate Champions, in accordance with the region’s position in the Kainaki II Declaration on Urgent Climate Action Now and noted the interest by Fiji to champion Oceans or Climate Finance;
(v) recognised the importance of engaging Pacific youth from Forum Members in climate change projects and advocacy in the lead up to COP 26, and requested the Secretariat to invite all Forum Members to nominate youth representatives that can contribute to this work;
(vi) acknowledged the relevant outcomes of the 2021 Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, and tasked the Secretariat to work with the relevant CROP or international organisations to ensure consistent agreed positions, where relevant, and to support Members’ agreed advocacy priorities on climate change to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and in other appropriate fora such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO);
(vii) noted the progress made at the 47th Session of the Human Rights Commission in relation to a Special Procedure mandate holder on human rights and climate change;
(viii) noted that the Pacific Regional Dialogue of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) will be held in September 2021; and
(ix) supported, for Leaders consideration, the following to be reflected as key messages in their Communique ahead of COP 26:
JAPAN FUKUSHIMA ALPS TREATED WATER
Ministers considered key developments since Japan’s announcement to discharge Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) Treated Water into the Pacific Ocean and were deeply concerned over the implications such a decision would have on the health and wellbeing of the Blue Pacific Continent. Ministers emphasised the critical role of the Forum as custodians of the Blue Pacific Ocean.
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) noted Japan’s announcement on 13 April 2021 of its plans to discharge over a million tonnes of ALPS Treated Water into the Pacific Ocean, and reiterated Forum Leaders’ concerns on the potential significant threat of nuclear contamination to the Blue Pacific;
(ii) noted the concerns surrounding the seriousness of this issue in relation to the potential threat of further nuclear contamination of our Blue Pacific and the potential adverse and transboundary impacts to the health and security of the Blue Pacific Continent, and its peoples over both the short and long term;
(iii) acknowledged the collective effort by Members to date, through the PALM9 process, to raise their concerns with the Government of Japan;
(iv) recalled the Forum Leaders’ undertaking at the PALM9 Leaders Meeting, as reflected in the Declaration, highlighting the priority of ensuring international consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific assessments and guidance, and noted Japan’s undertaking it would provide Forum Members with explanations based on scientific evidence, in a highly transparent and timely manner and in close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
(v) supported Policy Option 2 as the approach for continued Forum engagement on this issue, and noting that Forum Members have committed to pursue independent guidance to interpret the scientific evidence as it becomes available;
(vi) tasked the Secretariat and CROP agencies to coordinate continued analysis of this issue to support Members to put in place the necessary measures and safeguards to secure the Blue Pacific Continent, noting the urgent timelines involved, and further noted Australia’s offer to provide technical expertise to interpret information as they become available;
(vii) supported the utilisation of all existing Forum and CROP mechanisms, and mechanisms under relevant regional treaties and conventions, including the convening of experts as required to progress consideration of policy options and related activities as agreed to in (vi) above; and
(viii) noted the important role of the IAEA, and agreed to propose the nomination of a Pacific region nuclear expert, Mrs Rhea Moss-Christian, Chairperson of the Republic of the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission, to participate and provide regional perspectives in the IAEA Taskforce on Safety Related Aspects of Handling ALPS Treated Water at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, while noting.
REPORT OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON THE 2050 STRATEGY FOR THE BLUE PACIFIC CONTINENT
Ministers considered an update on the progress of the comprehensive work undertaken to develop a progressive, carefully considered and inclusive strategy for the Blue Pacific. Ministers looked forward to considering the Strategy over the course of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum.
Forum Foreign Ministers noted progress made to develop the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and endorsed the next steps and updated work plan for the 2050 Strategy. OTHER MATTERS New Zealand Country Initiative: Strategic Discussion on Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting
As the Chair of APEC, New Zealand provided an update on its work so far and highlighted its intent to leverage its role to also progress mutual Forum priorities, in particular COVID-19 recovery, labour mobility, climate change and Oceans
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) congratulated and welcomed New Zealand’s chairing of the APEC and its efforts to ensure that the Pacific voice and priorities are heard and considered in the APEC forum, in particular, initiatives relating to COVID-19 economic recovery efforts across the Pacific region;
(ii) welcomed the opportunity for the Forum Chair to present a Forum Statement at the APEC, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, and tasked the Secretariat to consult with Members and coordinate accordingly;
(iii) mindful of the emerging priority of digitalisation during this pandemic, called on APEC to consider expediting its discussions and efforts on the digital agenda, as championed by Papua New Guinea in 2018; and
(iv) welcomed APEC’s consideration on the strengthened advocacy against the trade of illicit drugs and transnational crime. Country Paper by Tonga: Weather Ready Pacific Decadal Programme of Investment
Tonga provided a paper on strengthening disaster readiness to severe weather, water and ocean events across the Pacific.
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) endorsed the Weather Ready Pacific Decadal Programme of Investment, which seeks to reduce the human and economic cost of severe weather, water and ocean events across Pacific Island communities, by strengthening national meteorological and hydrological organisations and their partnerships with national disaster management organisations;
(ii) recognised that the Decadal Programme of Investment is a comprehensive approach and responds to the needs of the Pacific region;
(iii) directed the Secretariat to bring the Decadal Programme of Investment to the attention of Leaders for their endorsement, and for sharing with Forum Dialogue Partners; and
(iv) requested SPREP as the secretariat of PMC to continue to seek funding for the Weather Ready Pacific Decadal Programme of Investment, and report back to FOC on progress. Country Paper by Tuvalu: A Proposed Call to Revitalise the CROP ICT Working Group
Tuvalu tabled a paper stressing the significance of ICT in the face of COVID-19, and the importance of a well-coordinated CROP effort to respond to Members’ needs.
Ministers recommended that Members call on the CROP ICT Working Group to provide development updates and an update on the progress of the PRISAP through this paper which will be tabled at the FOC Meeting, the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting (FFMM), and/or the Forum Leaders Meeting for comment and endorsement and to be shared with all members of CROP. Country Paper by Tuvalu: Proposed Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting Joint Statement on Blue Pacific Leadership in pre-Pandemic and pre-Disaster Planning
Tuvalu proposed the development of a statement on importance of early pandemic and disaster planning.
Forum Foreign Ministers noted the content of the paper, and welcomed the development of a Forum Foreign Ministers Statement to be further considered by the Committee before being tabled with the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting for final endorsement, and further noted that the paper would be tabled at the next FFMM for noting. Arrangements for the 2021 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting and Related Meetings
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) strongly commended Tuvalu for its exemplary leadership and Chairmanship of the Forum from 2019 – 2021, and its stoic and resilient tenure in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the region;
(ii) congratulated Fiji as incoming Chair, and welcomed Fiji’s preparations and plans for the 51st Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings, in particular the convening of the virtual Forum Leaders Meeting on 6 August 2021, and a face-to-face Forum Leaders Meeting in January 2022 subject to developments relating to COVID-19; and
(iii) supported the proposal by Fiji for the conduct and modalities of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum and Related Meetings.
MATTERS ENDORSED THROUGH OUT-OF-SESSION CONSIDERATION
Report of the Forum Officials Sub-Committee on International Engagement and Advocacy
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) welcomed the work of the FOC Sub-Committee for Forum International Engagement and Advocacy in driving strategic and proactive international advocacy on the Forum’s policy priorities; and
(ii) agreed to refocus the Forum’s international advocacy priorities towards:
a) 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent; b) COVID-19 response and recovery; c) climate change and resilience; d) sustainable ocean management, use and conservation; and e) regional security, with a key focus on maritime boundaries and sea level rise, and nuclear legacy issues as cross-cutting issues.
Review of Criteria and Guidelines for Forum Dialogue Partners and Observers & Forum Dialogue Partner applications
Forum Foreign Ministers:
(i) considered and endorsed the revised Criteria and Guidelines for Forum Observers;
(ii) considered and endorsed the revised Criteria and Guidelines for Forum Dialogue Partners;
(iii) recommended further consideration and potential reform of the Forum’s partnership mechanisms within the context of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and as part of the Review of the Regional Architecture, to ensure the right mix of partners and partnership mechanisms to strengthen Pacific regionalism and support delivery of the 2050 Strategy;
(iv) considered and supported applications for Forum Dialogue Partner status from Chile, Norway, and Singapore as against the draft revised Criteria and Guidelines for Forum Dialogue Partners;
(v) recommend the PIF Secretary General write to Chile, Norway and Singapore and all Forum Dialogue Partners to affirm their ongoing interest and intent in being a Forum Dialogue Partner based on the revised Criteria and Guidelines, ahead of Forum Leaders’ consideration of this matter; and
(vi) supported a moratorium on new applications for Forum Dialogue Partner and Forum Observer status until finalisation of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and scheduled Review of the Regional Architecture.
Review of the Pacific Islands Development Program CROP Membership
Forum Foreign Ministers recommended to Leaders that the Pacific Islands Development Program remain a CROP member, subject to the adoption of the CROP Charter at the December 2021 meeting of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders Standing Committee.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva
27 July 2021