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‘Fracture is history’: Pacific leaders commit to Forum reforms

Saturday 25 February 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in National, Regional


‘Fracture is history’: Pacific leaders commit to Forum reforms
All in the family - Pacific Islands Forum leaders pose for a photograph at a special retreat to chart the way forward for regional unity. Denarau, Fiji 24 February 2023. Photo: Pacific Islands Forum/23022426

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is now “a family reconciled” as its leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reforms to strengthen the regional body.

Stepping back into the fold Kiribati president, Taneti Maamau, inked the final signature on the Suva Agreement ending two years of uncertainty and marking the start of a new chapter for Pacific solidarity.

“In unity we will surely succeed,” Maamau told RNZ Pacific.

“We have a duty as a Pacific family to keep us together and to meet the challenges together,” he added.

The reforms deemed “non-negotiables” include the endorsement of Micronesian candidates for certain regional roles and the establishment of two sub-regional offices in the north Pacific.

The result is Nauru's former president, Baron Waqa, is set to become the next PIF secretary-general starting in 2024.

Current forum deputy secretary-general Marshall Islander, Filimon Manoni, will become the Pacific Ocean Commissioner hosted in Palau, and Kiribati will be home to the PIF sub-regional office in Micronesia.

Australia and New Zealand have agreed to foot the bill and committed to “transitional funding of NZD$3 million towards the operationalisation of the Suva Agreement” over the next three years.

“The fracture is now history,” outgoing PIF secretary-general Henry Puna said.

“We have all collectively decided to move on and today we have cemented that...we are not looking back at all,” Puna said.

A range of other issues were also discussed by the leaders, such as Japan's plans to release over a million tonnes of treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

“Forum leaders reaffirmed the importance of science and data to guide the political decisions on the proposed discharge,” the final communique for the 5th Forum Special Leaders Retreat stated.

They also agreed - in response to increased geopolitical tensions in the region - to establish a permanent representation at the UN and in Washington in the form of a PIF special envoy to the United States to “report back to Leaders at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in the Cook Islands”.

  • RNZ