Pacific Islands Forum celebrates 50th anniversary

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Leaders from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Tonga and Samoa as well as Australia and New Zealand met in Wellington from August 5-7, 1971. It was the first meeting of the South Pacific Forum.

At the time, the only regional organization established was the South Pacific Commission, established in 1947.

The leaders of the newly independent island nations understood the outside influences that existed in this regional body, which included the colonial powers. It was clear that another forum was needed.

Membership of the Forum has grown from the original seven founding members to the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

In 1999, the South Pacific Forum transformed into the Pacific Islands Forum.

“Today is a very special occasion, it is a time of reflection, a time to honor the legacy of our leaders who have come before us, and to honor their wisdom in creating this organization in 1971 in Wellington.

While dealing with a range of issues at the time, issues that directly affected the lives of the peoples of the Pacific, they focused particularly on trade, tourism, shipping and education, ”a- he declared.

“These problems are still very important for us today but of course the world has changed a lot in 50 years and it is to the honor of the values ​​of the organization that we have been able to change with the world and propose new priorities , which are of real importance for the region, such as climate change for example, ”he said.

“And for me, one of the greatest achievements that we have made as a region, working together, moving forward hand in hand, was the realization of the Cop21 in Paris in 2015, when the whole world signed on. the Paris Agreement.

For me, this was the defining moment in our collective effort as the Pacific Islands Forum.

Pacific regionalism

There is a need for regionalism and Pacific leadership on climate and Covid-19 crises, ”according to a Pacific scholar.

University of Auckland associate professor Damon Salesa said the forum was facing the biggest crisis in its 50 years.

“The coming decades are critical times for Pacific regionalism, especially around things like climate change, where the region has a global role and not just a regional one.

He also says that the rise of “new players” in the Pacific means that the need for regionalism is now even greater than it was in the past.

“We’re seeing the re-emergence in the Pacific of feelings that China is playing a bigger role in the Pacific, so it’s great to see the United States playing that bigger role, but we know it’s the one of the things on everyone’s mind, “he said.

US President Joe Biden addressed the meeting online. He was invited by the Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, new president of the Forum.

Salesa calls on the United States to help persuade Micronesia to return to the Pacific Islands Forum.


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