Apia, Samoa- The annual 48th Pacific Islands Forum will again bring together 18 leaders of the Pacific for political discussions that will center on theme:The Blue Pacific: Our Sea of Islands-Our Security through sustainable development, management and conservation.
Samoa is hosting this year’s forum from September 4 to 8, and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told Pacific journalists here that the focus is to ensure that the region manages its fisheries, protect the ocean from exploitation through conservation and effective surveillance.
“For the Pacific region and its island countries, the ocean is crucial. Exercising a sense of common identity and purpose linked to the ocean has been critical for protecting and promoting the potential of our shared Pacific Ocean. It is this commonality of the fundamental essence of the region which has the potential to empower the region through collective and combined agendas and actions,” he said in his remarks during the Pacific News Islands Association (PINA) media workshop Saturday.
Malielegaoi said the forum members should act collectively to manage its ocean resources.
Still on the agenda of the forum leaders will be on climate change ahead of the COP23 in Bonn, Germany in November, which will be co-chaired by one of the forum member-countries, Fiji.
Security concerns in the region will also be a focus during the forum.
Forum Secretary General Meg Taylor said security issues were first raised during the recent meeting of Forum Foreign Ministers in August amid the threat of North Korea to Guam, which is also seen as a threat in the Pacific region.
“As a regional grouping I think we are ill prepared we can’t be prepared because we haven’t got the resources or the means of militarization,” Taylor told reporters.
Taylor however said the bigger countries, which are members of the forum, are monitoring the situation very closely.
Palau and U.S. are in discussions of a radar system installation in the island nation given the North Korea threats in Guam.
The Pacific nations are also highlighting commitments to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
This year there has rightly been a concerted and collaborative focus on SDG14 and ocean management and conservation,” Taylor said.
SDG14 is the sustainable use of oceans and its resources.
The forum starts on September 4 with the small Island stated leaders meeting. Palau, which is a forum member, has sent a delegation led by Vice President Raynold Oilouch.
Oilouch said the theme Blue Pacific is in line with Palau’s ocean conservation efforts.
Effective surveillance and conservation is a crucial component of ocean management, Oiluch said.
Oilouch as head of Palau delegation will sit in the Maritime Domain Awareness dialogues panel set on Thursday by the forum.
Forum Members comprise of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu French Polynesia and New Caledonia.