The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum. In 1999, the name was changed; Pacific Islands Forum is more inclusive of the Forum's Oceania-spanning membership of both north and south Pacific island countries, including Australia. It is an official observer at the United Nations.
The mission of the Pacific Islands Forum is “to work in support of Forum member governments, to enhance the economic and social well-being of the people of the South Pacific by fostering cooperation between governments and between international agencies, and by representing the interests of Forum members in ways agreed by the Forum”. Its decisions are implemented by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), which grew out of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). As well as its role in harmonising regional positions on various political and policy issues, the Forum Secretariat has technical programmes in economic development, transport and trade. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General is the permanent Chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).
Australia and New Zealand are generally larger and wealthier than the other countries that make up the rest of the forum, Australia's population is around twice that of the other 17 members combined and its economy is more than five times larger. They are significant aid donors and big markets for exports from the other countries. Military and police forces as well as civilian personnel of Forum states, chiefly Australia and New Zealand, have recently been part of regional peacekeeping and stabilization operations in other states, notably in Solomon Islands (2003–) and Nauru (2004–2009), under Forum auspices. Such regional efforts are mandated by the Biketawa Declaration, which was adopted at the 31st Summit of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, held at Kiribati in October 2000.
In September 2011, the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands were granted observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum, while in September 2016 the French territories of French Polynesia and New Caledonia were granted full membership.
From August 5–7, 1971, the first meeting of the South Pacific Forum was initiated by New Zealand and held in Wellington, with attendants of the following seven countries: the President of Nauru, the Prime Ministers of Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, the Premier of the Cook Islands, the Australian Minister for External Territories, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It was a private and informal discussion of a wide range of issues of common concern, concentrating on matters directly affecting the daily lives of the people of the islands of the South Pacific, devoting particular attention to trade, shipping, tourism, and education. Afterwards this meeting was held annually in member countries and areas in turn. In 1999, the 30th South Pacific Forum decided to transform into Pacific Islands Forum, with more extensive and formal way of discussion and organization. Immediately after the forum’s annual meeting at head of government level, the Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) is conducted at ministerial level with PFD development partners around the world.
In August 2008, the Forum threatened to suspend Fiji if the latter did not commit to holding a general election by March 2009. Subsequently, at a special leaders' meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, held in Papua New Guinea in January 2009, Forum leaders set a deadline of 1 May, by which date Fiji must set a date for elections before the end of the year. Fiji rejected the deadline. Consequently, on May 2, Fiji was suspended indefinitely from participation in the Forum with immediate effect. Toke Talagi, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Premier of Niue, described the suspension as "also particularly timely given the recent disturbing deterioration of the political, legal and human rights situation in Fiji since April 10, 2009". He described Fiji as “a regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom” which he believed contravened membership of the Pacific Islands Forum. Talagi emphasised, however, that Fiji had not been expelled and that it would be welcomed back into the fold when it returned to the path of "constitutional democracy, through free and fair elections".
The 2009 suspension of Fiji marked the first time that a country had been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in the history of the then 38-year-old organization.
|Australia (AU)||Cook Islands (CK)||Fiji (FJ)||French Polynesia (PF)|
|Kiribati (KI)||Marshall Islands (MH)||Micronesia (FM)||Nauru (NR)|
|New Caledonia (NC)||New Zealand (NZ)||Niue (NU)||Palau (PW)|
|Papua New Guinea (PG)||Samoa (WS)||Solomon Islands (SB)||Tonga (TO)|
|Tuvalu (TV)||Vanuatu (VU)|
|Tokelau (TK)||American Samoa (AS)||Guam (GU)||Northern Mariana Islands (MP)|
|Timor-Leste (TL)||Wallis and Futuna (WF)||United Nations|
|Asian Development Bank||Commonwealth of Nations||WCPFC|
|For abbreviations, see ISO 3166-1.|
|Canada||China (CN)||Cuba||European Union|
|Japan||South Korea||Malaysia (MY)||Philippines (PH)|
|United Kingdom||United States|
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is appointed to a three-year term by the leaders of the member states. The Secretary General reports directly to the national leaders and the Forum Officials' Committee (FOC). The Secretary General also automatically serves as the permanent chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).
|#||Name||Country||Took office||Left office|
|Directors of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation|
|1||Mahe Tupouniua||Tonga||November 1972||1980|
|2||Gabriel Gris||Papua New Guinea||1980||1982 (died in office)|
|John Sheppard (acting)||Australia||1982||January 1983|
|3||Mahe Tupouniua||Tonga||January 1983||January 1986|
|4||Henry Naisali||Tuvalu||January 1986||September 1988|
|Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum|
|Henry Naisali||Tuvalu||September 1988||January 1992|
|5||Ieremia Tabai||Kiribati||January 1992||January 1998|
|6||Noel Levi||Papua New Guinea||February 1998||16 May 2004|
|7||Greg Urwin||Australia||16 May 2004||2 May 2008 (resigned)|
|Feleti Teo (acting)||Tuvalu||2 May 2008||13 October 2008|
|8||Tuiloma Neroni Slade||Samoa ||13 October 2008||4 December 2014|
|9||Meg Taylor||Papua New Guinea||4 December 2014||incumbent|
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was established initially as a trade bureau in 1972 and later became the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). The name South Pacific Forum Secretariat was approved by member governments in 1988 and changed to Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2000.
There are four divisions in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and each of these divisions has direct responsibility for a range of programs designed to improve the capacity of the Forum member countries and to co-ordinate action on matters of common interest:
The Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) established in 1995, plays a key role in assessing regional economic developments.
It has not been signed by either Palau or the Marshall Islands. All of the signing states have ratified the treaty, with the exception of Micronesia. As of March 2008, six countries had announced that domestic arrangements had been made enabling them to trade under the agreement: Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu.
After the trade agreement goes into force, countries commit to removing tariffs on most goods by 2021. As of April 2008, The Forum Island Countries are also negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. It is important to note that the PICTA discussed here covers only the trade of goods. At the Forum Island Leaders Meeting held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on 28 August 2012, nine members signed the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement Trade in Services (PICTA TIS). As of April 2008, there is an ongoing negotiation to design and agree on a protocol to include trade in services and the temporary movement of natural persons (a broader concept than the GATS's Mode 4).
The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser was established on 29 March 2010 to provide independent advice and support to the Pacific Forum Island Countries (FICs) in the PACER Plus trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.
An “open skies” policy has been under work by a number of nations. The Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement or PIASA would allow member nations to have more access for their airlines to other member countries. To date there have been ten signatories, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, while only six have ratified the agreement. These six are Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.
At the 19–20 August 2008 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Niue, the leaders discussed Pacific Plan priorities including, “fisheries, energy, trade and economic integration, climate change and transport, in addition to information and communication technology, health, education, and good governance.” Leaders also discussed the impacts of climate change and adopted the Niue Declaration on Climate Change. Restoration of democratic governance in Fiji was discussed as were consequences should the interim government fail to meet established deadlines. Regional assistance to the Solomon Islands and Nauru was discussed, followed by discussion of radioactive contamination in the Marshall Islands from US government tests. Regional institutional framework issues and WTO Doha round developments were discussed, followed by discussion of country-initiatives and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility launched 19 August 2008 to provide up to A$200 million over four years to help improve infrastructure in Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The United Nations announced that it would partner with Samoa to develop an Inter-Agency Climate Change Centre to help Pacific island nations combat the impacts of climate change in the region. In the 2013 forum, the Marshall Islands, supported by all other Pacific nations, claimed compensation from the United States for the nuclear tests conducted on the islands during the 1940s and 1950s.
There has been a call from within both the Australian and New Zealand business communities to extend the CER (Closer Economic Relations) to other Pacific island nations, moving towards a single market and allowing the free movement of people and goods. A Pacific Union has been theorized as the next step of the forum.
In September 2016, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO) regional network, encouraged member states’ leaders to include in the organisation's agenda the issue of human rights violations in West Papua.