The Pacific Islands Forum has come and gone, and people here in Vanuatu could not care less. There are few Pacific conclaves that generate less interest than this meeting.
In principle, nobody particularly disapproves of getting all Pacific leaders together once a year for a bit of a chat and maybe some minor course correction.
In practice, it seems clear that not all leaders are equal in the eyes of the Forum.
This year more than ever, the final communiqué simply side-stepped any views that didn’t suit the developed nation members.
The event might more accurately be described as the McCully/Bishop Forum.
The region-wide movement to disown PACER Plus was simply ignored in the final language. If Vanuatu needed any other excuse to walk away from this one-sided deal, their treatment in Pohnpei provided one. Scuttlebutt from the venue has it that France’s inclusion in the Forum was anything but a unanimous decision. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai exercised characteristic tact and diplomacy when asked about it, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to imagine how Vanuatu, one of the staunchest supporters of decolonisation in the Pacific, felt about bringing France into the Forum fold.
France was excluded from the Forum specifically because of its refusal to discuss issues of decolonialisation when the organisation was formed in the 1970s.
West Papua is perhaps the only topic that could dampen Vanuatu’s joy following its under-20 football team winning their way to a World Cup berth. And once again, the Forum has gone to excruciating lengths to make least possible effort to stop the ‘slow motion genocide’ under way in PNG’s eastern neighbour.
In their wrap-up of the Forum, Tess Newton Cain and Matt Dornan write, “of the 48 regional policy public submissions that were received, 13 concerned West Papua.”
With admirable restraint, they continue: “last year’s measured statement announcing the establishment of an independent fact-finding mission looks positively assertive when compared to this year’s communiqué, which simply states that leaders ‘recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua (Papua) should remain on their agenda’ (while also agreeing ‘on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia’). The influence of the larger Forum members was likely at play here, including that of Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Fiji.”
But the silence was even more deafening—if such a thing were possible—where climate change is concerned.
One would think that a post-Paris meeting of the most at-risk countries in the world might feature some meaningful language concerning the single greatest existential threat the globe faces today.
One would be wrong.
If last year’s betrayal of the 1.5 degree global temperature rise limit wasn’t enough, this year we saw effectively no effort to slow the now-inevitable rise in global temperatures.
The closest we came to progress was to kick the Strategy for Resilient Development—an attempt to integrate climate change mitigation and disaster risk management—down the road.
An earlier version of the plan was rejected last year because it failed to cut the mustard last year, largely because of tepid Loss and Damage commitments.
This year, Cain and Dornan tell us the plan is back. The “voluntary nature of the framework agreed this year was no doubt helpful in securing leaders’ agreement.”
No doubt, indeed.
Some day, the bigger global fish are going to realise that they aren’t so big, and the small fry aren’t so small. We are all minnows in an increasingly crowded pond.
And when the sun begins to dry it, there’s no use in pretending the water’s only evaporating from someone else’s part of the pool.
Of course, the PIF wasn’t piffle for everyone concerned. Indonesia can take comfort that Australia, Fiji, PNG and New Zealand are still willing to carry their water, even in the face of a rising groundswell of protest over their continued occupation of West Papua.
Australia’s mining sector can hold their heads high at their ability to hold back a rising tide.
Fiji’s ruling regime danced through the meeting with characteristic aplomb, even as rumours of state-sponsored execution attempts circulate, and Opposition leaders are carted off to the clink.
If nothing else, the Vanuatu delegation got to visit the country with the second-most potent kava in the world. On an island so nice it looks like one of ours. That’s not nothing.
The online version of this article has been slightly edited from the print version.
2) Pacific leaders resolve for Papua to be taken up at UN
12:20 pm today
The Vanuatu prime minister Charlot Salwai says that Forum leaders at last week's summit in the Federated States of Micronesia reached consensus on reports of alleged human rights violations committed by Indonesia in Papua.
According to the Vanuatu Daily Post, this includes the Forum bringing the allegations to the table with Indonesia, and taking up the case at the UN Human Rights Committee.
This comes after the Forum abandoned last year's plan to have a fact-finding mission to Indonesia's Papua region, after Jakarta opposed the idea.
Despite West Papua self-determination and human rights abuses being billed as a leading item for the Forum leaders agenda last week, the summit's resulting communique was light on substance about Papua.
“Leaders recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua (Papua) should remain on their agenda," it read.
The leaders reportedly agreed on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue.
However the regional response about Papua is increasingly directed at the UN, rather than the Forum which Mr Salwai concedes has very few member states supporting the call for West Papuan self-determination.
He said the five Forum countries who do support it, believe that if there are human rights violations there, it is because of West Papuans' political aspirations.
Mr Salwai said the Forum resolved for these countries to take up the case at the UN Decolonisation Committee and he is going to raise the issue of alleged human rights abuses in West Papua at this month’s UN General Assembly in New York.
3) CSO engagement must be permanent PIF meeting feature: PIANGO
7:46 pm GMT+12, 14/09/2016, Fiji
Civil society engagement sessions must become a permanent part of Pacific islands Forum leaders meetings says the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs executive director, Emele Duituturaga. Duituturaga who presented alongside five other CSO representatives from Micronesia and Polynesia at the TROIKA breakfast prior to the official opening of the leaders meeting Pohnpei, FSM said the experience was a positive one for the team. “Overall, the experience of civil society has been a positive one. The team selected by the CSO Forum held in Suva were relatively new to the regionalism but they all reflected positively about their experiences and the policy issues covered when presenting to the five leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa,” she said. “We are grateful that the Forum Secretariat allowed 10 more members of the CSO sector to be present at the breakfast including Pacific Disability Forum’s executive director, Setareki Macanawai, representatives of the newly revived FSM Association of NGOs (FANGO) and NGO leaders from the Northern Pacific.” She said Micronesian CSO representatives that attended the breakfast found the experience empowering and were keen to participate in future CSO engagement platforms with Pacific leaders. “Their enthusiasm shows in the revival of their umbrella groupings in order to engage more effectively and better understand the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.” “It has also cemented our resolve as the PIANGO family to continue to create spaces so that CSOs can continue to engage north, south and western Pacific colleagues in policy discussions that affect the communities we serve.” Duituturaga said that due to these positive experiences, PIANGO is calling on the leaders and the Forum Secretariat to ensure that CSO engagement becomes a permanent feature for future PIF leaders meetings. “We were particularly encouraged by the commitment made by the Samoan Prime Minister at the TROIKA breakfast to expand the current form of CSO engagement (TROIKA Breakfast) to a full-fledged session with all 16 leaders in Apia, Samoa next year.” “That commitment generated a spontaneous round of cheering and clapping from the 16 CSO reps at the breakfast and it goes to show that as hosts for next year’s PIF leaders meeting, Samoa already understands the key role the civil society plays in regional and national policy discussions and development.” She said there are a number of events yet to take place which PIANGO will ensure that North Pacific CSOs can be engaged in with their leaders till the next Forum leaders meeting. “These are key meetings which can be used by CSOs to engage more effectively with their government leaders before they attend the next PIFs meeting,” Duituturaga said.
4) ’Indipendens Long Pacific' is 2016 Fest Napuan theme
By Anita Roberts
Organizers said 21 artists have applied to perform at Fest Napuan but time limit only allowed for 18.
These bands are: Stand & the Earthforce, Krankeman Band, Young Life, Alcina & Groove Gang, Smol Fyah & the Roots, Koncerners, Realistic, Black Ghetto, Hoobz, Marcel Melto & Ekwip Haus, Real Peace, Vanuazouk, Pango Vibration and Dropvkal Groove.
'Indipens long pasifik' is the theme of this year's Fest Napuan event.
Zion Fest, the Sunday concert of spiritual contemporary music to end this year's Fest Napuan event will have a strong presence of international bands unlike previous years, organizers have announced.
This year's Zion Fest is scheduled on October 16 following four nights of free-top quality music entertainment that is expected to attract a large crowd over Saralana, in front of the national museum as usual every year.
Fest Napuan is the biggest annual music festival in Vanuatu and may be the biggest of its kind held in region.
It shaped Vanuatu's music history.
It is set to return for its 20th conservative-year commencing with Fest Nalenga, its sister festival which takes place one day to showcase the local string bands. Fest Napuan takes place the next three days featuring the region's popular contemporary bands.
The festival ends with the Zion Fest on Sunday.
Organizers said this year's Zion Fest will have a different format to previous events where bands begun performances from late afternoon until midnight.
This year's event will kick start with a fashion parade in the mid afternoon and will end with a three-hour concert by the famous reggae gospel band from USA, Christafari.
Other international bands confirmed to perform for the people of Port Vila during Zion Fest include Eagles Wings from Fiji, Jah N I (Solomon) and Soldiers for Christ (PNG).
The confirmed local bands are Soul Harvest Choir, Acapela Union, Atara Singers, Kingdom Ambassadors, Garden of Praise Arts, New Breedz Band, Triune Sound, Father's House, Vika Tuisiwau & Mary Marafi, Young Faith, Futuna Youth and Malasitapu & Napataparop Combine.