Partnerships: The Pacific Islands Forum
In this latest installment of Partnerships, a series on our work with multilateral and civil society organizations around the world, we look at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a political grouping of 18 countries* facing a particular set of challenges.
The partnership between the United Nations and the PIF covers issues of fundamental importance not only for the region but for the whole world. The PIF’s latest “State of Pacific Regionalism” report points to growing political, economic and environmental uncertainty created by several trends with implications for the whole region: rising inequality, changing multilateral relations, an increasingly crowded and complex region, increasing depletion of natural resources, regional and global conflict, and ongoing advances in technology.
The UN’s support to PIF countries ranges from electoral assistance to peacebuilding. The state of cooperation between the two organizations came under review last month during the high-level segment of the General Assembly. At a 22 September event organized by the Department of Political Affairs, Secretary-General António Guterres said the resolve of PIF leaders “to advance your regional vision and common interests has amplified your voice and leverage within the United Nations.“
Earlier in September, during a summit meeting in Samoa, Pacific leaders agreed to revamp the Forum’s regional security framework to encompass natural disasters, human trafficking, illegal fishing and climate change. In doing so, the Pacific is pioneering an approach that draws linkages between climate change and other phenomena and security.
In New York, the Secretary-General commended the members of the PIF for rethinking their regional security framework to encompass new issues with security challenges.
The new UN Pacific Strategy 2018-22 considers whether the institutions are in place – such as stable and well-functioning governments; effective parliaments; independent judiciary -- and Governments have enough political capital to follow through with an ambitious sustainable development agenda.
The Secretary-General reaffirmed during the PIF Leaders Meeting in September the UN’s commitment to “support efforts towards building resilient communities and societies based on the strong cultures unique to the Pacific.” A visit by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča to Fiji and Samoa in September 2017 reinforced the message of UN engagement and support in the Pacific region. Of note, upon receiving requests from Nauru and Vanuatu, DPA’s Electoral Affairs Division and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have conducted needs assessment missions in the two countries to assess a possible UN role in upcoming polls and reform processes.
Another form of UN support is delivered through the Joint UNDP-DPA Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention. A UN Peace and Development Adviser (PDA) for Fiji and the Pacific Islands is working to strengthen the UN’s partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to better align efforts in the region to prevent and address the risks to peace and security. The previous PDA initiated a dialogue with key partners of the PIF on electoral support and conflict prevention in 2016. Given the importance of youth and women’s participation, DPA is closely working with UNDP, UN Women and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) on supporting the local peacebuilding priorities in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
* Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.