7 Sep 2016

Climate, fisheries and Papua on Forum agenda

8:08 pm on 7 September 2016

Increasing economic returns from fisheries and responding to the effects of climate change are two of the priorities for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting which opens in the Federated States of Micronesia tomorrow.

Leaders from 16 independent and self-governing states in the region including Australia and New Zealand will be in Pohnpei until Sunday to talk about the Forum's "Framework for Pacific Regionalism."

Another key area to be discussed refers to regional concerns about human rights abuses in West Papua and issues around self-determination for the indigenous people of this Indonesia-ruled region.

The Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, says West Papua remains a sensitive issue for some Pacific governments, but one that needs to be debated.

She told a pre-Forum media workshop in Pohnpei that bigger countries in the region like Australia and New Zealand realise that this issue was not going to fade away as it is very important for Pacific people.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor says West Papua is a sensitive issue.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor says West Papua is a sensitive issue. Photo: AFP

At last year's Forum summit in Port Moresby a decision was reached to push Indonesia to allow a fact-finding mission on West Papua.

The Forum has been criticised by civil society over the fact that after a year there's been no movement on this front - however Dame Meg said Jakarta has indicated it would not welcome a Forum delegation, and was uncomfortable with the term "fact-finding."

How the summit is scheduled

Leaders from smaller island states of the Forum met on Wednesday to talk about implementation of the recently endorsed Small Islands States Strategy.

This looks at addressing the unique challenges they face with climate change finance, air and sea transport, marine conservation, mobility and health.

Tomorrow begins with a leaders breakfast with Pacific civil society leaders who will give their take on the regional development agenda.

This will be followed by a meeting of Pacific leaders of the African Caribbean Pacific group on the future of the ACP group and trade matters.

An official opening ceremony for the 47th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting will take place in the evening in Kolonia.

The full Leaders Plenary Session with Associate Members and Observers will take place on Friday along with a dialogue with private sector representatives.

Leaders go to their special retreat on Saturday, with the Post -Forum Dialogue sessions scheduled for Sunday when Forum members meet with various partners to align development support behind policy priorities.

NZ must put more into Pacific climate battle - MP

As the New Zealand prime minister John Key heads for the Forum summit, an opposition Labour MP says this country has to make a much bigger effort to help the Pacific adapt to climate change.

The comments from Labour's climate change spokesperson, Su'a William Sio, come after OXFAM called for more aid to help countries adapt to changes that are already happening.

Echoing the OXFAM report, Su'a said Pacific countries continued to struggle to access the funding supposedly available through the Green Climate Fund.

He said the rules in place made it virtually impossible for the small and vulnerable nations to access it.

New Zealand MPs (from left) Louisa Wall, Su'a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni.

New Zealand MPs (from left) Louisa Wall, Su'a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Su'a asked what New Zealand would do if a major storm battered the most vulnerable nations like, Tuvalu, Kiribati, or Tokelau.

"We need to have a greater commitment and increase our commitment to the Pacific because the Pacific is sort of the canary in the coalmine," he explained.

"They are in danger and that danger in the Pacific will also impact on us."

Su'a William Sio is also one of a group of around ten New Zealand MPs who have been calling for the international community to do more to hold Indonesia to account for restrictions and rights abuses in West Papua.

In parliament this week, he and other MPs tabled a petition calling on the government to make a number of representations on the plight of West Papuans.

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