Pacific leaders sign pact on climate, security issues

AP and Reuters, NAURU and MELBOURNE

Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 1

Pacific leaders meeting in Nauru were yesterday expected to sign a security agreement that addresses climate change, and crimes such as drug smuggling and illegal fishing that cross borders.

Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum have said they consider climate change their nations’ biggest security threat, since low-lying Pacific islands would cease to exist as sea levels rise.

The signing of the security declaration, which also addresses cybercrime and health concerns, such as communicable diseases and pandemics, was the centerpiece of the three-day meeting.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived yesterday to attend an all-day leaders’ retreat and the signing ceremony.

Some people in New Zealand said that Ardern had cost taxpayers thousands of dollars by scheduling an extra flight to minimize time away from her baby, but Nauruan President Baron Divavesi Waqa showed his support by penning Ardern and 11-week-old Neve a tribute.

During a break, Waqa grabbed a guitar and along with a group of elders sang a song he titled Aotearoa Our Friend, Jacinda Our New Star in the Sky. The first word is the Maori name for New Zealand.

The lyrics included the line: “A little baby star is born.”

Ardern disputed whether her trip had cost taxpayers anything, saying the military had told her it has a fixed budget that it could use on extra trips or training exercises.

Ardern added she would have been the first New Zealand leader in nearly 50 years to miss the forum, aside from those who had been campaigning.

Earlier yesterday, Pacific fishing and community groups signed an agreement with the EU to improve sustainable fishing and ocean governance in the region.

Under the Pacific-EU Marine Partnership, the EU would provide 35 million euros (US$40.65 million) and Sweden would provide 10 million euros over five years.

The program is to provide direct assistance to regional organizations.

Meanwhile, Australia said it would set up a center for strategic analysis of information to help the Pacific region tackle security threats such as illegal fishing, people smuggling and drug trafficking.

The center, to be established in the middle of next year, is among a raft of measures Australia is adopting as it boosts security commitments in the region.

“The new Pacific Fusion Center will provide strategic analysis of information to help strengthen maritime domain awareness and provide security alerts and advice for Pacific security agencies,” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement.

It would add to Australia’s Pacific maritime security program to provide the region with 21 new Guardian-class patrol boats over the next five years, an aerial surveillance package and a security college due to be set up early next year.