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  • The Region in Review: International Issues and Events, 2010
  • Nic Maclellan (bio)

At the annual Pacific Islands Forum in August 2010, Forum Secretariat staff issued a media release stating, “The Pacific Islands Forum, which celebrates 40 years of its existence next year, is based on unity” (Forum 2010d). However, the unity of the Forum and other regional institutions continues to be tested by the increasing complexity of international issues such as trade, aid, climate change, and the regional aftermath of Fiji’s 2006 coup. As Island leaders gathered in Fiji for the “Engaging with the Pacific” conference in July, their final communiqué noted that “views expressed all round highlighted what Pacific Small Island States perceived as deficiencies in the ability of the current model of Pacific regionalism to effectively address key development and governance challenges” (Natadola Communiqué 2010).

The year 2010 was marked by debates within the Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (msg), growing independent action by Papua New Guinea, and the ongoing challenge posed by the postcoup administration in Fiji. In the face of China’s diplomatic and economic commitment to the region, the Obama administration announced new regional initiatives, and New Zealand’s conservative government shifted aid and defense policies. While the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (spc) expanded its reach in 2010, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (pifs) was a troubled institution, facing challenges to its role and public criticism of its officials.

Under Director-General Dr Jimmie Rodgers, the spc is becoming the premier intergovernmental development agency for twenty-six Pacific countries and territories. The spc is creating new departments and incorporating programs from other members of the Council of Regional Organizations of the Pacific (crop). Two crop agencies were fully integrated into the spc by 1 January 2011: the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (sopac) and the South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (spbea).

By the end of 2010, the spc had more than 600 staff spread across the region: 200 at its Noumea headquarters and 360 at the Nabua office in Suva, with others located at the northern Pacific regional office in Pohnpei, country offices in Port Vila and Honiara, and operations in ten other countries. Focused on three core areas (sustainable human development, sustainable economic development, and sustainable natural resources management and development), the spc mandate now covers a range of sectors: agriculture, aqua-culture, culture, fisheries, forestry, gender, information and communication technologies, human rights, maritime transport, public health, statistics and demography, youth, and cross-cutting areas including food security and climate change.

There are now nine crop agencies; besides the Secretariat of the Pacific [End Page 440] Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, these include the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Power Agency, the Fiji School of Medicine, the University of the South Pacific, the Pacific Islands Development Program, and the South Pacific Tourism Organization. Given this diversity of institutions, crop executives agreed in 2010 to develop “all-crop” joint country strategies to avoid duplication of programs in member countries and territories. United Nations (UN) agencies in the region are attempting a similar “One UN” strategy, with limited results thus far.

A major interagency activity in 2010 was the inaugural Pacific Food Summit, held in Port Vila in April, to coordinate efforts for all Pacific people to have access to safe, nutritious, local food. The spc and the Forum Secretariat also organized a Regional Consultation on Cultural Industries in December to promote cultural, creative, and innovative industries.

Forum leaders held their annual meeting in Vanuatu in August and were presented with a plethora of reports from the Forum Officials Committee, the Pacific Plan Action Committee, the Forum Regional Security Committee, and a range of Forum ministerial meetings. A key focus was progress with the 2005 Pacific Plan—the framework designed to link the work of regional intergovernmental organizations to national development priorities. Briefing journalists before the Forum, Deputy Secretary-General Feleti Teo said that, in spite of many achievements, reporting from Pacific governments on the Pacific Plan had been “pretty poor,” and there were challenges to translate regional policy into action on the ground.

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