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  • The Region in Review:International Issues and Events, 2015
  • Nic Maclellan (bio)

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change, adopted by 195 nations, was the culmination of a year of action by Pacific Island governments and communities. Global warming was the central issue of security and rights in 2015, and there were significant advances on regional oceans and climate policy—a positive example of the collective advocacy dubbed the “New Pacific Diplomacy” (Fry and Tarte 2015).

Throughout the year, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (pifs) introduced the new Framework on Pacific Regionalism, establishing a process to prioritize regional public policy. Despite improved relations after the 2014 elections in Fiji, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama again refused to join the annual Forum leaders meeting, held in Port Moresby in September. Papua New Guinea and Fiji continued to assert their leadership ambitions, while governments held summits with India, Japan, France, and Republic of Korea.

There was increasing debate over human rights across the region, on violence against women, the abuse of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, and the right to self-determination in non-self-governing territories. Public concern over West Papua prompted debate at the Forum leaders’ meeting, while the Melanesian Spearhead Group expanded its reach to grant associate membership to Indonesia and observer status to a coalition of West Papuan independence groups.

Since her appointment at the 2014 Pacific Islands Forum in Palau, Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor has bedded down a series of reforms in the Forum Secretariat in Suva. These internal changes come as part of a broader transformation of the regional architecture (Maclellan 2015d) through the Council of Regional Organizations of the Pacific (crop) and newer institutions like the Fiji-based Pacific Islands Development Forum (pidf).

Even as the regional intergovernmental organizations were debating their mandate and structure during 2015, there were significant changes of leadership. As Pacific countries mobilized for the climate negotiations in Paris, the director-general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (sprep), David Sheppard, announced his resignation. After six years at the helm, Sheppard was replaced by his former deputy, Kosi Latu of Sāmoa.

At the pidf, Feleti Teo resigned to take up the position as head of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in March. Former Fiji Secretary of Foreign Affairs Amena Yauvoli stood in as an interim executive before François Martel of Sāmoa was appointed in September as the full-time pidf secretary-general. Martel has worked for many years in resource management, biodiversity, conservation, and climate change.

Forum Fisheries Agency (ffa) Director-General James Movick completed his first three-year term in [End Page 430] 2015 and was endorsed by ffa members to serve a second term to 2018.

In an unexpected move, the director-general of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (msg) secretariat in Port Vila, Peter Forau, resigned his post in November, two years before the end of his second term. Plans to establish “Melanesian Solutions” as the secretariat’s commercial arm could not make up for funding shortfalls as the msg work program expanded during 2015. Departing his post, Forau also reflected on divergences within the msg over democracy in Fiji and West Papua: “There have been some influences exerted on some of our members about how they should relate to Fiji during the time when the government was not an elected government. And so some of those relationship issues are still around, and sometimes something has happened between, for example, Papua New Guinea and Fiji” (rnzi 2015). In early 2016, Fiji’s Amena Yauvoli was named as a candidate for the post.

At year’s end, Audrey Aumua was appointed as deputy director-general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (spc), taking over from Fekita ‘Utoikamanu. As a former World Health Organization regional representative, Dr Aumua will head the spc’s Suva operations, supporting Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga at the spc’s Nouméa headquarters.

At a crop meeting in Nouméa in February, agency chiefs agreed to a review of regional governance and financing, to be led by former spc Director-General Jimmie Rodgers. The collaborative work of the crop agencies is currently managed through seven crop...


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