FSM joins Smaller Island States group
- Category: News
- Published: Tuesday, 04 October 2016 13:34
- Written by Nic Maclellan
- Hits: 852
By Nic Maclellan
(Islands Business magazine)
in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia
PALIKIR, POHNPEI, 07 SEPTEMBER 2016 (ISLANDS BUSINESS) --- Federated States of Micronesia, the host country for this week’s Pacific Islands Forum, has been welcomed as a full member of the Smaller Island States (SIS) group within the Forum.
The Pacific’s smaller atoll and island nations opened their annual pre-Forum meeting in Pohnpei on Wednesday morning.
Until this week’s meeting, SIS membership has comprised Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu.
Incoming SIS Chair, Prime Minister Henry Puna of the Cook Islands, opened the pre-Forum caucus, welcoming FSM as the latest member of the group by acclamation: “In the true Pacific way, we have wholeheartedly agreed to support and welcome FSM into the SIS family.”
In reply, FSM President Peter Christian said: “The Federated States of Micronesia takes this as a great honour, to be included as a member of SIS – something we have wanted for a long time.”
Puna also welcomed President Hilda Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to her first Forum meeting, noting that Heine is the first elected female leader of an independent island state.
Kiribati was represented at the opening by Reetata Rimon, as Taneti Maamau, Te Beretitenti of the Republic of Kiribati, will not be attending this week’s meeting.
Niue’s seat was empty for the opening ceremony. In past years, Niue Premier Toke Talagi has been critical of the lack of regional support to smaller island states.
In 2014, Talagi complained: “We're promised assistance but at the end of the day, since I've been part of the Forum there's been no substantial difference in the manner in which we are treated versus those in the larger countries. We don't get any special assistance from the donor funding, we don't get any special allocation of resources provided for the Pacific Islands Forum from regional institutions and so on.”
Since that time, the Forum Secretariat has been boosting its engagement with the SIS countries, including the deployment of SIS attachment staff. Regional organisations have been called on to refocus attention on issues particular to the smaller Forum members, which have different development priorities and challenges to larger nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
In June this year, SIS Leaders held a special summit in Palau, to adopt a new SIS Strategy. They called for the wider Forum to ensure that the specific priorities of the SIS – on climate finance, transport, and fisheries policy – are reflected in the Forum’s new policy mechanism, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Speaking before the meeting, Alfred Schuster, Development Cooperation Adviser at Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, said: “The SIS strategy recognises that there’s a new way of making decisions in the Forum. The Framework for Pacific Regionalism has opened up this new public policy process, and the SIS nations need to have their voice heard.”
Schuster noted key SIS priorities on health, transport, climate finance, labour mobility and maritime issues
(such as fisheries and deep sea mining).
“Climate change continues to be a central issue for them, developing and advocating positions to take to the global arena – driven in particular by smaller members of the group like Tuvalu and Kiribati,” he said.
SIS leaders are seeking a mapping of labour flows within the region. Atoll nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu have seen limited numbers of workers recruited for Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program. Travel from the central Pacific, often involving transit via Fiji, makes airfares more expensive for prospective employers. Labour-exporting countries like Tonga have captured much of the market for recruitment to Australia, drawing on long experience in promoting temporary labour migration.
Air and sea transport is another major concern, with the SIS leaders are looking at possible options for greater control and management of their upper airspace, given regional airlines often transit their territory.... PACNEWS
FSM President Peter M. Christian seated in the Small Island States grouping