Pacific Islands Forum
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean, including formation of a trade bloc and regional peacekeeping operations. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum (SPF), and changed its name in 1999 to "Pacific Islands Forum", so as to be more inclusive of the Forum's Oceania-spanning membership of both north and south Pacific island countries, including Australia. It is a United Nations General Assembly observer.
Pacific Islands Forum
Membership (dark blue) of the Pacific Islands Forum.
|Seat of Secretariat||Suva, Fiji|
• Forum Chair
• Secretary General
• as South Pacific Forum
• renamed Pacific Islands Forum
|8,509,959 km2 (3,285,714 sq mi)|
• 2018 estimate
|4/km2 (10.4/sq mi)|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|US$ 1.689 trilliona|
• Per capita
|HDI (2007–2008)|| 0.753a|
high · 97tha
The mission of the Pacific Islands Forum is "to work in support of Forum member governments, to enhance the economic and social well-being of the people of the South Pacific by fostering cooperation between governments and between international agencies, and by representing the interests of Forum members in ways agreed by the Forum". Its decisions are implemented by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), which grew out of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). As well as its role in harmonising regional positions on various political and policy issues, the Forum Secretariat has technical programmes in economic development, transport and trade. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General is the permanent Chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).
Australia and New Zealand are generally larger and wealthier than the other countries that make up the rest of the Forum, with Australia's population being around twice that of the other members combined and its economy is more than five times larger. They are significant aid donors and big markets for exports from the other island countries. Military and police forces as well as civilian personnel of Forum states, chiefly Australia and New Zealand, have recently been part of regional peacekeeping and stabilization operations in other states, notably in Solomon Islands (2003–) and Nauru (2004–2009), under Forum auspices. Such regional efforts are mandated by the Biketawa Declaration, which was adopted at the 31st Summit of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, held at Kiribati in October 2000. The 50th meeting of the Forum took place in Tuvalu in August 2019. In February 2021, Palau announced that it would be leaving the Pacific Island Forum after a dispute regarding Henry Puna's election as the Forum's secretary-general. The Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia also decided to leave the Forum after Palau's decision.
The larger Pacific Community functions mainly to promote international development by providing technical and scientific advice and funding development projects, and does not consider security issues or function as a trade bloc.
From 5–7 August 1971, the first meeting of the South Pacific Forum was initiated by New Zealand and held in Wellington, New Zealand, with attendants of the following seven countries: the President of Nauru, the Prime Ministers of Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, the Premier of the Cook Islands, the Australian Minister for External Territories, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It was a private and informal discussion of a wide range of issues of common concern, concentrating on matters directly affecting the daily lives of the people of the islands of the South Pacific, devoting particular attention to trade, shipping, tourism, and education. Afterwards this meeting was held annually in member countries and areas in turn. In 1999, the 30th South Pacific Forum decided to be renamed the organization to the Pacific Islands Forum, to better account for areas outside the south Pacific. Immediately after the forum's annual meeting at head of government level, the Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) is conducted at ministerial level with PFD development partners around the world.
Suspension of Fiji
In August 2008, the Forum threatened to suspend Fiji if the latter did not commit to holding a general election by March 2009. Subsequently, at a special leaders' meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum held in Papua New Guinea in January 2009, Forum leaders set a deadline of 1 May, by which date Fiji must set a date for elections before the end of the year. Fiji rejected the deadline. Consequently, on 2 May, Fiji was suspended indefinitely from participation in the Forum with immediate effect. Toke Talagi, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Premier of Niue, described the suspension as "also particularly timely given the recent disturbing deterioration of the political, legal and human rights situation in Fiji since April 10, 2009". He described Fiji as “a regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom” which he believed contravened membership of the Pacific Islands Forum. Talagi emphasised, however, that Fiji had not been expelled and that it would be welcomed back into the fold when it returned to the path of "constitutional democracy, through free and fair elections".
Following the election of Henry Puna as Secretary-General in February 2021 during a virtual meeting, Palau threatened to leave the Forum, claiming that a "gentlemen's agreement" to rotate the position between Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia had been violated. Puna had won a ballot by one vote (9–8) against the Marshall Island's Gerald Zackios, who was supported by five nations from Micronesia. On 4 February, Palau formally terminated its participation in the forum, citing that the "process regarding the appointment of the Secretary General has clearly indicated to the Republic of Palau that unity, regionalism and the Pacific Way no longer guide the Forum", and closed its embassy in Fiji. On 6 February, the Forum's chair responded to the allegations, stating that there was a consensus decisions following an agreed process and that "we have upheld our principles and values as characterised through the Pacific way". On 8 February the Palau National Congress formally passed a joint resolution, supporting the decision made by President Surangel Whipps Jr. to leave the Forum. Whipps has stated Puna has to step down for Palau to rejoin the Forum.
After Palau's decision to leave the Forum, several other participant countries have indicated their intention to review their membership. In general, the countries of Micronesia, with smaller populations and economies, have complained of being sidelined by larger countries, including Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. There had only ever been one Micronesian Secretary-General of the PIF. The day after Palau's withdrawal, MPs in the Marshall Islands, who had previously supported Zackios, called for the government to review its participation in the Forum, but opposed withdrawal. The Federated States of Micronesia and Nauru have openly questioned whether they will remain members. Nauru President Lionel Aingimea has signaled his intention to pull out, stating that "If this is the way Micronesia is treated, then it is better off withdrawing from the Forum". Four members of the Micronesian bloc – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia – decided to hold a virtual meeting to discuss whether to exit the Forum. Australia has attempted to convince the four Pacific Island nations not to pull out. While it has indicated a desire to continue to work with the Micronesian group if it chose to pull out of the Forum, it emphaisized the need for Pacific unity.
On 9 February 2021 the remaining Micronesian states – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia – decided to leave the Forum. Micronesian leaders released a statement to "collectively express their great disappointment with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General appointment process", with each state jointly agreeing to formally initiate the process of withdrawal from the Forum. Their departure reduces the Forum to 12 members, all of them in the South Pacific. It may take up to a year for the countries to formally leave the regional body. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has stated that "we will continue to work very closely with the members of the Pacific Forum".
In September 2011, the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands were granted observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum, while in September 2016 the French territories of French Polynesia and New Caledonia were granted full membership.
|Australia (AU)||Cook Islands (CK)||Fiji (FJ)||French Polynesia (PF)|
|New Caledonia (NC)||New Zealand (NZ)||Niue (NU)||Papua New Guinea (PG)|
|Samoa (WS)||Solomon Islands (SB)||Tonga (TO)||Tuvalu (TV)|
|Tokelau (TK)||American Samoa (AS)||Guam (GU)||Northern Mariana Islands (MP)|
|Timor-Leste (TL)||Wallis and Futuna (WF)||United Nations|
|Asian Development Bank||Commonwealth of Nations||WCPFC|
|Kiribati (KI)||Marshall Islands (MH)||Micronesia (FM)||Nauru (NR)|
|For abbreviations, see ISO 3166-1.|
|United Kingdom||United States|
|Member||Land area (km2)||Population (2018)||GDP Millions USD (2010)||GDP Per Capita USD (2010)||Human Development Index (2016)|
|Papua New Guinea||462,840||8,606,323||14,205||2,074||0.516|
1 Associate member
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is appointed to a three-year term by the leaders of the member states. The Secretary General reports directly to the national leaders and the Forum Officials' Committee (FOC). The Secretary General also automatically serves as the permanent chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).
|#||Name||Country||Took office||Left office|
|Directors of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation|
|1||Mahe Tupouniua||Tonga||November 1972||1980|
|2||Gabriel Gris||Papua New Guinea||1980||1982 (died in office)|
|John Sheppard (acting)||Australia||1982||January 1983|
|3||Mahe Tupouniua||Tonga||January 1983||January 1986|
|4||Henry Naisali||Tuvalu||January 1986||September 1988|
|Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum|
|Henry Naisali||Tuvalu||September 1988||January 1992|
|5||Ieremia Tabai||Kiribati||January 1992||January 1998|
|6||Noel Levi||Papua New Guinea||February 1998||16 May 2004|
|7||Greg Urwin||Australia||16 May 2004||2 May 2008 (resigned)|
|Feleti Teo (acting)||Tuvalu||2 May 2008||13 October 2008|
|8||Tuiloma Neroni Slade||Samoa||13 October 2008||4 December 2014|
|9||Meg Taylor||Papua New Guinea||4 December 2014||4 February 2021|
|10||Henry Puna||Cook Islands||4 February 2021||Incumbent|
Institutions and legal framework
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was established initially as a trade bureau in 1972 and later became the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). The name South Pacific Forum Secretariat was approved by member governments in 1988 and changed to Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2000.
There are four divisions in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and each of these divisions has direct responsibility for a range of programs designed to improve the capacity of the Forum member countries and to co-ordinate action on matters of common interest:
- Development and Economic Policy
- Trade and Investment
- Political, International and Legal Affairs
- Corporate Services
Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement
- Cook Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
It has not been signed by either Palau or the Marshall Islands. All of the signing states have ratified the treaty, with the exception of Micronesia. As of March 2008, six countries had announced that domestic arrangements had been made enabling them to trade under the agreement: Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu.
After the trade agreement goes into force, countries commit to removing tariffs on most goods by 2021. As of April 2008, The Forum Island Countries are also negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. It is important to note that the PICTA discussed here covers only the trade of goods. At the Forum Island Leaders Meeting held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on 28 August 2012, nine members signed the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement Trade in Services (PICTA TIS). As of April 2008, there is an ongoing negotiation to design and agree on a protocol to include trade in services and the temporary movement of natural persons (a broader concept than the GATS's Mode 4).
The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser was established on 29 March 2010 to provide independent advice and support to the Pacific Forum Island Countries (FICs) in the PACER Plus trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.
An “open skies” policy has been under work by a number of nations. The Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement or PIASA would allow member nations to have more access for their airlines to other member countries. To date there have been ten signatories, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, while only six have ratified the agreement. These six are Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.
At the 19–20 August 2008 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Niue, the leaders discussed Pacific Plan priorities including, “fisheries, energy, trade and economic integration, climate change and transport, in addition to information and communication technology, health, education, and good governance.” Leaders also discussed the impacts of climate change and adopted the Niue Declaration on Climate Change. Restoration of democratic governance in Fiji was discussed as were consequences should the interim government fail to meet established deadlines. Regional assistance to the Solomon Islands and Nauru was discussed, followed by discussion of radioactive contamination in the Marshall Islands from US government tests. Regional institutional framework issues and WTO Doha round developments were discussed, followed by discussion of country-initiatives and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility launched 19 August 2008 to provide up to A$200 million over four years to help improve infrastructure in Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The United Nations announced that it would partner with Samoa to develop an Inter-Agency Climate Change Centre to help Pacific island nations combat the impacts of climate change in the region. In the 2013 forum, the Marshall Islands, supported by all other Pacific nations, claimed compensation from the United States for the nuclear tests conducted on the islands during the 1940s and 1950s.
In the Nadi Bay declaration of 30 July 2019, the Pacific Islands Forum warned that coral atoll nations could be uninhabitable as early as 2030, expressed their deeply concern about a lack of "comprehension, ambition or commitment" from developed nations and called for an immediate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
On 27 January 2021, the European Union and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat agreed a project worth EUR 5.75 million to enhance the trade capacity of Pacific Island countries. The project titled “Strengthening Pacific Intra-Regional and International Trade (SPIRIT)” is designed to boost and increase intra-regional and international trade by strengthening institutional and technical capacity in the Pacific Island region. It will also facilitate the implementation of other trade agreements, in particular the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and of the Pacific's Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020–2025.
- Forum Fisheries Agency
- Melanesian Spearhead Group
- Pacific Community
- Pacific Forum Line – a regional shipping company owned by 12 Pacific Islands Forum member countries
- Pacific Games
- Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO)
- Pacific Trade Invest
- Pacific Union
- Polynesian Leaders Group
- Trade bloc
- Corresponds to the terrestrial surface. Including the Exclusive Economic Zones of each member state, the total area is 37 894 287 km².
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