Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Minister Aupito William Sio attended the virtual Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat from Waitangi today. During the retreat Pacific Leaders focused on COVID-19 recovery and response, and in particular equitable and timely access to safe vaccines for the peoples of the Pacific.
Minister Mahuta says the Forum plays a vital role in leading collective action on significant issues that affect us all. The health and well-being of Pacific populations and Pacific economic recovery is of utmost importance to New Zealand.
“We have already earmarked $75 million of Official Development Assistance to support Pacific vaccine access, including purchasing, planning, and delivery. We are working closely with Australia and other Pacific Islands Forum Members, as well as our regional partners, to ensure Pacific countries have the total support required to run successful immunisation campaigns.”
Minister Sio acknowledged the exceptional work that the Pacific region has collectively done to stamp out, and in many cases eradicating COVID-19.
Pacific Leaders will discuss the appointment of the next Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Outgoing Secretary- General Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea was appointed to the position in 2014. Dame Meg is the first women to hold the position.
ABC’s Pacific Beat reports there is a five-way race to succeed Dame Meg Taylor. One of the principles of the Forum Secretariat has been to rotate the position of Secretary General around the sub-regions, and Micronesia is adamant that it’s their turn.
Leaders of the Micronesian countries Marshall Islands, Nauru, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau have reminded other Forum countries that they agreed in 2019 that it was Micronesia’s turn to put their candidate forward.
However, rival candidates from Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Cook Islands have also had their names put forward.
The candidates reported to have emerged are; former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s former Foreign Minister; Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, head of the Commonwealth’s Gender section, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, former Director General of the Pacific Community, and Gerald Zackios, the Marshall Islands Ambassador to the U.S.
Founded in 1971, the Pacific Islands Forum is the region’s premier political and economic policy organisation. The 18 member countries are: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Images: NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Pacific Islands Forum Facebook