From Issue 50, Winter
pledges to 'stay active' in the Pacific'
THE British Government has told Island
leaders that it would stay engaged in the Pacific despite
diplomatic posts, and withdrawing from the Pacific Community, the development
This pledge was given in Port
Moresby in October by a UK
delegation led by John Battle, former Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister,
in talks held after the annual meeting of the 16-nation Pacific Forum.
Representatives of the Forum had
sought assurances from the UK
that it was not pulling out of the region.
delegates explained how the UK
now offered financial help through global organisations such as the European
Union, UN and World Bank.
They promised that Britain
would work through EU to sharpen existing financial aid, and formulate the
European strategy to align it with the new Pacific plan, which sets out ways to
strengthen regional cooperation in economic growth, sustainable development,
good governance and security.
Although the UK’s
resident diplomatic posts would be reduced from four to three in 2006, this
still matched the number of posts held by France,
it was pointed out.
In his opening remarks, Mr
Battle said that Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office had had to look
closely at its priorities, due to the ever- increasing demands on limited
“As a result, this year sadly
sees the closure of posts in Kiribati,
Vanuatu and in
March 2006, Tonga.
However, our commitment to the Pacific region remains strong and forward
“We are strengthening our high
commission in Suva, and have
appointed a regional officer there who will take up his appointment early next
year. Staff will make regular visits to those islands and others to which we
are already accredited, but where we do not have resident representation.”
Mr Battle was asked to lead the
British group after the Forum the Islands’ summit - was
switched from August to October. This clashed with commitments made by Ian
Pearson, the current minister responsible for UK-Pacific relations, who had
intended to go to Port Moresby.
is not a member of Forum, but is one of the 13 nations that have discussions
afterwards with a panel of Forum representatives in the so-called post-Forum
dialogue. Other non-Forum countries taking part included the US,
and France as
well as the European Commission.
Mr Battle, who as a Foreign
Office minister led the UK
at similar talks in Kiribati
in 2000, said the Forum meeting was “an important date in our calendar”. It
provided the means to identify common problems and goals.
“We very much welcome the
opportunity to strengthen our relations with friends in the Pacific and those
who share common interests”, he said. “Although it is a long way from the UK,
we share similar challenges from terrorism and international crime, HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS continued to be an
issue of common concern with 28,000 or more cases of HIV positive in Papua
New Guinea, and the prospect of 38 per cent
nationally by 2020. This would result in huge losses in the workforce.
The problem did not seem to be
so severe in other Pacific countries, but it was important to take action
before it got out of control, he stressed.
had doubled its contribution to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and
malaria - increasing the UK
contribution to over £150 million. It
was also channelling funds through multilateral bodies such as the European
Union, UNDP, and Asian Development Bank.
The main outcome of this year’s
Forum proper was agreement on the Pacific plan, as well as a Roadmap to guide Island
states through the initial phases over the next three years.
Mr Battle and his team made
supported the plan and its objectives in the belief that, in a globalising
world, regional integration made sense.
As the EU current president and
the only European state besides France
at the Port Moresby meeting, Britain
promised to press the European Commission and EU member states for support.
Edwin’s last mission
IN one of his last acts for his
beloved Pacific, Edwin Smith, Pacific Islands Society
Secretary, who died suddenly in December,
flew to Fiji in
November to deliver a gold signet ring on behalf of the Black Watch to the son
of a Fijian war hero who was killed in Iraq.
Pictured: Edwin meet young Savenaca
All our members have been
saddened by Edwin’s sudden death, as am I. Edwin’s enormous energy and
enthusiasm have made a tremendous contribution to our Society, and it is
especially sad that he did not live to enjoy the Society’s Jubilee Year, into
the planning of which he had put so much.
- Michael Walsh, Chair, Pacific
Islands Society, who has expressed sorrow on behalf of the Society to Edwin’s family