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Why Guam should be a full member of PIF

The interests of Guam in upgrading our membership and participation in the Pacific Islands Forum is based on our desire to have greater interaction with the other subregions of the Pacific as we deal with the existential crisis of climate change among other issues affecting all pacific islands such as food security, biodiversity, poverty and development.

We are exploring this opportunity since it was provided to the French dependencies and territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

During my interaction with pacific leaders at the Pacific Island Leaders Conference at the East-West Center and the Governor’s participation at the Pacific Island Summit – this topic was welcomed and we expect to explore this further over the course of the year.

There is an interest from the other islands to ensure that there are great opportunities to exchange ideas amongst all the pacific peoples. And it is inconceivable that Guam would be excluded from such opportunities given the democracy that we enjoy.

I am told that governance of the PIF is based on consensus and does not operate through the votes of its members. That is a major consideration that will be further explored.

It does not appear that the forum would be a venue in which we could bind Guam to any international agreements anyway. Nor is there a desire to do so. We understand this.

That being said, the elected leadership of every state and territory have participated in trade delegations and cultural exchanges with foreign countries to develop trade ties that operate within agreements and rules established by treaties and State Department policy.

A few years ago when President Trump removed the United States from the Paris Agreement, 25 states and Puerto Rico adopted local policies that aligned with the spirit and objectives of the agreement. They did not intend to, nor could they change, federal policy.

Guam’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio at the Pacific Island Council of Leaders. Picture: Joshua Tenorio Instagram

For the Government of Guam, we have adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals through our creation of the Guam Green Growth at the Center for Sustainability at the University of Guam.

This is simply our effort to account for and enable projects and policy that are designed to improve the quality of life for our residents and island.

It isn’t an affront to US policy nor does it impact or bind the federal government. The borders of Guam and its relationship with the United States do not shield us from the impact of climate change and ecological issues affecting the Pacific.

Our administration has established and maintained a very good and transparent relationship with the federal government including our partners at the Departments of Defense and Interior.

We do not see our pursuit of PIF membership as an affront to the US Government. Nor do we see the forum as the proper place to address political status issues.

The interests of Guam in upgrading our membership and participation in the Pacific Islands Forum is based on our desire to have greater interaction with the other subregions of the Pacific. Picture: PIFS
The interests of Guam in upgrading our membership and participation in the Pacific Islands Forum is based on our desire to have greater interaction with the other subregions of the Pacific. Picture: PIFS

The proper legal venue for addressing Guam’s non-self-governing status remains exclusively with the US Congress. Annual opportunities at the United Nations Committee on 24 and Fourth Committee to apprise the international community on the longstanding unresolved political status issues by Guam, merely provides opportunity to register progress and concerns in a transparent process established by the United States and the United Nations long ago.

Political status remains unaffected by membership at the Pacific Islands Forum and the admission of New Caledonia and French Polynesia seem to be an effort to ensure that all pacific islands and people are considered when discussing regional challenges and opportunities.

Efforts that do not include Guam, given its status as the hub for Micronesia, its leadership in the Micronesia Challenge, and it’s enhanced role for the security of the region would resurrect a historic practice of isolation – in line with the legal theory that prevailed in the Insular Cases and absent from the reality that we live in an interdependent world.

The Honorable Joshua “Josh” Franquez Tenorio is the 10th elected Lieutenant Governor of Guam.
The Honorable Joshua “Josh” Franquez Tenorio is the 10th elected Lieutenant Governor of Guam.

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