There will definitely be some heavy conversations ahead as the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting gets underway in Suva, Fiji today.
The fate of the 2050 Strategy for Blue Ocean Continent now hangs in a balance.
Two nations have now pulled out of the Pacific Islands Forum. The Marshall Islands has joined Kiribati in withdrawing from the region’s diplomatic body.
The 2050 Strategy was set to become the guiding document for the Pacific as nations engage either collectively or individually to deal with climate and geopolitical issues. This scenario is sure to affect the forecasted outcome in regards to the strategy.
The Marshall Islands parliament decision to withdraw from the Forum was allowed to stand, and parliament decided that they should not attend because they were not members.
The one-year period from the time the Marshall Islands filed its denouncement letter with Fiji expired March 10 this year, legally ending their membership.
Nauru has also failed to show up at the Forum. While the official reason is the nations COVID battle there is speculation that the true reason is the standoff with Fiji regarding the University of the South Pacific saga.
Cook Islands is present in spirit only as all ministers have opted to stay back home and concentrate on the general election which is just two weeks away. They are presented by the head of their foreign office who at this point in time can only observe.
This was the backdrop to the start of the first official meeting of the Pacific leaders.
In his opening remarks Forum secretary general Henry Puna summed it up perfectly by alluding the weight of the dialogues will be heavy as the nation tried to chart a way forward.
The 2050 Strategy for Blue Ocean Continent is still the priority for the Forum leaders. Its progression now is heavily impacted by the withdrawal of the two nations.
“This is no ordinary Forum (but) let us not forget that this an opportunity for us to bond as colleagues and as family,” said Mr Puna.
“Our region remains in a precarious situation, both in the short and the long term.”
Chair of the Forum, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the region was faced with its greatest challenges.
He said climate change and the impact of the pandemic was worsened by the conflict in Ukraine. He said as a result all in the Pacific were feeling the economic woes.
He said these were times when the region needed a united stand.
“How will we the Pacific Islands Forum, choose to navigate these challenges and opportunities? Will we forge ahead together, or will we take individual paths” Mr Bainimarama asked.
“Will we be assertive or will we let others decide our fate for us.”
The 2050 Strategy will be put to the leaders for consideration and decided on Thursday when the leaders have their retreat.