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Key Pacific Issues - Security

Security has become a significant focus of the Pacific Islands Forum’s work in recent years.

New Zealand has been closely involved in responding to regional security issues, through bilateral aid programmes to build capacity, the Forum’s Regional Security Committee and through working with regional law enforcement agencies such as the South Pacific Chiefs of  Police Conference; Oceania Customs Organisation and the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference.  New Zealand has also been a major contributor to the Bougainville peace process and in the Solomon Islands through RAMSI- a strengthened assistance programme involving New Zealand diplomats, Police and the NZDF.

The attack on the United States on 11 September 2001 prompted many Pacific countries to reassess their vulnerability to terrorism and other cross-border crime.  With modern communications links the relative remoteness of the Pacific does not provide immunity from these global problems.  Transnational crime works across borders and focuses on the most vulnerable states.

The Forum’s 2002 Nasonini Declaration on Regional Security reaffirmed the need for Pacific law enforcement co-operation, backed up by consistent legislation. It urged members to develop strategies to combat money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism and people smuggling. The declaration builds on the 1992 Honiara Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation, and encourages Pacific Island states to abide by their new international legal commitments in the areas of counter-terrorism and transnational organised crime.  This has led to the development of regional model provisions, which provide Pacific Island states with a framework for drafting, or re-drafting, their counter-terrorism and transnational organised crime legislation.

The Nasonini declaration also encouraged greater mutual assistance in identifying wanted people, searching for and seizing evidence, extradition, transporting witnesses, forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and on other law enforcement matters. 

The Pacific's regional security framework is still largely shaped by the Biketawa Declaration, signed in 2000, which provided for action to be taken within the 'Pacific Islands extended family' in times of crisis.  Forum Leaders noted that Pacific countries needed to tackle the underlying causes of unrest in the region.  These included ethnic tensions, inequalities of wealth, lack of good governance, land disputes and erosion of cultural values.  All of these required 'deeper understanding and action'.  The declaration proposed actions ranging from assessment, consultation with national authorities and various forms of assistance extending from a statement of collective views through to unspecified 'targeted measures'.

Since 2003, New Zealand has administered a Pacific Security Fund , aimed at helping enhance the security environment of the region.  The annual fund of $3million, which is administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is accessible by NZ law enforcement and border control agencies to provide training and other support to Pacific island countries.  Projects funded thus far include providing police dogs to the Cooks Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and assisting Pacific Island states with becoming complaint with the International Maritime Organisation's International Ships and Port Security Code.

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Page last updated: Monday, 09 December 2013 13:45 NZDT