Sydney, Australia, Aug 6 (EFE).- The Pacific Islands Forum kicked off Friday on the 50th anniversary of its founding amid an institutional crisis after the withdrawal of five Micronesian countries from the bloc and major challenges including the fight against climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, chair of the two-day virtual meeting, offered “his deepest apologies” to Nauru, Kiribati, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which left the bloc in February, and expressed his desire for a dialog with them.
“I hope that we will use this meeting, as an opportunity for a frank dialogue on the challenges before us,” he said.
The five nations left the forum after expressing their dissatisfaction with the appointment of former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna? as the forum’s secretary general, insisting that it was Micronesia’s turn for the forum’s top position according to an agreement to rotate the post between the sub-regions of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
The departure of the five nations, a process that could take a year according to the formal procedure, would leave the forum with 12 members: Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
In recent years, the Pacific Islands Forum has led calls for urgent action against climate change, the effects of which are already being felt on several islands in the region.
In a recorded message, the United States President Joe Biden, highlighted Washington’s commitment to being a “global leader for climate change” by “dramatically” reducing emissions by 2030 and also promised to send Covid-19 vaccine doses across the world.
“The United States is a proud Pacific power and will continue to be an active, engaged partner in the region and a friend to all your countries,” he said.
“A free and open Indo-Pacific is vital to each of our nations’ security and prosperity and to all our shared futures,” he added. EFE