Climate change, human rights on the agenda . . .
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), an 18-member state organization for discussing issues of common concern, will hold its annual meeting in Tuvalu on Wednesday. Last year’s annual meeting was nearly upended because the the host, Nauru, diplomatically recognizes Taiwan and not China, which is a PIF dialogue partner. Many PIF members are major recipients of Chinese aid, and initially threatened to withdraw from the meeting over treatment of the Chinese delegation – namely, Nauru’s refusal to stamp the Chinese delegates' diplomatic passports (opting instead to stamp their personal passports) and its refusal to allow the Chinese delegation to address the Forum. Expect this week’s gathering to expose other internal rifts and stoke tensions with other regional powers.
More than money . . .
Several Pacific Islands are among the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, especially rising sea levels. They also have far lower per-capita carbon emissions than fellow PIF members Australia and New Zealand. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is not seen as a big champion of combating climate change, will announce an AU$500 million (C$400 million) aid package to assist its Pacific neighbours with climate change-related initiatives; however, the intended recipients say money is not enough. They are taking aim at Australia’s continued use of coal, which some call an “existential threat.” Morrison recently approved a large coal mine in the state of Queensland. Canada, also a PIF dialogue partner, might be under the spotlight for failing to adequately reduce its own fossil fuel emissions.
Rocking some big boats . . .
Other issues at this week's meeting are likely to stoke regional political sensitivities. One is the participation (as an observer) of Benny Wenda, an exiled, pro-independence activist from the Indonesian region of West Papua. Wenda is urging the UN to pay more attention to the alleged deterioration of human rights in West Papua. Indonesia, yet another dialogue partner, firmly rejects these allegations. There is also no guarantee that the China-Taiwan diplomatic competition won’t re-surface. Six PIF members recognize Taiwan over China, including this year’s host-nation Tuvalu.
- Al Jazeera: Australian coal use an ‘existential threat’ to islands: Fiji PM
- The Guardian: Indonesia anger as West Papua independence raised at Pacific Forum
- The Interpreter: Pacific Islands stand ground on West Papua push