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10th Anniversary Of The Biketawa Declaration

10th Anniversary Of The Biketawa Declaration

28th October 2010

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, has expressed the region’s appreciation for the vision and forward-thinking approach of those Pacific Islands Forum Leaders who adopted the Biketawa Declaration ten years ago, on 28 October 2000.

Mr Slade said: “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Leaders who participated in the Forum meeting in Kiribati in 2000 and who took the unprecedented and brave step of establishing a mechanism to strengthen collectively the security of their countries, and the region overall, in times of crisis. Their wisdom then has led to a stronger, more stable region where member states, in times of crisis, are able to draw on the support, expertise and resources of their Pacific neighbours to address difficult security risks and challenges.”

Mr Slade highlighted that this had successfully reversed quite serious deteriorations of security circumstances and national development in two of our member states, Solomon Islands and Nauru, over the past decade.”

Forum Secretary General Mr Slade added: “Given the inherent vulnerability of Pacific nations and the reality that governance, development and security challenges will be ever-present, the Biketawa Declaration represented a significant milestone in the evolution of the Pacific Islands Forum. Importantly, it displayed a new confidence on the part of Forum members to deal with highly complex and sensitive issues of conflict prevention and crisis resolution on a collective basis.”

Mr Slade said: “In utilizing the provisions of the Biketawa Declaration, the Pacific region has made its own strong contribution to enhancing global peace and provided an example to others on how to approach such challenges. The achievements of Biketawa Declaration have been highlighted by the successes of the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in stabilising Solomon Islands and assisting its path through the current post-conflict phase, but also were demonstrated in the positive outcomes of the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru (PRAN) which concluded in 2009. The Declaration has been recognised internationally by key security partners and international bodies, such as the United Nations, and they appreciate the Declaration as an effective home-grown regional security mechanism for the Pacific.”

The Secretary General said he was pleased that since its adoption, the Biketawa Declaration has progressed from being just a theoretical set of guiding principles and potential tools to becoming a practical and effective vehicle for regional security responses with concrete assistance provided to Forum members.

“It has clearly helped to drive regional responsiveness in the face of conflict and unrest and given us a basis for collective action to assist members’ states and their communities in times of need.”

Background

The Biketawa Declaration (attached) was agreed to by all 16 Pacific Islands Forum leaders on 28 October 2000 to constitute a framework for pursuing collective responses to security crises affecting Forum members. The declaration was adopted through attachment to the Communiqué of the 31st Meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in Kiribati in 2000 and it is named for the location where Leaders met which is one of the 24 small islets which comprise the atoll of Tarawa. The adoption of the Biketawa Declaration was a regional response to increasing concern by Leaders at the security threats facing the Pacific region in the wake of the May 2000 Fijian coup and then escalating unrest and ethnic conflict in Solomon Islands.

The Biketawa Declaration has led to military, police and civilian personnel of all Pacific Islands Forum states participating in regional peacekeeping and stabilization operations in RAMSI (2003-present) and provided Nauru with regional officials and other support to address its financial and administrative challenges under PRAN (2004-2009). The Biketawa Declaration has also provided the basis for the Forum Leaders’ collective decision in 2009 resulting in Fiji’s suspension from Forum meetings and other “targeted measures” under the provisions of the Declaration after Fiji was unable to meet its commitments to an early return to democracy. Forum election observation missions are also undertaken under the mandate provided by the Biketawa Declaration.

As a key confirmation of fundamental Forum values, the Biketawa Declaration committed Forum members to a set of guiding principles including “commitment to good governance”, “belief in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief”, “the importance of equitable economic, social and cultural development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the peoples of the Forum”, as well as to “upholding democratic processes and institutions which reflect national and local circumstances, including the peaceful transfer of power, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and just and honest government”. It also discusses a range of mechanisms for addressing security concerns and threats, including through a “good offices” role for the PIFS Secretary General where he can best make assessments and advise Leaders, and through Ministerial Action Groups, fact-finding missions, the use of eminent persons groups, third party mediation and special meetings of Ministers or Leaders in certain circumstances.

The tenth anniversary will be formally marked by the opening of a commemorative RAMSI Photographic Exhibition in Tarawa early next month which is being staged by RAMSI in cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Kiribati and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The exhibition was previously launched by the current Forum Chair, Prime Minister Natapei of Vanuatu, as part of the formal activities of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting held in Port Vila in August 2010.

Biketawa Declaration

Forum Leaders recalled their 1995 Vision Statement, the Forum Economic Action Plan Eight Principles of Good Governance and the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration. With the aim of elaborating upon these earlier statements and in the interests of regional cooperation, Forum Leaders while respecting the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of another member state committed themselves and their countries to a number of guiding principles and courses of actions:

(i) Commitment to good governance which is the exercise of authority (leadership) and interactions in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, participatory, consultative and decisive but fair and equitable.

(ii) Belief in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief and in the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political process in framing the society in which he or she lives.

(iii) Upholding democratic processes and institutions which reflect national and local circumstances, including the peaceful transfer of power, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government.

(iv) Recognising the importance and urgency of equitable economic, social and cultural development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the peoples of the Forum.

(v) Recognising the importance of respecting and protecting indigenous rights and cultural values, traditions and customs.

(vi) Recognising the vulnerability of member countries to threats to their security, broadly defined, and the importance of cooperation among members in dealing with such threats when they arise.

(vii) Recognising the importance of averting the causes of conflict and of reducing, containing and resolving all conflicts by peaceful means including by customary practices.

2. Forum Leaders recognised the need in time of crisis or in response to members’ request for assistance, for action to be taken on the basis of all members of the Forum being part of the Pacific Islands extended family. The Forum must constructively address difficult and sensitive issues including underlying causes of tensions and conflict (ethnic tension, socio-economic disparities, and lack of good governance, land disputes and erosion of cultural values). To this end, the Secretary General in the future after consulting the Forum Chairman should urgently initiate the following process:

(i) Assess the situation, make a judgment as to the significance of the developments and consult the Forum Chair and such other Forum Leaders as may be feasible to secure approval to initiate further action;

(ii) Consult the national authorities concerned regarding assistance available from the Forum; and

(iii) Advise and consult with the Forum Foreign Ministers, and based on these consultations, undertake one or a combination of the following actions to assist in the resolution of the crisis:

(a) A statement representing the view of members on the situation;
(b) Creation of a Ministerial Action Group;
(c) A fact finding or similar mission;
(d) Convening an eminent persons group;
(e) Third party mediation;
(f) Support for appropriate institutions or mechanisms that would assist a resolution; and
(g) The convening of a special high level meeting of the Forum Regional Security Committee or an ad hoc meeting of Forum Ministers.

(iv) If after actions taken under (iii) the crisis persists, convene a special meeting of Forum Leaders to consider other options including if necessary targeted measures.

3. Any regional response to a crisis should take account of the guidelines set out in Annex A.

Biketawa, Kiribati 28 October 2000

Annex A
(i) Actions are discussed with the authorities in the country concerned;
(ii) The Forum and persons involved on behalf of the Forum should have credibility i.e. must be seen as honest and impartial brokers who are genuinely interested in bringing about a fair resolution;
(iii) There must be coherence and consistency in the strategy followed;
(iv) There must be continuity and conclusion of the process i.e. staying the course;
(v) There must be cooperation with other key international and regional organisations and national actors and coordination of all these efforts;
(vi) There must be a sufficient degree of consensus on the resolutions by those who have to implement them i.e. local players and supporters and those that support them (i.e. outside organisations and governments); and
(vii) The intervention must be cost-effective.

ENDS

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