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'Geopolitical Manoeuvring Means Nothing To Pacific Peoples' - Baron Waqa

The new Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Baron Waqa has sounded a warning to officials attending a regional conference on security not to allow geopolitics to disrupt the peace in the region.

Speaking at the Pacific National and Regional Security Conference in Suva on Monday, Waqa said his message about geopolitical competition in the region "is very simple and very clear".

"Geopolitical manoeuvring means nothing to Pacific peoples who have cyclones coming over the horizon.

"Geopolitical manoeuvring means nothing to Pacific peoples who have water lapping at their doorsteps due to sea level rise.

"Geopolitical manoeuvring means nothing to Pacific peoples who are focused on building resilience, peace and prosperity for our families, communities, nations and our region."

Waqa cautioned against "foreign powers" using "our region as a theatre for their grievances".

He said the PIF was blessed with the support of 21 dialogue partners from all over the world.

"In becoming Forum Dialogue Partners, these countries committed to supporting all Forum Member countries to achieve peace and security in the Blue Pacific Continent, supporting Forum Leaders' priorities like those outlined in the Boe Declaration on Regional Security.

"Those partners have all committed to continuous transparency in declaring economic, political, and strategic interests in engaging in the region, and that is a commitment we should all be regularly reminded of."

Climate change threat

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Waqa stressed that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the peace and security of Pacific peoples.

"While the security of nation states is always a paramount concern for Governments, in the Pacific, the peace and wellbeing of Pacific peoples - the human element of security, must always be at the forefront of our minds," he said.

He said that is especially the case with regards to the Blue Pacific Continent, and the impacts of climate change.

"As I said in 2018, and as Forum Leaders have regularly reiterated, climate change is the single greatest threat to the peace and security of Pacific Islands peoples.

"That must remain at the forefront of our minds this week, and it will remain at the forefront of my work on regional security throughout my tenure here at the Forum Secretariat.

He said the Forum was "making great progress against our climate security goals", particularly with the development of the Pacific Resilience Fund, which he said has received over US$100 million of support so far.

"The Boe Declaration on Regional Security, and its subsequent Action Plan, continue to guide the way we prioritise our work to ensure the Blue Pacific Continent is peaceful and secure.

"We continue to prioritise climate security, human security, environmental security, cybersecurity and countering transnational organised crime.

"Indeed, it would be remiss of me to not take this opportunity to highlight the recent launch the Pacific Transnational Crime Disruption Strategy, and we will soon formalise the Pacific Partnership for Prosperity on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime.

He said these were two key areas of focus for Forum members at present, aimed at helping them, many of whom are experiencing a terrible surge in drug-related issues and devastating cyberattacks.

Waqa said PIF members remain committed to enhancing the role of women and girls in all their diversity across all these priority peace and security focus areas.

"These are the areas where Forum Members countries are focusing our attention," he added.

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