The 20th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit was held from 25 to 26 June, 2015 in Honiara, Solomon Islands; having commenced with the MSG Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM), which were respectively held from 18 to 19, and 22 to 23 June.

While the Governing Council of the MSG comprising Foreign Ministers’ Meetings which are held annually to deliberate on the Secretariat’s annual work programme and budget, the MSG Leaders’ Summit is the supreme decision making body of the Group and is held on a biennial basis to decide on major policy issues to guide the Group and its membership.

Major ticket issues at this summit include the all-important issues of trade and economic integration, airline and shipping connectivity, bids for membership from Groups representing the people of West Papua and for associate membership from Indonesia, in addition to the consideration of a draft Implementation Framework of the MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan, which was endorsed at the last Leaders’ Summit in Noumea, New Caledonia; and the appointment of an MSG High-level Representative, who is charged with representing and advocating the cause of the MSG at regional and international forums.

In his letter to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Sato Kilman expressed Vanuatu’s on-going commitment to the MSG process, further that the Vanuatu Government looked forward to Sogavare’s judicious guidance and leadership for the next two years, and as the membership continues to chart and implement an uncompromising framework and future, via ‘The MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan’.

The Prime Minister also stated in his letter that it was encouraging to note that the MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan contained very useful and relevant concepts and objectives emanating from the consolidation of the views of people from all sectors of Melanesia, and the wise inputs of MSG’s very own Eminent Persons Group (EPG), who were inspired and guided by the founding principles of the MSG in bringing forth what will be an important blueprint for development, albeit living document to guide the Melanesian sub-region for the next 25 years.

It is envisaged that the MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan will also be used by national governments as a reference point in the development of National Plans.

The MSG Vision for the next 25 years reads; “An MSG Community that is strong, integrated enlightened, happy, prosperous, secure and caring.”

On the all-important matter of Membership of the MSG, the Prime Minister stated that Vanuatu’s position is that any decision while sympathetic to the aspirations and intentions of interest-groups and governments, must first and foremost seek to safeguard and ensure the integrity and solidarity of the MSG, in addition to meeting established criteria and procedure.

Other important issues considered by Leaders included the Report of the Trade Ministers’ Meeting, a report from the Finance Ministers and Governors of Central Banks Meeting, and a report for the Recovery Support for Vanuatu in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Plan, and which was based on the recently completed National Recovery Plan – in addition to other issues covered in the SOM report, which also comprised the FMM report.

On the issue of trade, Leaders expressed confidence that trade negotiations under the MSGTA3 will be concluded by end of 2015 and for achievement of free Trade amongst members by 2017.

While the Leaders’ Communiqué is expected to be approved and signed by leaders on Thursday 25th, leaders are also expected to sign other declarations which would include the Declaration on the MSG 2038 Prosperity for All Plan, and revised Implementation Framework, and the MSG Declaration on the Transhipment of Nuclear Waste and Trans-boundary Movement on Hazardous Waste.

It is important to note that Vanuatu’s strong stance, support and advocacy for self-determination for all indigenous peoples and on the universal principles of human rights which all MSG members subscribe to have been instrumental in the inclusion of La Cause Kanak and now West Papua in the agenda of the MSG.

All meetings were held at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara, with the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Johnny Koanapo, leading the Vanuatu delegation to both the SOM and FMM; while the Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, Mr. Johnson Naviti, was appointed as Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to the Leaders’ Meeting.

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