Regional Wrap Up

Removal of Chinese nationals from Vanuatu raises concerns

The removal of six Chinese nationals from Vanuatu has raised serious concerns. There are still significant gaps in what we know about recent events in Port Vila including the basis on which Vanuatu cooperated with Chinese law enforcement officials, why there was an apparent denial of due process in Vanuatu, and what has happened to the people who were removed from the country.

These echo a similar occurrence in Fiji in late 2017, when more than 70 individuals were removed from that country by Chinese law enforcement officers, apparently with the assistance of Fijian authorities. These events raise significant concerns about the commitment to protection of human rights and the rule of law in Pacific island countries.

They add to the list of actions on the part of governments who look to be taking on increasingly authoritarian approaches and modes of behaviour.

Questions around the Pacific Labour Scheme

As the Pacific Labour Scheme ticks over 200 workers taking up roles in Australia, policy makers and governments are looking to answer some important questions. Labour mobility is often described in terms of a triple or quadruple win and there are now ten countries from the region who are members of the scheme. However, there are ongoing concerns that require further research, policy development, and investment.

Does labour mobility lead to a ‘brain drain’, leaving sending countries lacking people to fill critical roles as their skilled workers are drawn to lower-skilled but higher paid employment elsewhere? Will sending countries suffer a ‘care drain’ if women’s participation in these schemes is increased? What is needed in terms of pastoral care for workers when they are living and working in a foreign country and who should bear the cost of that?

Another shipping disaster in Solomon Island

The island of Rennell in Solomon Islands has been hit with another shipping disaster. In the aftermath of the grounding of the MV Solomon Trader in February a load of bauxite was dropped into the bay close to where the first incident occurred. East Rennell is the world’s largest raised coral atoll and is a lUNESCO World Heritage site.

The site is flagged as “in danger” because of the risks posed by first logging and now mining on the western part of the island.

There are concerns that this latest spill will have further damaging effects on the ecosystem of the island as well as adversely affecting the food security of the island’s population. It also highlights the impacts of these incidents on Pacific island countries who may have limited administrative and budgetary resources to deal with them, including the ability to seek compensation.

Green climate funding for water resilience in Marshall Islands

The Republic of Marshall Islands has secured US$18.6 million from the Green Climate Fund to support water resilience. The biggest threat to water security in RMI is drought.

Dry periods are becoming more frequent and more severe, leaving people without secure year-round access to fresh water. This 7-year project is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the government of RMI is contributing US$6 million.

The aim is to improve water security for more than 15,000 people on remote outer atolls. It will focus on harvesting and storage of rainwater as well as community education about water usage.

Whilst this announcement is welcome, Pacific island countries continue to struggle to access climate finance under current global systems.

This is something that they will be seeking to address at the Climate Vulnerable Summit and COP25 later this year.

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