Civil society voices concern about West Papua
Civil society groups are voicing their concerns about the situation in West Papua. Across the region, there have been numerous displays of support for self-determination for West Papuans and calls for action to protect human rights. This comes as the Indonesian authorities have deployed more military personnel to the region and banned all pro-independence protests. In Vanuatu, there was a march of solidarity with West Papua late last week, and a petition was handed to the Parliament by the national umbrella group of NGOs calling on the government to follow up on what was agreed at the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting. In Fiji, the Pacific Council of Churches has claimed that the police attempted to seize a West Papua flag that was being flown on their property on the basis that this was a breach of the Public Order Act.
Solomon Islands still to decide about Taiwan/China relationship
The government of Solomon Islands has still to decide whether to remain an ally of Taiwan or change to recognise the ‘One China’ policy and become aligned with the People’s Republic of China. Further to a ministerial delegation to Beijing, the Foreign Minister of Solomon Islands, Jermiah Manele, is visiting Taipei. Meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament has been hearing submissions on the issue of whether Solomon Islands should change its diplomatic relationships. There are reports that the Chinese government has said it would continue to support the Rural Constituency Development Funds for a transition period. This would be a new departure for development assistance as provided by Beijing. Prime Minister Sogavare is expected to make an announcement on this issue during this month, possibly before attending the UN General Assembly meeting, which commences on the 17th.
New Zealand launches Pasifika TV
After several years in development NZTV has launched Pasifika TV. It is supported with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of its ‘Pacific Reset’ policy. It provides free to air content of different types and currently broadcasts across thirteen countries in the region. Its offering includes content that is made by and for Pacific people and is a strong move in terms of cultural diplomacy.
MFAT has also provided funding to support a content fund. This allows for media professionals and companies in the region to bid for financial support for their projects across a range of genres. In January of this year Prime Minister Morrison of Australia announced that around $17 million dollars would be given to Free TV Australia to provide content to Pacific broadcasters but we have yet to hear how this money will be spent.
Pacific Climate Change Centre opens
The Pacific Climate Change Centre has been officially opened in Samoa. The Centre is located at the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia. The idea for a centre of excellence to share resources and address shared challenges was first proposed ten years ago. The construction was funded by the government of Japan. The governments of Japan and New Zealand will support the running of the Centre by funding key positions and providing technical assistance.
The Centre is aimed at providing support to Pacific island countries in addressing challenges caused by climate change, whether they relate to mitigation, adaptation, or accessing climate finance. At the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Tuilaepa of Samoa said that this Centre would play an important role in helping Pacific island countries work together to face the single biggest threat to their security – the impacts of climate change.