Pacific Island leaders are preparing to meet in Auckland next week for their annual Pacific Islands Forum conference.
The theme this year is “converting potential into prosperity”.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says, ‘the Forum has become a critical factor for harnessing development in the Pacific.
‘This year’s event will focus on how government leaders, business people and stakeholders in the Pacific can work together to promote sustainable economic development, and build on the region’s strengths, particularly in fisheries, tourism and energy.’
The Forum proper is followed by Post-Forum dialogue partner sessions. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and Korea’s Vice Minister Min Dong-seok are amongst those who have confirmed attendance.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon; European Commission President, José Manuel Barosso; and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma will also attend the meeting.
In the buildup to the conference, the issue of governance in Papua has again risen to prominence.
The Australia West Papua Association has made its annual call for the Forum leaders to grant ‘observer status to genuine representatives of the West Papuan people who are struggling for their right to self determination.’
AWPA’s Joe Collins says ‘the deteriorating human rights situation (in West Papua) could lead to instability in the region.’ He has also asked the PIF to raise concerns about human rights with Indonesia’s President, and to urge the release of ‘all West Papuan political prisoners as a sign of good faith.’
Historically, official Forum communiqués have made reference to the human rights situation in West Papua, but such references have been absent for the past four years. Vanuatu may try to have it reinstated as last year, it’s parliament voted to raise the issue of West Papua’s political status at the UN General Assembly.