A special meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was held today in Noumea, in partnership with the South Pacific Community (SPC).
This is not the first time that the two main organizations in the region have collaborated together, but the approach still deserves to be saluted once again.
Driven by a common concern to preserve the oceanic resources of the Pacific region, the two organizations have come together to consider launching a unique and unprecedented international consultation aimed at seeking a solution to the issues of protection of the maritime areas of the Pacific.
This is nothing new, the Pacific is a gold mine (both literally and figuratively) for the big multinationals and the big states which have come to use generously for decades, without ever having undergone too much control, supervision or even sanctions where applicable. Of course, some media examples have led to believe in an effective reaction from the Pacific States. Real reaction but unfortunately negligible effects in the face of pressure from the great powers supporting their industries. The few burnt and sunk fishing vessels in Palau or the few bans on navigation in the EEZs of the central Pacific states have never had the impact hoped for.
This is why the region has decided to give itself the means by combining the political (PIF) with the technical (SPC) to prepare a consultation in order to identify a maritime actor who will ensure the maritime surveillance of the region on behalf of the Forum, having received a mandate from all of its members.
For a long time, maritime surveillance of the region remained the responsibility of the administering or ex-administering powers (eg France, UK) or allies (Australia, New Zealand) which had maintained partnerships with their former colonies. But the problem came from the fact that this surveillance was limited to the maritime zones of certain countries, which left gaping holes in the zone allowing companies with little attention to indulge in overfishing, extraction in the seabed... without real regulation.
The Pacific therefore now wishes to have a coordinated effort encompassing all the maritime areas of its members.
At the end of a consultation which will last at least 6 months, the PIF and the SPC will try to select either a private actor or a public actor (national navy of a third country) that will agree to put in dedicated and large-scale resources, under the mandate of the PIF, to ensure the surveillance of the region, in exchange for the payment of the services provided.
Many are wondering about the impact of this benefit and whether it would not have been better to use the budget of this operation to finance the modernization of the navies of the sovereign states of the region. The decision having been taken by the leaders of the PIF, it seems that the answer to this question is no. The secretary general of the PIF also spoke on the subject, believing that it was preferable to encourage immediate action by calling on entities already equipped and on international standards in order to effectively face current threats.
In this context, many NGOs hope that the consultation will enable non-state organizations, such as the Sea Shepherds or other similar NGOs, which already have a relatively large and modern fleet, to participate and thus have the resources to carry out a mission that is clearly suited to their own goals. The NGOs consider that this could be a development accelerator for these non-state entities and that it will above all avoid possible conflicts of interest if the navy of a "predatory" state is ultimately selected.
So it’s an interesting process in its form as well as fascinating in the issues it will see face off that is underway. Final result in a few months ...