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Climate Threats are Shaping Regional Security Cooperation in the Pacific


Pacific leaders pose for a photo at the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum

By Shiloh Fetzek

A new Pacific regional security declaration includes measures to orient regional cooperation around building resilience to disasters and climate impacts.

The Boe Declaration was signed on September 5th at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru by Australia, New Zealand and a range of Pacific Island countries. It defines climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of Pacific people.

The Declaration commits signatories to strengthening the regional security architecture to address a range of threats, including climate-linked issues like illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, alongside broader issues including transnational crime and cybersecurity. It takes a comprehensive view of security challenges in the region: “inclusive of human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritizing environmental security, and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change, including through regional cooperation and support”.

A Leaders statement issued at the same time also asks the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Adviser on climate change and security, and for the UN Security Council to appoint a special rapporteur to produce “a regular review of global, regional and national security threats caused by climate change”.

Pacific Island nations are presenting a strong and unified message on the security relevance of climate change ahead of a series of high-profile climate moments, with the UN General Assembly in September, the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on 1.5°C in October and the UNFCCC COP24 in December.

Thirteen of the eighteen Pacific Islands Forum countries are also members of the recently-formed UN Group of Friends on Climate and Security, including the Republic of Naaru, which is the Forum host and Group of Friends co-chair. Members of both groups include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Tuvalu will host the 2019 Forum, and climate security is likely to continue to be a central theme of the discussions.

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