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43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands: Australian contributions welcomed


The annual 43rd Pacific Islands Forum took place in Cook Islands from 27 to 31 August 2012, bringing together 16 Heads of Government, including Australia, and observing international institutions. This was also the first regional leaders’ meeting discussing implications for the Pacific Island states of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Cook Islands, the host nation, declared at the opening of the forum that it intends to create the world’s largest marine protection area—a move which was welcomed by international environmental organisations. Eight new treaties were also signed by seven Forum island countries (FICs), settling several overlapping areas of national maritime jurisdiction. The forum specifically addressed regional challenges, Sustainable Development Goals and the upcoming review of the Pacific Plan (a regional blueprint for integration and coordination) in 2013.
 
The final communiqué underlined the importance of Australia’s ongoing contributions in:
Australia’s new contributions were especially acknowledged, including:
  • A$58 million over four years to support FICs with improved data on weather, climate and sea levels to inform climate change adaptation planning, as well as new support for communities to build resilience to natural disasters;
  • A$85 million over four years to strengthen tertiary education across the region, with a priority on engineering, construction, maritime transport, education and health; and
  • A$320 million over ten years in new funding for the Pacific Gender Equality Initiative, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on 30 August 2012.
The Pacific Island Forum leaders also expressed unanimous support for Australia’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for the term 2013–2014. The voting in the United Nations General Assembly on this issue will take place in October 2012.

The annual 44th Pacific Islands Forum will be hosted by the Republic of Marshall Islands in 2013. Fiji’s participation at the forum has remained suspended (since 2 May 2009) following a political and constitutional crisis and the postponement of parliamentary elections until September 2014.