Leaders and security experts from the Pacific Island region gathered this week to attend the “Maritime Security in the Pacific Island Region: Securing the Maritime Commons for the 21st Century” workshop. The four-day workshop was held at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies Sept. 13-16.
These experts discussed a number of topics including: Defining the Maritime Commons in the Pacific Island Region; Challenges to the Security of the Maritime Commons in the Pacific Island Region; Regional Collaborative Approaches to Maritime Security: Opportunities for Enhancements; International Covenants and Maritime Security in the Pacific Island Region; Capacity Building for a More Secure Maritime Commons in the Region; and Comparative Perspectives on Maritime Security in the Pacific Islands Region.
As a group they developed recommendations for next steps that regional governments and international organizations can take to further cooperation. Of note, improved coordination of enforcement operations was identified as a key priority to enhance maritime security in the region, as well as the urgent need for a comprehensive capability needs assessment, improvements in governance, deeper community engagement in maritime security initiatives, and the need to leverage key regional and international meetings to raise awareness of Pacific Ocean security concerns.
During the workshop keynote addresses were given by Mr. Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; Ambassador C. Steven McGann, U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, and the Kingdom of Tonga & Tuvalu; and Ambassador David Huebner, U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Opening remarks were also read on behalf of Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, who was unable to attend the workshop in person.
In his speech Mr. Slade said, “Given the character of the region and the magnitude of its ocean domain, maritime security is at the very essence of our national and regional security requirements. There are few security issues in the Pacific that matter which do not have some direct maritime security implications.
He pointed out that some of the main maritime security issues facing the region include the protection of marine resources and the ongoing struggle against transnational crime and terrorism.
Mr Slade concluded his remarks by highlighting the “absolute necessity and importance of maritime security to the sustainability and the stability of Pacific nations. The region faces significant threats which need to be addressed comprehensively and as effectively as can be managed. This calls for strengthened cooperation and coordination in the collective effort of regional and partner countries.”
Ambassador McGann said that he appreciated the workshop because “we are able to discuss in real time a current issue, maritime security, that’s important not just to the Pacific, but it’s also important given its global implications for international security.”
More than 60 participants from 24 nations and organizations attended the workshop. Participants were from a broad mix of backgrounds, including Defense, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, Coast Guard, Police, Customs, Justice, Legislatures, non-government organizations, as well as regional organizations focused on the Pacific Islands region.
The full text of the speech by Mr. Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, can be found online at: http://www.forumsec.org.fj/pages.cfm/newsroom/press-statements/2010/pacific-face-global-criminal-activity.html