Pacific Security Snapshot | 08 December 2023

A beach on Tuvalu. Photo: DFAT Media.

A beach on Tuvalu. Photo: DFAT Media.

The security stories shaping the region

  • Outcomes from 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Cook Islands
  • 12th General Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches
  • Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union signed
  • Pacific climate change advocacy at COP28
  • EU-ACP Samoa Agreement signed
  • Solomon Islands hosts 2023 Pacific Games
  • First PNG woman for peacekeeping duties


The Fifty-Second Pacific Islands Forum was held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands from 6-10 November. Leaders acknowledged the region’s evolving strategic context and its ongoing security challenges including the climate emergency, continued impacts of COVID-19, economic challenges and the increasing global and geostrategic pressures on the region. The outcomes in response to these threats saw leaders reaffirm their commitment to the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent by endorsing its Implementation Plan.

Despite consensus on these broad aims, the meeting was not without disagreement. The debate around deep-sea mining (DSM) featured prominently in the meeting’s discussions. Notable supporters of DSM included Forum Chair, Mark Brown, and incoming Secretary General, Baron Waqa, however members such as Palau, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Fiji and Vanuatu expressed their disapproval by calling for a moratorium on the exploitation of ocean minerals. Leaders ultimately agreed to respect the diversity of opinion on the issue by promoting sovereign decision making and have called for a Forum Talanoa Dialogue on DSM to be organised some time next year by the Forum Secretariat.

The following fortnight, the 12th General Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches was held in Noumea from 16-23 November to present “a series of cultural, spiritual and theological reflections, while discussing social justice issues of self-determination, the environment and the rights of women and children.” Outcomes from the conference drew attention to the dumping of nuclear and other waste into the ocean. Delegates requested the ratification of the Treaty of the Prohibition on nuclear weapons and a total commitment to the Rarotonga Treaty for a Nuclear Free Pacific.

Day two of the 12th PCC General Assembly on November 27. Photo: Pacific Conference of Churches / Facebook.

Climate and Environmental Security

The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union was signed on 9 November. Reuters reported that the treaty is a security guarantee to Tuvalu to “…respond to military aggression, protect it from climate change and boost migration in a pact aimed at countering China’s influence in the Pacific.” The treaty received significant coverage for its establishment of special visa arrangements for Tuvaluan citizens to live, work and study in Australia as a response to displacement from climate change.

The signing of the union was followed by the announcement of a further AU$350 million for Pacific nations under the Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership which Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese says is recognition of his government’s commitment to climate action in the region.

Meanwhile, Pacific driven responses to climate change and issues of environmental security achieve recognition. The government of Papua New Guinea has announced over 16,000 km2 of new Marine Protected Areas which was achieved through a community-led approach to ensure that fishers and Indigenous People are centred in the protection of coastal areas. Tonga was also recognised as the 2023 Pacific Invasive Species Battler of the Year Award for their successful work at the grassroots level in eradicating rats which has in turn led to the resurgence of seabird populations and increased productivity in local coral reef systems. Ongoing efforts from Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to protect their climate and environmental security will be observed in the upcoming COP28.

EU and OACPS sign historic Samoa Agreement. 15 November 2023, Apia, Samoa. Photo: OACPS Secretariat – Secretariat OEACP/ Facebook.


The new European Union- African Caribbean Pacific (EU-ACP) Partnership Agreement, known as the Samoa Agreement, was signed in Apia on 15 November. The agreement, designed to frame aid, trade, development and political relations between the European Union and former European colonies takes a renewed focus on global issues such as climate change with three separate regional protocols for Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. The Pacific protocol features five core areas: environmental sustainability and climate change; inclusive and sustainable economic development; oceans, seas and fisheries; security, human rights, democracy and governance; and human and social development.  The localisation of the three protocols is intended to be an improvement on the one size fits all approach of the preceding Cotonou Agreement.

Solomon Islands hosted the 2023 Pacific Games from 19 November – 2 December. Concerns over previous history of civil unrest in the Solomon Islands led to a significant deployment of additional forces, including over 450 personnel forces from the Australian military and Australian federal police, Chinese forces, and the US hospital ship, USNS Mercy.

Women, Peace and Security

In a milestone event for women in security Major Jacqueline Lilih is the first female PNG military officer posted to the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in Sudan. Lilih encouraged other women in security by saying “there will be a lot of obstacles that will drag you down and we are competing with our male colleagues for all these opportunities. But don’t be scared to venture out.”

Watch and Listen

Featuring the Mission’s first woman special coordinator, Justine Braithwaite, Episode 5 spotlights the humanity that underpinned the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Watch here.

Heather Wrathall and Kate Archer from Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) explore how Australia can work with Pacific islands to invest in new technology and take a leadership role in the decarbonisation of shipping in the region. Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Stories

Security Snapshot - 1 Mar 2024

Pacific Security Snapshot | 01 March 2024

The security stories shaping the region ➣ Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) to be held in Tokyo in July 2024   ➣ 2023 warmest year on record, globally  ➣ Elections across the Pacific prompting changes to diplomatic relations and security arrangements  ➣ Extractive industries booming  ➣ Environmental conservation efforts ongoing  ➣ PNG riots shed light on…

Blog - 11 Dec 2023

A PNG-Australia security framework: not a treaty but solid nonetheless

Papua New Guinea PM James Marape and Australian PM Anthony Albanese face the media after signing a historical Bilateral Security Agreement on 7 December in Canberra. Credit: PM Albanese Facebook   On 7 December 2023, the prime ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea signed an historic security agreement in Canberra. It has taken approximately…