Pacific Security Snapshot | 15 September 2023

The security stories shaping the region

  • ➣ Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting
  • ➣ Pacific High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change
  • ➣ Fiji to sign Status of Forces Agreement with France
  • ➣ Palau expands United States maritime law enforcement agreement
  • ➣ Papua New Guinea special elite force to combat tribal violence
  • ➣ Australia extends police presence in Solomon Islands

Women, Peace and Security

The 2nd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Women Leaders Meeting was held in Fiji at the start of this month. The meeting was the first of its kind to be held face to face, as well as the first forum meeting to include youth delegates in a policy dialogue. Delegates met in Suva under the theme “Our PACIFIC WAY: Strengthened Commitment to Gender Equality, Equity and Social Inclusion.” Key discussion items included understanding the definition of gender in the Pacific context, considering women’s leadership in politics and other sectors, and discussing changes necessary to address the high rates of gender-based violence in the region.

Pacific Political Climate Champion for Gender and Social Inclusion and Niue Minister for Natural Resources Mona Ainuu used her keynote address to highlight the gendered implications of climate security threats, stating “climate change, gender inequality and social exclusion are interwoven challenges.” Minister Ainuu further discussed the need for strengthened health security, education and access to climate financing for women and marginalised groups. A key outcome of the meeting was the call to revitalise the decade-old 2012 Pacific Leaders Equality Declaration, which will be taken to the PIF Leaders Meeting hosted by Cook Islands in November.

PIF Women Leaders Meeting Heads of Delegations. Photo: PIFS

PIF Women Leaders Meeting Heads of Delegations. Photo: PIFS

Climate Security

Another regional first took place in Fiji through the Pacific High-Level Climate Change Dialogue. The government of Fiji hosted the event in Suva, with the aim of discussing regionally driven solutions to limit the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In his opening remarks, Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said climate change “represents a real threat to our islands, our people, and our very way of life.” Delegates from 15 Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) outlined top priorities for staying under 1.5C including a Pacific declaration outlining a plan and timeline for the complete phase-out of fossil fuels, and a call for all forms of climate finance to better respond to the needs of PSIDS.

Solar panels on a building in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Image: Samuel Phelps / DFAT


Fiji is strengthening its security ties with France through a bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The Fiji cabinet approval of the SOFA comes after French President Emmanuel Macron visited Fiji in July as part of his tour of the Pacific, promoting a French “alternative” to the region. The SOFA proposed areas of cooperation include joint defence training and logistical support, along with defence technology and research. The agreement also covers cooperation and assistance in the provision of international humanitarian and emergency assistance. Further details will be provided in a joint procedural document to be signed by both parties.

Palau has signed an expanded bilateral maritime law enforcement agreement with the United States. The signing comes after Palau President Surangel S. Whipps requested US support in handling unauthorised excursions into Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by Chinese research/survey vessels. The agreement is intended to help Palau monitor its EEZ, deter uninvited vessels and combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. President Whipps has stated “it’s these types of partnerships that help us work toward our common goal of peace and prosperity in the region.”

Ship owned by Belau Submarine Cable Company laying cable in waters in the Palau EEZ. Photo: Jesse Alpert / DFAT


Papua New Guinea will establish a special police unit to combat increasing tribal violence in the Highlands. The announcement comes as Enga Province experiences an outbreak in tribal fighting, which has disrupted the reopening of Porgera Gold Mine and has contributed to 150 deaths in August alone. Acknowledging community concerns about the growing use of the PNG military, Prime Minister James Marape told RNZ Pacific that the state is “empowering police” to tackle the security threat instead. Prime Minister Marape said the code of operation for the new police team will apply across the country and perpetrators of what is being labelled “domestic terrorism” will face life jail terms.

Australia has committed to extending the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF) deployment mechanism to June 2024. Australian forces were initially set to leave Solomon Islands in December, however Australia has committed to increasing its police presence for the November Pacific Games and the 2024 Solomon Islands general elections. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said, “the security support needed for both events is huge and Australia’s affirmative response will definitely fill security gaps leading up to, during and after the two important events.”

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