Pacific Security Snapshot: 24 November 2022

 

The security stories shaping the region

Pacific leaders have left COP27 with a loss and damage fund, as cyber, gender and health security issues receive attention in the region.

COP27 has come to a close with an agreement over the establishment of a ‘loss and damage’ fund, one of the key finance goals for Pacific states coming to the conference. Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance, Seve Paeniu, called the result ‘a major breakthrough and a victory for the Pacific Island countries.’

However, work is not over, as the fund is yet to be set up and who will bear responsibility for resourcing it remains undecided.

The loss and damage fund was widely welcomed by Pacific leaders, yet there has been a sense of disappointment over the lack of heightened ambition to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Although the goal was maintained, a proposed resolution to ensure that emissions peak by 2025 was removed. An attempt to commit states to phase down all fossil fuels, rather than just coal, also failed.

Pacific states used COP27 to discuss climate initiatives outside of the negotiation room, not just inside the formal multilateral negotiations. Tuvalu joined Vanuatu in calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, and used a side event to discuss its national contingency plan amidst scientific predictions that its islands may become uninhabitable by 2050. The plan was announced less than a week after Tuvalu declared a State of Public Emergency due to prolonged drought.

The island nation is also experiencing its first community outbreak of COVID-19, with over 2,000 cases recorded since the virus was first detected on 2 November. All health facilities across Tuvalu are at an emergency status, whilst several members of the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) have flown from Nadi on their first international mission to assist with the outbreak.

Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s Enga province has reported 48 cases of sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV) cases this year, though the true number is likely higher. Four women are reported to have died and 12 allegedly tortured in just one incident.

Non-government organisations (NGOs) and churches are at the forefront of the effort to respond to SARV, with a focus on reconciliation and community reintegration.

Advocate Anton Lutz has found that across just four provinces, there are an average 1,553 cases of SARV a year. Lutz is pushing for more government funding for infrastructure to accommodate women fleeing violence and sorcery accusations across the country.

In Solomon Islands, a report has found that women’s sexual and reproductive health continues to be undermined by misconceptions surrounding contraception and pregnancy.

The report, released by the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association in October, found that since 2013, contraception use amongst women has decreased, whilst non-medical abortion attempts have increased.

With post-abortion complications making up 2.4 per cent of admissions to the National Referral Hospital, the report recommended reforming Solomon Islands’ abortion laws to protect women and reduce burden on the health system.

Tuvalu and Kiribati are both experiencing acute food insecurity due to climate change related drought. A UNICEF study has found that 91 per cent of those under the age of five in Kiribati, and 71 per cent in Tuvalu, live in food poverty. This finding reveals that out of the eight food groups, only four or less are consumed by a majority of children in either country.

Vanuatu has been the target of a cyber attack, leaving the government without access to its internal systems for over a week. Despite all government ministries and departments being affected, the Vanuatu government has refused to pay the ransom demanded by the hackers.

After two years of uncertainty, Marshall Islands has formally legislated its decision to maintain its Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) membership. This development leaves Kiribati as the only Micronesian member to remain outside PIF following the 2021 leadership dispute.

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