Unpacking the Pacific Security Outlook Report

Podcast EP 25

Title: Unpacking the Pacific Security Outlook Report

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:00:07] Avinun Olgeta and warm Pacific Greetings. My name is Henry Ivarature, and welcome to another episode of The Pacific Wayfinder podcast brought to you by the Pacific Security College. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat released a Regional Security Outlook 2022 to 2023, forecasting key security challenges facing the region over the coming 12 months, including a projection of the Boe Declaration Action plan, key areas which are climate, natural disasters, gender-based violence, illegal fishing, cybercrime and transnational organised crime.

The report also details new trends underpinning the region’s responses to those sustained challenges, including the impact of COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and global price increases and inflationary pressure. But before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we broadcast from today the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay respect to their eldest, past, present and emerging.

Today I am joined by my new co-host, Akka Rimon, co-host of the Pacific Wayfinder and a fellow Pacific Islander. Akka.

Akka Rimon [00:02:04]  Mauri Henry. Thank you for having me.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:02:06] You’re welcome. Jay Caldwell, Deputy Director

Jay Caldwell [00:02:12] Henry, thank you very much for having me. And it’s good to be here with my partner in crime who lives in the office next door to me as well. Looking forward to the conversation.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:02:20] And I’m very, very pleased to introduce our new director, Professor Dave Peebles.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:02:28] Hello, Henry. And a big hello to my Pacific brothers and sisters.

It’s great to be here and what an honor to be here on my first podcast with three such fine, wonderful people. Very pleased indeed.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:02:39] So can I ask each one of you to just, you know, especially Dave, now that you’ve taken on this role, our speakers out there and our stakeholders need to know who you are. So could you please just let our stakeholders know a bit about yourself?

Prof Dave Peebles [00:02:58] Thanks very much, Henry.

And I must say I’m getting a bit old because I’ve been studying the Pacific, living in the Pacific, working on Pacific issues for almost 30 years now. So really this has been the thing that I’ve been most passionate about for most of my life, other than my wife and children. I’m very passionate about them as well, of course, But the happiest time we had as a family was living in the Pacific. And I always said that there was nowhere else in the world that I wanted to be raising my children over that period because of those, you know, really strong Pacific values of everyone looking out for everyone else. And that really strong sense of community and also the wonderful connection to the ocean as well. So the Pacific has a very special place in my heart, but also in the heart of my family as well. So to go back many, many years,

I started my undergraduate studies on the Pacific and that then led to a PhD where I looked at Australia’s role in the Pacific and also the Pacific Islands Forum and the future of the Pacific Islands Forum. So that was a lot of fun and really interesting and that led to a position with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So for many years I was able to work as an Australian diplomat and that took me to many parts of the region and allowed mento work on many interesting issues. I most recently was working on climate change and the Pacific Islands Forum and overall strategy on the Pacific. So that was all good fun. But I’ve also lived in Solomon Islands for four years, been a peace monitor in Bougainville, and while we were living in Solomon Islands, my wife also had a special role. She was the only female special coordinator of the RAMSI, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. So it really is a whole of family commitment in our house to the Pacific. But I’m really delighted and honored to have this position at the Pacific Security College. I’m here as a servant of our Pacific brothers and sisters, the college is here as a servant of our Pacific brothers and sisters, and really looking forward to working with the many, many people who are passionate about the future of the Blue Pacific Continent in coming years. Thanks very much Henry.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:05:22] Dave. When you wrote about the future of the Forum at the time, did you think or imagine that the forum would be as it would be today, plagued by all the challenges that it is facing?

Prof Dave Peebles [00:05:42] It’s a really great question, Henry. I always saw the potential of the Pacific Islands Forum to play a really critical role in bringing the region together and confronting the challenges, but also the opportunities before the region as well. I was writing my PhD, which became my book in the early 2000s so the set of issues we had in the early 2000s aren’t the same as the issues in the 2020s. I think climate change was emerging as an issue and the Forum was already talking about it. But obviously now we far, far better appreciate what an existential threat it is for the Blue Pacific Continent and how it is the greatest security threat. So it would be difficult to imagine all those challenges. But I did have the strong belief that back then, which continues today, that the Pacific Islands Forum is where the region comes together and speaks as a united voice to the rest of the world. And that’s a really powerful thing indeed. So no one can quite predict the future. But I did see the importance of the key regional institution body for the future of all of us.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:06:54] Thank you, Dave. My next question is for Akka as a PhD student and who’s living in a period of this change that’s happening in the issues that are evolving and her at work on climate and all that, how do you foresee climate as an issue that may drive the agenda of the Forum going forward?

Akka Rimon [00:07:22] Thank you, Henry. It’s something that for me calls for moral leadership. It’s a time for the world to be united. The regional architecture, particularly not only to be present, but to be working. Is it delivering on the needs and priorities of the region, thinking about how does it ensure safety and security of the rest of their lives?

Jay Caldwell [00:07:47] Can I ask Akka a follow up question their? Akka in terms of the you know, there’s that responsibility, too, to be able to drive the safety and security of the region. Do you think the Forum is actually playing that role in terms of the efforts that have been made thus far? Do you think that the Pacific is in a stronger place because of the work of the Forum? At this point?

Akka Rimon [00:08:09] It’s plays a very critical role. Never have we undermined the role of a regional architecture to deliver on priorities like climate change, but we’re talking about an era where we are confronted by not just one issue, we’re talking about climate change, but a multifaceted other issues climate, human displacement, inflation. You spoke about Ukraine, invasion of Ukraine and I think for me personally, I would like to see that the Forum delivers much stronger in terms of providing connection to the grassroots, because we have in front of us today a report that I think is brilliant outlining a map of how we should address security. And before I even read it, I’m thinking I’ll understand this, but how do people on the frontline or in the grassroots interpret that? Are we translating enough in terms of how much we want them to also be aware.

Pacific Security College [00:09:18] The Pacific Security College aims to strengthen capacity collaborations and policy making for a stronger Pacific security. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and find our library of research, blogs, podcasts and videos on our website pacificsecurity.net Our Podcast, The Pacific Wayfinder, brings together leading voices on our shared security challenges. Stay up to date on the latest thinking on Pacific Security and subscribe to The Pacific Wayfinder wherever you get your podcasts.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:09:54] That’s a very important observation, and that’s, I think, the challenge that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat would have to absorb and try to educate the region, particularly the people who see security in a different light. And now with those introductory commentary, I’d like to not take us forward to some of those questions that we would like to address about this report that’s before us or that has been released by the Forum Secretariat and I think the first question is open to anyone of you who is keen to answer it, but the question reads, what is unique. And Akka you have already mentioned something here so we can get back to that But what is unique about this report compared to previous security outlooks for the region, what is really unique about this report?

Jay Caldwell [00:10:55] Can I jump in there for start?

Henry and then we can come to one  of those things But I think one of the things that’s really interesting about this report is that it’s actually active and out in the public domain. So the Forum has a real role in bringing together a consolidated security picture for members in a range of forums, particularly in transnational crime. But this kind of security outlook, in my understanding and you can correct me if I’m wrong Henry here, but hasn’t actually been in the public domain. And I know even in its development during 2022 in terms of forming a security picture, the initial thought was that it would be for members consideration, you know, internally, because basically this is analysis, this is a consideration of what are the core security risks at the national and the regional level that the region needs to address. And I think one of the striking things is this does some of that function that Dave was speaking to in terms of the strength of the Forum, in terms of speaking for the region to the world, we’ve talked about how that everyone has an interest in Pacific security. It’s not only owned by those in the Pacific themselves. And this is a real opportunity to frame the Pacific security risks in a Pacific voice so that it’s owned from a regional level. I think Akka brought up a really good question. It might speak out well, does it necessarily speak to the community or you know, we might be asking a lot there. But I think it’s really important that this is actually in some ways some of the best expression of the Forum in terms of shaping the environment for the type of engagement that’s the priority of Pacific Island peoples.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:12:36] Dave do you have any thoughts about that?

Prof Dave Peebles [00:12:39] Look. Henry, I just want to agree with my wise

colleagues here.  I mean, really, that’s good. But I think a lot of good points here. And I think the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is really to be congratulated for this report. I think over many, many years now, but most particularly with the Boe Decleration and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the Forum and its leaders on behalf of their peoples has had this very sophisticated approach to security. It’s not one thing or the other thing. It’s all elements of traditional, nontraditional security issues are all brought together. And I think that’s that’s a really important point. I think the many things I like

about this particular report is the detailed analysis of that sophisticated approach to security. But what I’d really commend to all the listeners is having a look at the two year projections. I think that’s really important that the report provides this analysis of what’s going on, but also looks forward and it’s not all grim in the area of illegal, unregulated, and under-reported fishing,for instance. New technologies mean that the story of the next couple of years is probably pretty positive in terms of picking that up. Other places, it’s more grim. Obviously, the climate change situation is getting grimmer. So I think those two year projections are really quite important as well. And just a follow on from some of Akka’s earlier points. I do think that when the Forum has spoken with a united voice on the world stage, the way that it’s been able to influence thinking and negotiations on climate change has been really important. So I think what’s going to be interesting over coming years is for Forum members. I think the more they put into the Forum, the more effective and powerful the Forum will be. So that’s going to be an interesting conversation across the region in coming years. I think.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:14:42] Yes, please Akka.

Akka Rimon [00:14:43] I just want to go back to what I said about the Forum being able to translate this. And I want to say that I do acknowledge I’m sure there’s a lot of communication strategies in place to translate the document to other languages of the member countries. So I want to note that I just guess I want to reinforce that it’s important for such a vital, vital document to reach down to the communities. Now, if you allow me, Henry, to also add to what I find unique to the document, I think it’s a timing, the timing of the document. If there’s any time that it has to be launched now, is it because of the geopolitics. I think there’s a lot of competition going around in the region and it’s important that this document came out at a time that speaks to the Pacific countries mandate Pacific countries interests to see this is what we want and this is what we see. So no better way to put it. I think it’s all said in the in the document.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:15:45] Sort of like the Forum now setting the regional narrative for the security conversation that should be taking place that they want their people to focus on, to let others know that these are the security areas that are important to us. You know, this is a geopolitical security conversation that’s happening in the Indo-Pacific, conversation that’s happening. And I think this is where perhaps the region now says these our central security issues beyond what the conversation is out there. So yes it’s, really a very valid point now. Well, let’s move on and ask a second question. And I think some of these might have already come out from Dave, your conversation. What are the emerging trends we ought to be paying more attention to? So the report is out there,  but what are the emerging trends that we should pay more attention to? Extra attention to that might have probably escaped the perimeter or the remit of this Outlook report?

Prof Dave Peebles [00:16:57] I can kick off Henry, and I’m sure we’ll have more wisdom from Akka and Jay as well.I think because the report is holistic in the approach to security. I think one of the interesting issues that came out for me from the report was just the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in terms of the impact on inflation in Pacific Forum Island country members. And I think also the related issue of what that means for food security as well. So I think there’s the headline points that you would want and expect to see from a report like this on on the climate change challenge in its own right. But also the sophisticated analysis the report makes in terms of the linkages between climate change and a whole lot of other issues, what it means for greater frequency and intensity of natural disasters and responding to those. But I really liked how the report tracks through a few issues. Well, Russia-Ukraine conflict inflation in Forum island countries, food security issues for the peoples of the Pacific. So I think there’s a lot there that I really commend to the listeners.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:18:15] Jay would add anything to Dave’s thoughts?

Jay Caldwell [00:18:19] Yeah, and I like that point about connectedness. So issues of connectedness and I think that’s probably something that threads right through the document that actually there’s a real attempt to grapple with that complexity of, of a whole of security picture, which is really complicated to grapple with. And telling some of those key stories is really helpful. I think probably in terms of image, I actually think that the the documents self has does an excellent job in terms of covering the waterfront, in terms of the issues that are core, probably one that’s threaded through there and not really brought out is the challenges around sort of information disorder. And again, this isn’t unique to the Pacific. All countries and regions are having to face that. But we’ve got a really challenging information environment and in terms of providing certainty for people and providing direction and coherence within our countries and within the region, it’s a really challenging thing to do. Again, some of this ties back, as was flagged in the report to the  sort of the Russia-Ukraine crisis in a more permissive environment and techniques of information manipulation that are more exposed and being used. But like we saw during COVID, it’s not just about the big strategic risks here. It’s about the impact that comes through in our community. And we saw the vaccine hesitancy and the the sort of, I guess, the clumping of grievance issues that had such marked effects and that spelled out in the report as well. And there are real challenges for government trying to grapple with that. How do you talk the truth to your community in a really disordered information environment?

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:20:03] Something that just emerged very recently and that may have probably implications for the consideration of security in this part of the region is the the China balloonthat flew over the US. And there are reports or that such kind of sightings have been seen across the Pacific and that escapes this part of the report and may have implications going into the future and how Island People look at such incident in terms of its resources.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:20:57] I think it brings home that, as the report discusses, even though it doesn’t get into that specific issue. But I think the incident with the the balloons does highlight we are in this new era of strategic competition rather than cooperation, and that is going to have a lot of implications for the evolution of the region, the evolution of security issues in the region and strategic competition is an enormous issue. Climate change is an enormous issue. So the Pacific Islands Forum and its members are really have all of this in front of them. So some of the most challenging issues in human history at the moment, I think in terms of the the balloon issue, what’s interesting to me is that we’re not talking about, you know, a kid’s birthday party balloon. I mean, I understand just from the media reports that, you know, the balloons the size of a bus. And so there’s a safety issue if if nothing else, it’s it’s not like you and I are sort of setting off a balloon outside the the ANU tomorrow. Henry but I think it is just yet another manifestation of this this strategic competition era and and just the need for the Pacific Islands Forum members to come together and approach these issues from a position of strength and common interest. But Akka?

Akka Rimon [00:22:26] But let me just add onto that Dave and  I want to acknowledge just how borderless the world is. And when we speak, when I heard about it, I said, well, the world is becoming anyone can undermine somebody else’s sovereignty, whether it’s a balloon or a submarine in the sea. But it makes me feel also that what I said earlier about the timing of the the report coming out is also a realisation that as a region, we are connected to the rest of the world and whatever impacts and you said it at the beginning, Ukraine invasion is going to affect us one way or another, whether we like it or not.

Jay Caldwell [00:23:08] I think one of the interesting things that is in the report there, that kind of parts of the balloons, an example of is that point about information sovereignty and the sovereignty of of the countries over their own data and core information. And that is actually reflected in the document and particularly in the area of maritime domain awareness. And it was really striking actually, in the report to see that there had been five state based offers and 11 corporate offers of maritime domain awareness platforms for the region. Everyone’s coming with their kitbag to the region, but it’s a question of then who will own that data? What does that mean in terms of sovereignty over that data for Pacific countries? So while they might not be wrestling with balloons yet, Henry, they’re certainly kind of approaching it in particularly in turn in regard to maritime domain awareness and making sure that there is Pacific ownership of that data. That’s cool.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:24:05] And I suppose also the capacity capacity of Pacific Islanders to use that information, sustain it over the long term, resource it, and continue to grow it in often things that come true. You know, they lose their notice and then go out of fashion, not fund it, or sustain it. So we have to also think about making sure that our governments have the ability, Pacific governments have the ability to resource it, to sustain it and harvest utility that it provides. That leads us to this second or third question. How does this report, if at all, shift current thinking about Pacific security to regional architecture and our role in it, and PSC’s role in it? Can I throw it to Jay. Sorry, Dave, I have to pass this ball over to Jay

Prof Dave Peebles [00:25:10] Henry, I think he’s a wise man.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:25:17] It’s a clean ball.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:25:18] That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

He’ll have wise things to say. So I must say, Henry, I just did enjoy listening to the sound of your voice. So I think you were born for radio? Yeah. I think people are going to hear this and sort of try to recruit you to radio stations. So I hope you enjoy working at the College.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:25:36] Well, Dave, as a student at Victoria University in New Zealand, many years ago, I used to go down and read the news. Well, I had to transcribe the news from English to Tok Pisin and Police Motu and I had read the news within 5 minutes flat both in Tok Pisin and it switched to Hiri Motuto speak in two languages in five minutes flat as a radio announcer. Nice to do that every Friday. Yes, but it’s just that I didn’t pursue that career.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:26:08] But it was it was a viable career.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:26:10] Yes.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:26:11] So this is taking you back.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:26:12] And at the end of the 10 minutes or so,

you went out and your cheque was already printed. You just went and cashed it off.Maccas on a Friday afternoon.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:26:24] Oh, that’s good.

Jay Caldwell [00:26:25] Well, don’t take up any radio offers now.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:26:29 I just want to say for our listeners, there’s no cheque for us at the end of this podcast. Jay, please save us.

Jay Caldwell [00:26:41]  But so you were talking about the current shift in terms of what does this reportdo. And our role?  I guess. Well, I might leave the role to Dave but I think and a little bit builds off Akka’s point about the timeliness of the report. So we are in a real period of architecture change and have a need for architecture change in the Pacific. So last year and correct me on the wording, Henry,  But the leaders call for a flexible mechanism to engage with issues of security in the region.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:27:09] Was it flexible or robust? One of those.

Jay Caldwell [00:27:12] One of those two, one of those two, maybe actually it might have been both, actually. And so I think if we’re going to go into this period of architecture change, it’s really important to know is what are the purposes we’re actually trying to achieve, what are the risks we’re actually trying to address. And this provides us something of a baseline for this period of time for the conversation, it baselines the conversation that leaders will have throughout the year. So we know that we’re going into a special leaders meeting in the near period, and that’s about the sort of largely about the reestablishment around regionalism. But these issues will be drawn out throughout the year. And so we need that base. And so I think that’s what this does for us in terms of setting up the conversation for architecture. Do you agree with me Akka?

Akka Rimon [00:27:58] I agree totally. I cannot dispute what was just said.  on what you said Jay by saying that I think for me as a Pacific Islander, one thing that really struck me about the the report and you’re asking what makes it different is that it’s a united voice. It’s a united voice, which means that our role as the PSC in all this is important to also work closely with the Pacific. And I have worked in the government in my past life, which involved, you know, some engagements in the Forum Secretariat. And I feel like this document is really a demonstration of how well we work in keeping our house together as one Pacific continent and speaking one voice. So I think for us to align to that is going to be critical.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:28:53] And thanks Akka  and I’ve just checked that wording. So Forum leaders on July 22 called for a flexible and responsive regional security .

Prof Dave Peebles [00:29:02] But to just follow on from Jay and Akka, in terms of the College’s role, the College to me is about three things learning, policy engagement, regional collaboration. And if there’s an underlying goal to all of that work, it’s really to increase Pacific agency in terms of the learning. It’s training programs, it’s workshops, it’s scenario exercises in terms of the policy engagement,  we’re invited to do so, we’re very happy to support Pacific Island countries’ own efforts to develop national security strategies, and we’re keen to support regional collaboration, conversations between governments, officials, peoples across the region through conferences and working very closely with the Pacific Islands Forum. And all of those things are really to increase Pacific agency to allow Pacific Island governments and officials and peoples to to chart the way ahead through all these all these different and difficult challenges and to make the most of the opportunities. So the College is here as a servant to the region to increase Pacific agency. And I think this report really highlights that if you’re a Pacific security policymaker, you have a lot on your plate, you have a lot on your plate. And anything that the College can do to support and assist and provide learnings and training to people with these enormous responsibilities on their plate, that’s what the College is here to do.

Pacific Security College [00:30:43] For the latest analysis on climate, environmental, human and national security trends in our Blue Pacific region, you can read the PSC blog at pacificsecurity.net Our contributors come from across the region and include policymakers, practitioners and academics. If you’d like to contribute, get in contact with our team through our website.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:31:09] And it kind of sets the framework for our work so that we don’t go outside of the remit of the framework that has been set by the Forum leaders. Otherwise, we might be told to, you know, go backwards and go into line with what the leaders have really set out for us to work around.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:31:31] Yeah, I think that’s really important, Henry, because the the College’s mandate very much flows from the Boe Declaration with that sophisticated holistic approach to security from the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. And I think if the College was focusing on one particular security issue, another security issue, it really misses that broader point that the Forum itself, from the leaders representing all the peoples of the Pacific, have said this is our approach to security and we take our lead from the Forum declarations and that is the College’s approach to it.

Jay Caldwell [00:32:07] Can I also say that this will be compulsory reading for a number of courses. So we’re definitely going to be part of expanding that conversation when security officials will actually be drawing on the report itself and using that as kind of a course also.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:32:41] And I am going to be teaching the course for DPA next week. And I’ve saidI’ve already put this on a reading list. I just have to make sure it goes out to the students before I go and teach them. But that brings us to this other question about how does this report inform the key word is inform. How does this report inform Pacific security practitioners, especially in implementing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and its peace and security pillar?

Prof Dave Peebles [00:33:59] Well, look, I think firstly, I recommend to your listeners that if you haven’t already read it, I do think the Pacific Island Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent is a fantastic document with the challenges and opportunities before all Forum members and the way forward and, you know, a full, sort of congratulations to Fiji as the Forum Chair for bringing that document together in consultation with all members as a key part of the leaders meeting last year. So I think we’ve got that. We’ve got this fantastic analysis provided by the Forum Secretariat. Now I think the issue and Akka has already touched on it, is now national and community and indeed village leaders need to wrestle with the kind of material and analysis and issues outlined in this report. And think about what does that mean for me and what does that mean in terms of my government’s approach to a particular issue, my my community, my village’s approach to an important issue like food security or gender-based violence. So I think at the regional level, we have this fantastic conversation going. But as Akka has touched on, then it has to become real and meaningful in terms of the national security strategies of individual Forum island countries and subnational gatherings and community gatherings and so on. Akka, now going to you.

Akka Rimon [00:35:41] Thank you, Dave. No, I guess I want to pose the question back to you, Henry, and say, how do we get the report off the shelf? Because we don’t want this to be just a report that sits on the shelf. So to communicate, it means, you know, those things that I said earlier and I’m sure the Forum has touched on this, but how do we also get the strength of the ‘Pacific Way’ out as we communicate it? Because when when I heard about a security report, I panic and say, well, what are the crises we are confronting in our region today? And I read through it and yes, yes, yes, all these are happening. But how do we also build in resilience of our Pacific solidarity and to the things that Dave has said earlier, we congratulate the report and the chairmanship of Fiji for producing this during its time, and that is so very valid at this time. I would like to see that it’s not just a report of threats. I want it to be a celebration of the Pacific resilience, the Pacific way, which have helped us to to put the document together, but also provide what we like to say in the Pacific. You know, our best practices, what are our best practices to address some of these unique and often foreign imposed on us challenges. And something that I wanted to say just went off my mind. But how do we factor that in too. There’s a lot of talk about including indigenous voices. How do we make sure that as we design the policies or solutions to some of the problems that we’re reading in this document, how do we engage the people, the locals, the indigenous voices so that they are a part of the decision making?

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:37:33] Yep. Very important points there

for the report. To have any practical impact, it has to be, you know, elaborated  For people to understand and appreciate. Resilience is important in this. And I note that the words threats and risks. Is there anything in there that the report says, anything about peace. Harmony

Jay Caldwell [00:38:03] You know, it is touched on in small part, but again, you’re right as that security lens, we tend to kind of look for those highlights and threat, etc.. But you’re right, there is elements of that, but there is a potential in unpacking that to make that  an important part of the conversation.

Akka Rimon [00:38:23] that, Henry, is because during the COVID-19 lockdown, we found our strengths.

The borders were closed, we couldn’t do anything, and we stepped up because we couldn’t have TA come into the countries. And we were able to play some of the roles that we thought we couldn’t. And so that is my point in saying that maybe the security would, you know, alarmist to some of the crises and the risks that we’re facing today. You know our, very dynamic, very diverse region. But how do we also build on our strengths to address it? And as we communicate the document across.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:39:03] Not step up in the Australian step up way, but step up in the Pacific way, Where, you know, they don’t depend on anybody. As COVID demonstrated, as Akka points out, To know when to look within ourselves to be able to care for ourselves and be able to exist. I think we’ll go now to a topic that’s, you know, central to the Pacific, one of the key topics of the Pacific, and that’s about climate, the climate security is consistently highlighted as the preeminent focus of the region with the climate crisis multiplying the impacts of other challenges facing Pacific states. How has the inclusion of climate change in the domain of security actors impacted the way Pacific states and partners respond to this issue? It’s an open question and open to all three of you.

Jay Caldwell [00:40:11] I guess, Akka should be first.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:40:14] Akka is the expert

Akka Rimon [00:41:51] So I’m coming from a small island country, Kiribati barely three meters above sea level. A lot of the discourse that we’re reading on climate change tells us that this is a future event, but it’s not. We’re living with it today. My research is in looking at how to help Kiribati inform its future options. How do we help a country address a gap in international protection? Because that’s something that that is lacking in our security system in the world. But what about what’s happening today? We have a prolonged drought. My children have gone through drinking salty water. We are unable to grow food because already our land is very unique, our geography is unique. And for those people who are not aware of Kiribati, it’s very small in that and the agriculture is also very poor, the land is not very fertile. So any marginal increase in sea level will impact our livelihood. So look, I think the the document is vital in highlighting that this is something that needs to be addressed. But one thing that scanned through the document and could not find, and I know this is a work in progress, is how does it connect to finding options, finding solutions. You just say something happens tomorrow. It doesn’t describe options on how we can deal with it. I mean, we would want to be informed, right? We just spoke about communicating the document, but living in Kiribati and having to have listened to announcement on the radio, that says, you know, communities of location A, B and C prepare  there’s a spring tide coming. But what do you do for a country where there is no higher ground? You can’t just give an announcement that tells them that there’s a sea level rise event that’s happening this afternoon because there is no alternative for us. What do we do? Where do we go? And so this morning when I listened to Minister Conroy announce the Pacific Engagement Visa again, I was thinking how does this provide a pathway for people from Kiribati and other Pacific Islanders who would want to inform their futures and not live with the impacts that they are living through now?

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:42:44] So let’s go to the last question. The report highlights the necessity to create an enabling environment to facilitate open dialogue and strengthened information sharing. What are the challenges and opportunities in creating this environment to respond as a unified region to the threats identified in the report. Very quickly, we don’t have much time anymore. So one minute question answers.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:43:17] Henry, as we touched on earlier, I think the College is a servant to the region. We are here to facilitate learning policy engagement and regional collaboration, and I think those are some of the things that will be very helpful to the region. We’re here. Feel free to contact any of us on this panel, including Henry. But here as a servant to the region. I think that learning policy, engagement and regional collaboration will be terrifically important.

Akka Rimon [00:43:47] Okay, Henry, I’m sorry, but I want to ask that we look beyond enabling the environment, because for me, enabling the environment has really been about increasing awareness and information sharing. But how do we translate that to empowering people to actually be informed, to do something about their futures? I think that’s the gap for me that, you know, I want to address. It’s something that PSC would want its body of researchers to be involved in. How do we align to what the Forum and the rest of the Pacific is doing? How do we complement those efforts? I think it would be a potential area for us to be involved.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:44:27] We need to go more than just enabling environment. We need to empower people to act. People to take action.

Jay Caldwell [00:44:36] You know, I’d agree, Henry, in terms of empowering, and I think that’s particularly key at the national level when we’re dealing with these kind of complex risks, it actually requires an interdependence of working together. And that actually takes a lot of energy. So I guess one thing that I’m a little concerned about is the potential for people at a national level to be able to work outside of their silos, share information outside of their silos that will actually help in the management of that. And we’re going to have to get creative for ways to do it. We were lucky enough to work with the Forum around the Pacific Regional Law Enforcement Conference last year, but I think it’s going to take innovation in terms of both creating forums at a national and regional level that actually support people to be able to share under all the demands that they’re carrying, like Dave was talking about before. Like it’s a bit overwhelming for security leaders, particularly at a national level. So how do we actually support and support them to be able to do that cross sharing and working together for the management of complex issues?

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:45:35] Lady and gentlemen, thank you very much for a very fascinating insight from yourselves on this episode on The Pacific Wayfinder.  Tenkyu Tumas.

Dr Henry Ivarature [00:45:58] That’s it for me.

Jay Caldwell [00:45:59] Thank you, Henry.

Prof Dave Peebles [00:45:59] Henry, that was magnificent.


From climate to cyber to fisheries, the recently released Security Outlook Report from the Pacific Islands Forum paints an insightful and stark picture of current and future threats to our Blue Pacific Continent.

PSC’s newly appointed Director, Prof Dave Peebles, Deputy Directors, Dr Henry Ivarature & Jay Caldwell, and new guest co-host of the Pacific Wayfinder, Akka Rimon, provide their analysis of the report and discuss how we can apply its findings.

Watch the Vodcast

More Podcasts

- 27 Mar 2024

RAMSI: 20 years, 20 voices

The Pacific Security College celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) with our biggest vodcast series yet! ​RAMSI, also known as Operation Helpem Fren, stands as a testament to Pacific collaboration. Episode 1 of our #PacificWayfinder special six-part vodcast series premiers on Monday 24 July 07.00 AEST. Curious why RAMSI was created and how…