Appalling start to PNG election polls

The 9th Parliamentary election in Papua New Guinea has got off on a proper footing according to the PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC).

But for many throughout the country there’s so much disappointment on the administration and management of the electoral process, with observations terming this year’s election as failed and corrupt.

PNG Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, had informed the media in his first polling update that PNGEC was ready.

Day one of polling on the 26th of June saw chaos in most parts of the Highlands region with much confusion on confirmed polling stations, late turn out of polling officials, disputes at polling stations with limited security, allegations of tampered polling and police arrests, and violence.

The second day was no better when polling officials tasked to the nation’s capital, Port Moresby, threatened the electoral commission for nonpayment of camping allowance which resulted in polling deferral. Hours later, police had arrested the capital’s election manager, Terence Hetinu, with questions raised as to why he had a substantial amount of money in his possession.

With just two days into polling, there’s a lot of confusion and two people have been reported killed.

How prepared is the PNGEC?

A lot of questions have been raised about the PNGEC and its capacity to deliver this year’s election despite its five year preparation period and a budget of over K400 million. Questions of preparedness, finance and administration, logistics and public outreach have come under heavy scrutiny.

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With the larger cost taken up by logistics, outer islands of the New Guinea Islands and remote districts of the Highlands, Momase and Southern regions have experienced delays with the arrival of polling equipment, including ballot boxes and papers. The delays have caused rushed polling briefings in some provinces.

“We have not done a polling briefing as some of the materials have arrived late, but we are expected to conduct polling today and it’s all a rush and patch situation here…it is chaos,” complained a polling official from Alotau, Milne Bay Province.

Then the financial administration of the PNGEC clearly highlighted its sloppy process. The Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, clarified the arrest of an election manager, adding that polling officials were not paid on time and the manager was expected to do cash payments totaling at K184, 300.00. The scenario of an election manager roaming the streets of Port Moresby without security and in procession of substantial amount of money resulted in his arrest, but clearly depicts a dodgy process.

Appalling polling

Day 2 had proven so much chaos, confusion and frustration for voters. Many voters were turned away simply because their names were not on the common roll. Others found their names registered in different electorates even though they were not registered in that area. Two were surprised their deceased relatives were on the common roll and had voted.

“It is discouraging to find out that your name is not on the common roll even though you registered last year…this election is seriously a joke,” commented a voter on facebook from Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province.

One electorate only saw 26 voters out of the total population. This created tension among most voters as their names did not appear on the common roll. But a band-aid measure is now in place to discard the 26, and call for fresh voting as per the word of the PNGEC.

Goroka Open Independent candidate, Sarah Shelley, was surprised she was endorsed by a political party as shown in the voter information sheet.

It was also a bad two days for contesting candidate. Two sustain serious injuries and had to be treated, while an independent candidate only learnt at the polling station that she was endorsed by a political party without her knowledge. Some candidates even had their names spelt wrong.

“Can someone please explain how my late father just voted? His name was above mine on the common roll and it indicated that he had voted,” shared on facebook a surprised voter from Lorengau, Manus Province.

Security has been a major concern in PNG elections, and on day 2 of polling, it was no different. There was not privacy for voters in some parts of the highlands while security officer allowed supporters of candidates to watch over voters as they cast their votes. There were allegations that some police officers assisted in marking ballot papers and even ignored ill practices at polling stations. There was a general lack of security.

A police officer watches over a unidentified woman marking ballot papers.

With 11 days on the polling calendar, a budget of K400 million, 5 years to prepare, are we destined for more delays, rushed processes, security mishaps and violence, and growing dispute claims.

Joey Tau is a former Papua New Guinean journalist. He is now based in Suva, Fiji. The views and comments expressed are his as a commentator, and not of any organisation he is associated to.


The UN Oceans Conference: A momentous effort, but one in which indigenous voices must carry

A joint opinion piece by Blue Ocean Law and PANG

The UN Oceans Conference in New York  representing the first time in modern history that government representatives and civil society had gathered to focus their attention on the health and well-being of the world’s oceans and all those who depend upon them. The significance of the meeting, coming at a time of rapid technological and environmental change as well as a shifting geopolitical climate, should not be understated. The Conference itself, along with Sustainable Development Goal (“SDG”) 14, symbolise recognition of the ocean’s vital importance to human life, and have highlighted major areas of concern, such as ocean acidification due to climate change and other causes, overfishing and fisheries management, and marine pollution.

Local women in Papua New Guinea catching prawns

While we applaud the convening of the Oceans Conference and are optimistic regarding its outcomes, certain oversights and exclusions threaten to undermine the substantial progress that could be made towards reversing the destruction of marine environments and mitigating those impacts on peoples and cultures. Foremost among these is the absence of not just indigenous voices, but the concept of the special rights possessed by indigenous peoples and communities, many of whom are particularly dependent upon ocean resources, and thus particularly vulnerable. Indigenous voices have historically been marginalised or ignored in the context of multilateral state negotiations, and have only recently been incorporated into discussions related to climate change or specific instruments devoted to the codification of indigenous people’s rights under international law. This exclusion of the historical stewards of lands and seas is not just a mere oversight, but one that is partly responsible for the rapid rate at which our ecosystems have degenerated in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as the substantial harms endured by indigenous communities worldwide as a result.

The international community must realise that failing to incorporate the rights of indigenous peoples into these fora leads to a failure to translate goals into reality. Indigenous communities, with their vast array of traditional knowledge and sustainable practices, are a largely untapped resource when it comes to responsible stewardship of shared commons such as the ocean. Their voices must be heard, and their rights respected – not merely because indigenous practices are tried and true strategies for effective ocean governance – but because international law requires it.

The village of Fagasa in American Samoa participate in a communal fish drive.

Under international law, the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (“FPIC”) with respect to indigenous communities is triggered whenever major activities which threaten to impact indigenous territory are formulated. FPIC should be sought in the case of any large-scale development or extractive activity, including phenomena such as experimental seabed mining, other onshore or offshore extractive activity, fishing regimes, and other major construction projects. Unfortunately, in the Pacific Islands, a largely indigenous region, numerous large-scale projects have gone ahead without the consent, free or otherwise, of indigenous communities. Difficulty enforcing regulations and oversight at the government level due to issues of capacity and corruption has further exacerbated physical, social, and environmental harms throughout the regions.

To give just a few examples, there are numerous mines scattered throughout the Pacific Islands that not only fail to make money, but have led to significant contamination of both marine and terrestrial environments (e.g. Gold Ridge mine in the Solomon Islands, the Ramu Nickel mine in Papua New Guinea). In addition, exploratory seabed mining in PNG’s Bismarck Sea and Tonga’s waters has reportedly already impacted local fishermen and indigenous communities. In many cases, agreements have been formed directly between governments and multinational companies, bypassing the interests and consent of local and indigenous communities.

Such old ways of doing business do not belong in a 21st century model which aims to avoid the scorched earth approaches of the past when it comes to development and resource management. Rather, responsible businesses and governments should form coalitions and encourage dialogue with local and indigenous communities. Again, there are multiple reasons to do so. First, because it is a best practice and an emerging norm of international law; second, because such approaches have historically proven more successful for all stakeholders than exclusionary methods, which have often led to conflict, human rights violations, and liability claims lodged against both government and private actors; and third, because we can no longer afford to pollute and destroy our environment at the rate we have been going, especially for the extraction of non-renewable resources.

As the Oceans Conference comes to a close, states and civil society will move forward with numerous projects based on outcomes from the conference. It is not too late to incorporate indigenous voices into these newly envisioned initiatives – particularly in the Pacific region – and ensure that a novel, 21st century regime of ocean governance pays full respect to the sustainable traditions and cultural practices of our ancestors.

First published by PACNEWS

Defending Pacific ways of life: A Peoples Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus

Defending Pacific ways of life: A Peoples Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus, was commissioned by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) to provide Pacific governments, negotiators, parliamentarians, civil society actors, customary landowners and the private sector with an alternative assessment to the impacts that PACER-Plus will have on the region.

This report recommends that Pacific island governments should retain their legal right to regulate to protect their national development interests, which include the ownership and control of land, natural resources and environment, as well as the social and economic rights of their people ahead of the empty development promises from Australia and New Zealand and walk away from the regional trade talks known as PACER-Plus.

The report, comprises of four assessments from leading academics in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.

Download report

View authors


Report highlights impact of seabed mining on Pacific people

Blue Ocean Law together with the Pacific Network on Globalisation launched today a report on deep sea mining in the Pacific, detailing impacts on indigenous peoples and the capacity of island governments to regulate this potentially destructive, experimental industry.
The report is the first comprehensive analysis of Deep Sea Mining legislative frameworks in 14 Pacific Island nations.
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Click to download report: Resource Roulette Report

Indonesia must accept fact finding mission to West Papua

A report, titled, We will lose everything, forms the basis of a fact finding mission to West Papua, a call that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and solidarity movements throughout the Pacific have been calling on the Pacific Islands Leaders to action.


The report commissioned by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia was recently launched in the region, and gives a clear account of the current human rights situation in West Papua.

West Papuans detained by Indonesian security forces last week during a peaceful demonstration. – Photo sourced from Free West Papua Campaign

The commission’s delegation to West Papua in February of this year found no improvement to the human rights situation in West Papua. The report stated that human rights violations by members of Indonesian security forces had not declined and the economic and social status of Papuans has not improved.


The report recommended that governments in the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand should seek intervention at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly to initiate an independent investigation into human rights violations in West Papua.


ULMWP Secretary General, Octovianus Mote says the report clearly highlights a need for a fact finding mission as it states that Papuans continue to live in constant fear of violence while our population is rapidly declines, and we feel marginalized both socially and economically.


“The situation continues to worsen and the report pointed out that over 1200 incidents of harassment, beatings, torture and killings of our people by Indonesian security forces…this needs the attention of our Pacific and global leaders.”


It was agreed at the 46th Pacific Island leaders’ forum in Papua New Guinea in 2015 that Pacific leaders recalled their decisions and concerns expressed at their meeting in 2006 about reports of violence in Papua, in which they also called on all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents in Papua and to work to address the root causes of such conflicts by peaceful means.


The leaders also requested the forum chair, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, to convey the views of the Forum to the Indonesian Government, and to consult on a fact finding mission to discuss the situation in Papua with the parties involved.

Pacific Islanders at the 46th leaders forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. All leaders agreed in 2015 to uphold and protect the human rights of West Papuans. 

But as West Papua’s political recognition grows within the region through the ULMWP, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is now challenged with recognizing West Papua, yet having Indonesia as an associate member to the forum.


Current MSG Chair and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare attempted to hold dialogue between the Indonesian government and the ULMWP, but calls to Jakarta were unsuccessful.


“Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS are in favour at attempting dialogue, while PNG and Fiji are less keen on potentially offending Jakarta,” said Sogavare early this year.

People of Vanuatu marching during a peaceful protest last week in Port Vila. – Photo sourced from Thomas Marango

As preparations lead up to the MSG special leaders summit later this month, pressure continues from solidarity movements with the region, calling on leaders to recognize ULMWP in MSG. And while the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat prepare for the 47th Pacific Island leaders forum, regional proposals have clearly pointed out in number that West Papua must be the priority for our Pacific.

Blue Ocean Law and Pacific Network on Globalisation Release Legal Analysis of SPC-EU Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework

Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) Coordinator, Maureen Penjueli, and Blue Ocean Law Attorney, Julian Aguon presenting the legal analysis report.

Suva, Fiji

March 17th, 2016

Blue Ocean Law and Pacific Network on Globalisation call for Greater Indigenous and Environmental Safeguards

International law firm Blue Ocean Law (BOL), together with Fiji-based regional non-governmental organisation, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), have released “An Assessment of the SPC Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework (RLRF) for Deep Sea Minerals Exploration and Exploitation.” The report is an independent analysis of the RLRF, the legal framework produced by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), funded by the European Union (EU).

“Our assessment analyzes the RLRF from an international law perspective, focusing on problematic aspects of the SPC-EU framework,” says Attorney Julian Aguon of BOL. The report, says Aguon, is striking in its omission of any serious discussion of the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), inasmuch as large-scale development activities such as experimental deep sea mining trigger protections under international law. These include the right to be meaningfully consulted throughout every stage of the development process, and the right of affected indigenous communities to give or withhold their consent to these activities.

Blue Ocean Law Principal Attorney, Julian Aguon addressing the audience during the launch while partnering attorney, Julie Hunter looks on.

Also troubling, say PANG and BOL, is the fact that the SPC-EU framework undercuts established environmental law tenets such as the precautionary approach and the avoidance of transboundary harm by emphasizing the purported benefits of seabed mining while minimizing both the risks and adverse impacts of seabed mining. In addition to creating an overly positive picture of deep sea mining, the framework appears to prioritise creating a climate favorable to industry operators over the economic, cultural, and environmental rights of indigenous peoples.

“While we appreciate the attempt to provide a model legal framework for the Pacific region, we urge the SPC to supplement the RLRF with comprehensive provisions that properly enshrine both FPIC and the precautionary and transboundary harm principles,” says PANG Coordinator Maureen Penjueli. This is critical because some of our island nations will likely adopt this framework with all of its problematic aspects. Only by properly embedding these norms can the framework be brought into conformity with international best practices respecting environmental protection and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Download An Assessment of the SPC Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework (RLRF) for Deep Sea Minerals exploration and exploitation – FINAL Report


The Moresby Forum: a reframed Pacific regionalism?

By Matthew Dornan and Tess Newton Cain

The political machinations of the recent meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders dominated the media headlines over the last two weeks, with tensions around climate change and West Papua, as well as the future of Australia and New Zealand in the Forum, receiving considerable coverage.


A number of other important developments were sidelined in the media commentary as a result, including leaders’ decisions on three other agenda items: cervical cancer treatment, fisheries management, and ICT development. Importantly, the impact of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism  on proceedings prior to and at the meeting has received scant attention, as has the Hiri Declaration. These are the focus of this post.

It surprised many the extent to which the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (the framework) flew under the radar at the leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby: the first time the framework has been in place. Although the framework itself did not receive much attention, it was its operation that created the agenda for what was discussed in Port Moresby.

The framework was developed as a result of the Review of the Pacific Plan in 2013, and aims to better focus PIF Leaders’ meetings by reducing the number of issues placed on the agenda for discussion. Its establishment, socialisation and implementation has been the paradigm for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat under the new leadership of its Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, and it is an agenda that she and her team have pursued with vigour. It is worth discussing the framework in some detail, given its implications for the outcomes of both the recent and future leaders’ meetings.


Three key objectives provide the underpinning of the framework:

to broaden the conversation on regionalism beyond that of CROP agencies, which were (often correctly) perceived to dominate priorities under the Pacific Plan.

to ensure regional initiatives had a sound rationale, something sometimes lacking in the past.

to ‘bring back’ the political dimension of regionalism, which many argued had been lost under the technocratic Pacific Plan.

This last point was emphasised in the opening remarks of Dame Meg Taylor to the Forum Officials Committee meeting, which preceded the leaders’ meeting. In her statement, Dame Meg Taylor stated:

“I reiterate the responsibility of this Committee, as articulated in the Framework and approved by Leaders, to ensure that ‘politically sensitive and major regional issues and initiatives are the focus of the Leaders’ meeting’.”

The operation of the framework has been both devised and rolled out since Dame Meg Taylor took over as Secretary-General. One of the most significant planks of its implementation is to provide an opportunity for a wider range of voices (whether individual or institutional) to contribute to determining how the regionalism project should be taken forward. Under the framework, the Forum Secretariat issued a call for public submissions of proposed regional initiatives in the lead up to the leaders’ meeting.

These were assessed by a newly appointed Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism (SSCR), and five were selected for the consideration of leaders, on the basis of a series of tests. These tests ensure that proposals considered by leaders are requiring of a regional approach, generate net benefits, and do not impinge on sovereignty, the market, or duplicate existing activities. The SSCR process is key to the new framework, and is important to meeting all three underpinning objectives identified above.

What was its impact in preparation for the leaders’ meeting and in Port Moresby?

The SSCR process has been successful in broadening the conversation on regionalism this year. The process has generated considerable public interest, more than was expected, with a total of 68 submissions received from NGOs, regional bodies, universities, CROP agencies, and Forum member country governments. The SSCR referred a number of these to appropriate ministerial meetings for decisions as envisaged by the framework, again as a way of ensuring that the leaders’ discussions were focused on only those issues that would be in line with the underpinning objectives. (These were a joint position on climate change, West Papua, a regional response to cervical cancer, better fisheries management, and ICT development).

Palau's President Tommy Remengesau (L), Pacific Island Forum Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor (2nd L), Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga (C), Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna (2nd R) and Nauru's President Baron Waqa (R) pose for a photo during the Smaller Islands States Leaders meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on September 7, 2015.  Vulnerable Pacific island nations will this week send the world an urgent plea for action on climate change at crunch talks in Paris later this year.  Some Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) countries lie barely a metre (three feet) above sea level and fear they will disappear beneath the waves without drastic intervention from major polluters.  AFP PHOTO / Ness KERTON

Assessment of these proposals against the various tests was designed to ensure that proposals had a clear rationale. It is hard to judge the impact of these tests as the basis for the SSCR’s decision on the five proposals presented to leaders were not made public (although the Secretariat has published the template that was used to review submissions prior to their consideration by the SSCR). Indeed, very little detail was provided about what was actually placed on the agenda of leaders. This has detracted from achievement of the first aim, and is discussed more below.

The third objective, to ‘bring back’ the political dimension of regionalism, was certainly achieved at the recent Forum Leaders’ meeting. This was in part due to the SSCR process, which both selected topical issues and limited leaders’ discussion to five agenda items, thereby facilitating discussion (To put this in perspective, the communiqué from last year’s meeting reflects a much more unwieldy agenda). However, the context within which the meeting took place, in the lead up to the UNFCCC negotiations, was no doubt also a factor.

So, what should we make of the meeting? And what was the impact of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism?

There can be no doubt that the leaders’ meeting focused on matters of political importance. (In turn, the Hiri Declaration replaces the 2004 Auckland Declaration as the basis for political support for the regional project, and includes specific mention of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.)

Somewhat ironically, it was the very success of the framework in ‘bringing back’ politics that highlighted differences between Forum member states on key issues. This was most evident in the rift between Australia/New Zealand and Forum island countries on climate change. But it was also evident on West Papua, with countries like PNG opposed to the more assertive recommendations of countries like Solomon Islands. (It is worth noting that some other potential subjects for discussion that are equally controversial were not included in the agenda, such as the worrying political developments in Nauru).

The other agenda items discussed by leaders were less controversial. One suspects that some, such as the cervical cancer initiative, were selected at least in part due to their potential for implementation. But agreement on specific actions in these areas was required for these initiatives to be considered a positive outcome at Port Moresby. The only area where this occurred was fisheries management.

On the issues of both ICT and cervical cancer the Forum Leaders’ communiqué was vague. The reasons for this are difficult to establish, given that the background material provided to leaders is not publicly available. It is possible that not enough effort was made in preparing detailed proposals for leaders. The fisheries proposal was different in this respect, as a plan had already been developed by fisheries agencies and required only approval by leaders. An alternative explanation is that a conscious decision was made to keep the subject matter general, in order to first gain leadership approval to develop proposals. In either case, it was a mistake not to develop detailed proposals for the initiatives, given longstanding criticisms of regionalism as not sufficiently action-oriented.

The framework worked well in other areas. Observers at the meeting have told us that the discussion was more substantive than in previous years, in which the agenda had been too crowded. The framework also attracted the interest of the public, reflecting a continuation of the high level of public engagement observed during the review of the Pacific Plan in 2013. This will help to addresses past concerns about ‘capture’ of regionalism by CROP agencies. The first ever meeting of civil society organisations with the Troika (the current PIF chair, outgoing PIF chair and incoming PIF chair) also addressed such concerns. Previous claims that the Forum excludes civil society (unlike the Fiji-sponsored Pacific Islands Development Forum) are now hard to justify as a result.

There is room for improvement in this area, however. Despite the public submission process, there was a lack of transparency with respect to what was discussed. Civil society organisations that attended the meeting were provided with a list of broad themes for discussion, but not the actual proposals considered by leaders. It remains unclear on what basis the SSCR made its decision to select the five agenda items for leaders (no documentation has been released). The process could therefore be improved, and hopefully will be in the future.

In our view, therefore, the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism went some way in achieving its objectives, notwithstanding the weak communiqué and political tensions surrounding the Forum Leaders’ meeting. The framework has made conversations about regionalism more inclusive, although there is room for improvement. It may have improved the process for consideration of regional proposals, although the lack of transparency highlighted above makes this difficult to judge. Again, there is considerable room for improvement in this space.

Most significantly, the framework recognises the reality that regionalism is inherently political. This is a positive, given the problems associated with the technocratic Pacific Plan. A more political approach will help to ensure that future strengthening of the regional architecture has a more solid foundation. However, this does not mean that strengthening regionalism will be any easier. The tensions observed at Port Moresby were a stark reminder of this.

The article was sourced from the Development Policy Center Blog. Matthew Dornan is a Research Fellow at the Development Policy Centre. Tess Newton Cain (@CainTess) is a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre.

PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister addresses the 70th United Nations General Assembly

Papua New Guinea Statement by Hon. Leo Dion, CMG, QPM, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Inter-Government Relations of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations General Assembly Post-2015 Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. 

New York, United States of America, 26 September 2015

Deputy PM and Minsiter Pato during the 70th UNGA Summit in New York PM

President of the General Assembly;

Secretary-General of the United Nations;

Heads of State and Government;

Distinguished Delegates.

Papua New Guinea welcomes the adoption of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and acknowledges the collective efforts of all stakeholders to chart this transformative universal development roadmap.

This should ensure that the 2030 Agenda leaves-no-one-behind.

Mr. President,

The MDGs catalyzed the global community to take action on key development concerns of the developing world.

The 2030 Agenda is therefore a significant landmark at this crucial stage, as we celebrate the Seventieth Anniversary of the United Nations.

My Government therefore pledges its support and commitment towards the full realization of the targets set for the 17 SDGs.

Mr. President,

Papua New Guinea urges a people-centered and transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda that must be nationally-owned and driven, and supported by global partnerships.  Only when countries truly own and lead their national development plans and strategies whilst integrating the 2030 Agenda, can we succeed.

Consistent with our National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development, Papua New Guinea recognizes that a healthy, well-educated population is the underlying driver for development.

The principles of responsible sustainable development means that we do not conduct ourselves in a manner that compromises our future generations.

We must ensure that the High-Level Political Forum adequately support national, regional and global SDG efforts to avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor.

Papua New Guinea has also invested heavily in the achievement of the MDGs by way of direct Government interventions and enabling national policies and plans such as Free Basic Health Care, National Population, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene policies and we are also developing an Energy policy. Tuition Fee Free education has enrolled an additional two million children in the last two years.

We have laid a strong foundation that is now witnessing unprecedented economic growth. My Government is fully committed to ensuring that we manage this transformation carefully and effectively so that it delivers the maximum benefit to all our citizens whilst protecting our natural resources for our future generations. The challenge for us is to translate the enhanced growth into improved human development outcomes to achieve our National Vision 2050.  In so doing, also achieve the SDGs.

Mr. President,

We the peoples of the Pacific Island countries are pleased with the inclusions of SDG 13 on Climate Change and SDG 14 on the Conservation and Sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Pacific Island countries’ individual as well as collective ability to successfully achieve the SDGs depends largely on effective and sustainable management of our natural environment and resources.

Climate change is here. Even with the current average global warming of less than 1 degree, Pacific Island states are already dealing with serious consequences. The recent Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in Papua New Guinea, reiterated the concern that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.

The 2015 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Declaration on Climate Change Action expresses:

  • an expectation of an ambitious and legally binding climate agreement be adopted in Paris;
  • recognition of the special circumstances and vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), particularly those in the Pacific, and Least Developed Countries (LDCs);
  • agreement that an increase of 1.5 degrees celsius would severely exacerbate the particular challenges facing the most vulnerable smaller island states of the Pacific and that all effort be made to stay within the global temperature goal;
  • support for “inclusion in the Paris Outcome of loss and damage as a critical and stand alone element”, and “builds on the ongoing work of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage”;
  • expectation that there be access to financial resources to support Climate Change Action and resilience in vulnerable developing countries; and,
  • recognition of impacts of Climate Change on women and youth, the elderly, disabled, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable and marginalized groups, and acknowledge their contributions to the effective implementation of the Paris outcome.

Mr. President,

In closing, Papua New Guinea has set in place the necessary foundation and using the combined lessons learned from the MDGs and the past 40 years as a country with economic opportunities – we welcome the Sustainable Development Goals and pledge our commitment to achieving better results.

Thank you.

Draft text of the Chapter on Development and Economic Co-operation – PACER Plus

Article 1

Scope and Objectives

1.       The Parties reaffirm the importance of ongoing development and economic cooperation between them, including existing bilateral and regional cooperation [NZ: through the Australian and New Zealand Aid Programmes that supports the expansion and diversification of export of the Forum Island Countries and their increased participation in international trade.]

2.       [NZ: The Parties agree to improve trade and investment related assistance through their existing development and economic cooperation programmes, taking into account the priorities of the Forum Island Countries including in the following areas:


(i)                 Supply-side constraints to strengthen market access opportunities for the Forum Island Countries under this Agreement;

(ii)               trade development, including strengthening domestic services capacity; and

(iii)             trade and investment related regulatory capacity building.]


[AU: The Parties agree to improve and complement their existing development and economic cooperative partnership in trade and investment related areas where they have mutual interests, taking into account areas of utmost importance to the developing country Parties] [PICs: with a view to assisting them to enhance their participation in international trade and achieve economic growth and sustainable development]. In elaborating areas of partnership, account shall be taken of the different levels of development and capacities of the Parties.

3.       The parties take due note of the provisions in various Chapters of this Agreement that [AU/NZ: encourage and facilitate cooperation and consultation] PICs: highlight the capacity constraints of the developing country Parties and agree to adopt effective measures to address them comprehensively within a reasonable period of time].

Taking into account the capacity constraints of the developing country Parties and the provisions in the various Chapter that encourage and facilitate cooperation and consultation, the Parties agree to adopt targeted measures to address the capacity gaps in the developing country Parties’.

4.       Development and economic cooperation under this Chapter shall support implementation of this Agreement [AU/NZ: through trade and investment related activities specified in the Work Programme] [PICs: and facilitate the greater participation of the PICs in international trade.
The Work Program established within the framework of this Chapter shall assist the developing country Parties to implement their obligations under this Agreement.


Broader trade-related support to assist the PICs to enhance their participation in international trade shall be provided through the aid programmes of Australia and New Zealand. To that end, new and additional funding, to be channelled through a dedicated Aid for Trade fund in the aid programmes of Australia and New Zealand, shall be agreed bilaterally between Australia and New Zealand and individual Pacific Island Countries. The range of activities to be implemented to support the greater participation of the PICs in international trade shall include the following:


(i)                 promoting trade development through targeted measures in response to the need identified by the developing country Parties;

(ii)               addressing supply-side constraints to strengthen the trade-related infrastructure of the developing country Parties; and

(iii)             assistance to develop and strengthen regulatory capacity building.

(iv)              adjustment assistance to adapt to the new condition of competition;]

Article 2


For the purpose of this Chapter:

(a)    Implementing Party or implement parties means, for each component of the Work Programme, the Party or Parties primarily responsible for the implementation of that component; and

(b)   Work Program means, the programme of development and economic co-operation activities [AU/NZ: organised into components, mutually determined by the Parties [NZ/PICs: and based on the needs specified by the PICs] prior to the entry into force of this Agreement and revised by the Parties by mutual agreement pursuant to the mechanism in Article 7 after entry into force.

(c)    Development assistance coordination agency means the agency of a Party with primary responsibility for the coordination and management of Official Development Assistance within that Party.

Article 3

Resources For the Work Program

1.       Recognising the development gaps between the Parties, [AU: the Parties shall contribute appropriately to the implementation of the Work Program.] [PICs/NZ: the developed country Parties shall devote adequate financial resources to ensure effective implementation of the Work Program which would assist the developing country Parties with the implementation of their obligations under the Agreement. Developing country Parties, in a position to do so, may contribute financially or in-kind to the implementation of the Work Program].

2.       In determining the appropriate level of contribution to the Work Programme, the Parties shall take into account:

[PICs: (a) the nature of the development priorities of the Forum Island Countries

(a)    different levels of development and capacities of the Parties;

(b)   any in-kind contributions that Parties are able to make to Work Program components;

(c)    any contributions that non-Parties are able to make to Work Program components, directly and indirectly; and

(d)   that the appropriate level of contribution enhances the relevance and sustainability of cooperation, strengthens partnerships between Parties and builds Parties shared commitment to the effective implementation and oversight of Work Program components.

Article 4

Development and Economic Cooperation Work Program

1.       Each Work Program component shall:

(a) be trade-or investment-related and support the implementation of this Agreement,

(b) be specified in the Work Program;

(c) [PICs: Wherever possible] [AU: involve a minimum of two Forum Island Country Parties, Australia and/or New Zealand] ;

(d) address the [AU: mutual priorities of the participating Parties; and [NZ/PICs: needs of the Forum Island countries as mutually prioritised by the participating countries];

(e) Wherever possible, avoid duplication in relation to, and build on and complement existing economic cooperation activities and delivery mechanisms.

2.       The description of each Work Program component shall specify the details necessary to provide clarity to the Parties regarding the scope and purpose of such component.



Article 5

Focal Points for Implementation


1.       Each Party shall designate a focal point for all matters relating to the implementation of the Work Program and shall keep all Parties updated on its focal point’s details.

2.       The focal points shall be responsible for overseeing and reporting on the implemention of the Work Program in accordance with Article 6 (Implementation and Evaluation of Work Program Components) and Article 7 (Review of Work Program), and for responding to enquiries from any Party regarding the Work Program.

3.       The focal point of a Party shall coordinate on the Work Program with the development assistance coordination agency of that Party.

Article 6

Implementation and Evaluation of Work Program Components

1.       Prior to the commencement of each Work Program component, the implementing Party or Parties, in consultation with relevant participating Parties, shall develop an implemention plan for that Work Program component and provide that plan to each Party.

2.       The implementing Party or Parties for a Work Program component shall use existing mechanisms for the implementation of that component, unless otherwise agreed by those Parties.

3.       Until the completion of a Work Program component, the implementing Party or Parties shall regularly monitor and evaluate the relevant component and provide periodic reports to each Party including a final component completion report.

Article 7

Review and Modification of Work Program

1.       At the direction of theJoint Committee, the Work Program shall be reviewed within [PICs: two] [AU: three] years after its implementation and thereafter at regular intervals to assess its overall effectiveness [PICs: in terms of assisting the Forum Island Country Parties to implement their PACER Plus obligations in support of the Agreements broader objectives].

2.       The Joint Committee [AU/NZ: may] [PICs: shall, where appropriate] modify the Work Program taking into account outcomes of reviews [AU:,] [PICs: and] priorities

 [PICs: of the Forum Island Countries].

[AU: and available resources].

Article 8

Non-Application of Chapter [..] (Consultations and Dispute settlement)

Chapter [..] (Consultation and Dispute settlement) shall not apply to any matter arising under this Chapter.

10th Intersessional Meeting

Discussions on Development Assistance


This paper contains clean copy draft text incorporating outcomes of the 9th Intercessional Meeting of PACER Plus officials.

Text that is not agreed is in square brackets and attributed as follows:

  • AU:”for text tabled by Australia;
  • FIC:” for text tabled by OCTA/FICs; and
  • NZ:”for text tabled by New Zealand.

Text that is not agreed is as follows:

  • Blue for text tabled by Australia;
  • Red for text tabled by OCTA/FICs; and
  • Green for text tabled by New Zealand.


Pacific leaders urged to reduce trade agreements

Pacific leader have been told the cost of doing business in the islands will be greatly reduced if there are fewer trade agreements in the region.

The advice came from Dr Edwini Kessie when he addressed Pacific leaders who are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc of states that met in Port Moresby in the lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders summit this week.

Dr Kessie is the Chief Trade Adviser for the Pacific Islands, overseeing the Forum member nations’ free trade agreement negotiations on PACER Plus with Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Edwini Kessie

As a region, Dr Kessie said the Pacific has too many trade agreements that are overlapping and costly.

“The FICs (Forum Island Countries) cannot afford to have multiple and overlapping trade agreements. Not only do they increase the cost of doing business in the region, which already is among the highest in the world, they also deter foreign direct investment.

“There needs to be a consolidation of the trade agreements in the region in the near future. Increasingly, we are witnessing preferential trade negotiations that would create mega-regional trading blocs, including the TPP, TTIP and RCEP.

“While the combined population of around 40 million of PACER Plus Parties pales into insignificance when compared with the population of these mega-regional trading blocs, it would provide enormous opportunities for FIC firms to become international players as they grow and strengthen their productive capacities and operations through increased trade in the region, particularly with Australia and New Zealand.

“It will also provide them with an opportunity to participate in regional and global value chains which offer routes to new export markets and expansion of business opportunities. A dynamic PACER Plus Agreement will increase business activity within countries and in the region generating highly paid jobs and enhancing living standards.

“The Pacific region has enormous potential and now is the time to work to make this a reality. Concluding and implementing an ambitious PACER Plus Agreement will be an unmistakable signal that the FICs are committed to playing a greater role in the global economy and enhancing the living standards of their people.”

Dr Kessie told Pacific leaders that development forms a key component of PACER Plus in keeping with the directions they themselves directed negotiators in their 2009 Forum.

“Development permeates throughout the draft Agreement, firmly anchored on the principle of special and differential treatment. It recognises the unique circumstances of the FICs, and does not impose onerous obligations on them.

“It upholds the right of the FICs to regulate in the public interest and provides adequate policy space for the FICs to pursue development-oriented policies that would promote economic growth on a sustainable basis.”

The Chief Trade Adviser said to date, negotiations have concluded on:
● Customs Procedures (Trade Facilitation)
● Development Assistance
● Dispute Settlement
● Initial Provisions, Institutional Provisions, Final Provisions and Transparency
● Investment
● Labour Mobility
● Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
● Technical Barriers to Trade; and
● Trade in Services
What remains and making good progress he said were negotiations on trade in goods, rules of origin and the temporary movement of natural persons, before tackling schedules of commitments for trade in services, the temporary movement of natural persons, investment and trade in goods.

Dr Kessie told leaders they expected to wrap up most of the pending chapters in their next round of negotiations scheduled for October in Melbourne, Australia.

He submitted that leaders renew their confidence in the PACER Plus negotiations as an instrument for promoting regional integration in the Pacific and assisting the FICs to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.

He also urged them to note the substantive progress made in the PACER Plus negotiations and request that Ministers responsible for International Trade ensure that their negotiators exercise the necessary flexibility in the negotiations to ensure the rapid conclusion of a high quality trade and investment agreement at the latest by June 2016.

Story by Samison Pareti