Sep 23, 2017 Last Updated 11:49 PM, Sep 19, 2017

Raising debates on legality and privacy

When you make a phone call, send an email or use your Facebook page, information that you send across the airwaves or through the Internet can be scooped up by Western intelligence agencies. In the United States, there has been widespread public debate over government monitoring of telecommunications and the Internet, after a contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed programmes that targeted domestic communications as well as foreign enemies.

Whistle blower Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then Russia, leaking documents to the media which revealed surveillance programmes known as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora. In the Pacific region, countries like Australia, New Zealand and France also operate signals intelligence and communications intercept programmes, which monitor diplomatic, commercial or military communications from other nations. There is growing concern that government agencies and private corporations are also gathering data from citizens at home, raising debates over legality and privacy.

In recent months, this issue has been debated in New Zealand after Prime Minister John Key introduced legislation in Parliament to expand the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)—New Zealand’s communications intelligence agency. In July, there were rallies in 11 cities around New Zealand to protest the draft legislation, which was still before Parliament at the time of writing. Australia and New Zealand collaborate in the region under the UKUSA Agreement, which shares intelligence amongst the agencies of five Western allies.

The “Five Eyes” which monitor communications are the NSA and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), supported by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), New Zealand’s GCSB and the newly renamed Australian Signals Directorate (The ASD was formerly called the Defence Signals Directorate, but was rebadged in May this year when then Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched Canberra’s latest Defence White Paper). ASD is Australia’s primary collector of signals intelligence and other electronic data, through the interception and reporting of communications like international phone calls, emails or military radios.

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Focus? Winning the hearts of the islands

It’s not often that Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meet the Chinese leadership alone on Chinese soil. The exception is the annual Post-Pacific Forum Dialogue, which follows the Pacific Forum Leaders’ summit and is always held in the Pacific. But things have changed. In November, Pacific Forum Leaders will converge on China’s eastern coastal city of Guanzhou for the first Sino-Pacific Forum Leaders’ summit. Beijing is expected to use the opportunity to showcase the power of its growing economy. The world’s third largest economy will, among other things, announce a US$1 billion soft loan facility it is offering Pacific Islands governments during the three-day China-Forum Leaders’ summit from 9 November 2013, Chinese officials said. The hosting of the historic summit also heralds the advent of a new player in the game plan to, not only have a slice of the Pacific, but win the hearts of its citizens and governments struggling to make ends meet. Until the summit, we could very well just be guessing what else Beijing might have on offer. For now, though, it seems the game to win the Pacific and to a certain extent, the United Kingdom, and on the other, is China, the new kid-on-the-bloc and rising economic and military power in the Asia-Pacific region. China, otherwise known politically as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is flexing its new-found economic prowess by focusing on winning the hearts of the Pacific Islands nations.

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Pacific region leads the way

In disaster risk management & climate change

In July 2013, in a global first, the two main regional conferences on climate change and disaster risk management (DRM) will convene a joint meeting of the Pacific Platform for DRM and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Nadi, Fiji. Representatives of Pacific Islands governments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community, regional, international and donor organisations and many more are expected to attend.

The joint meeting will benefit from the presence of Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and other international and Pacific ministerial level representatives. “We are happy to have high-level representation to raise the profile and visibility of this first Pacific joint meeting on disaster risk management and climate change and to get high-level commitment and guidance for moving forward,” said Mosese Sikivou, of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Disaster Reduction Programme.

Natural hazards, according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s (UNISDR) Briefing Note on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (2008), become disasters when they affect a community that is exposed, vulnerable and ill-prepared. Climate change is likely to exacerbate disaster risks in two ways: (1) through increasing the frequency and the intensity of weather—and climate-related hazards; and (2) by causing long-term ecosystem degradation and reductions in water and food availability, thus impacting people’s livelihoods. This increases the vulnerability of communities to the adverse effects of natural hazards because it also lessens their natural resilience to recover.

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