Apr 25, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

Pacific exports increase

Exports Survey has found that business confidence among Pacific Island exporters has increased since 2014 with a growth in actual export numbers despite a decline in export destinations. Commissioned by Pacific Trade Investment (PTI) Australia and conducted by ACA Research of North Sydney with Australian aid-funding, the Pacific Islands Export Survey 2016 is an important window into the activities and opinions of exporters from the Pacific Islands. The report is currently the only major survey of internationally active Pacific Island businesses and is based on data from Pacific Island export companies from 12 island countries, operating in over 30 international markets.

The survey reported the following key findings:

• Export confidence is very positive and continues to grow with three in four businesses predicting that their export orders will increase over the next 12 months.

• Exporters still face numerous barriers. A major challenge for exporters is obtaining finance/capital with two in three exporters stating this as a concern, this issue is more prevalent for newer exporters.

• Although the total volume of exports has grown from the 2014 survey, the number of countries exported to has decreased.

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SPC, 70 years on

THIS year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Pacific Community – SPC, and we are excited at the timely opportunity to reflect and celebrate the shared progress we have made with our members and partners over the years. Seventy years ago, the Pacific Community was established by treaty. The Canberra Agreement was signed by the governments of Australia, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States of America in 1947 establishing the organization that came to be known as the South Pacific Commission (SPC), and today – the Pacific Community (SPC).

The organisation was created to support the administration and welfare of dependent Pacific Island territories and protectorates and bring stability to the Pacific after the turbulence of World War II. In continued commitment and partnership, France agreed to host SPC headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia, where they continue to operate today, after moving from their temporary location in Sydney in 1949. Seventy years on, through enduring collaboration, cooperation and partnership, SPC has grown into one of the primary regional bodies contributing to the development of the Pacific Island region.

This is testimony to the strong leadership, commitment, and effective governance of its members and partners to build and shape their development organization with a strong shared regional vision and purpose for a prosperous and resilient Pacific. With a regional hub hosted by the Government of Fiji, SPC also has offices in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu (MSG) and Federated States of Micronesia improving our physical presence, sub-regionally and nationally, and strengthening on-going engagement.

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The clock ticks

Indonesia fails media test in West Papua

JUST five months before Indonesia is set to host UNESCO’s 2017 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, its government still has not met a regional human rights watchdog’s demands to address press freedom violations in the country’s restive West Papua province.

Upon the announcement in July that UNESCO would mark May 3, 2017 with a conference in Jakarta, the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) set that date as a deadline for Indonesia’s government to “ensure that there is open access to West Papua for foreign media, and an end to abuses against local media”.

However, the government has rejected that demand. In July, the Minister Counsellor at Indonesia’s embassy in New Zealand, Wanton Saragih, argued that great strides forward in terms of press freedom in West Papua have been made under the current administration, including a lift on the ban against foreign journalists. Last year, all foreign journalists’ visa applications to West Papua were reportedly approved, including a request by Radio New Zealand International reporter Johnny Blades.

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Cuts to undermine Australia’s reach

IN September 2016, New Caledonia and French Polynesia joined the Pacific Islands Forum, further linking the francophone Pacific territories with their anglophone neighbours. In February 2017, Radio Australia (RA) will end its French language service for the Pacific. Great timing! At the same time, ABC International – the overseas service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) – will end its shortwave radio broadcasting to the Pacific.

The closure of shortwave will also affect remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. These decisions, taken at a time of tightening budgets for Australia’s national broadcaster, are yet another sign of the lack of commitment to Pacific neighbours by the largest member of the Forum.

In his remarks to the 2016 Forum leaders meeting in Pohnpei, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged: “My Government recognises that Australia’s interests in the region and the complexity of the challenges we face demands more engagement at every level, more integrated policy and fresh ideas. We are committed to a step-change in our engagement, to be guided by a new Pacific strategy.” 

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THE issue of West Papua remains a headache for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Member countries like Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are reluctant to grant full membership to the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), which is lobbying for regional support. But the issue will not go away, as civil society networks call on their leaders to support the right to self-determination.

First adopted in 2014, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR) is the new policy mechanism for business and community organisations to put forward submissions for regional action by the Forum. In both 2015 and this year, the largest number of submissions through the FPR called for action on West Papua. In Pohnpei, civil society representatives also met over breakfast with a troika of island leaders, lobbying for the Forum to take the West Papuan issue to the international community.

Despite this, the final Forum communique simply states that “leaders recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua should remain on their agenda. Leaders also agreed on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue.”

After the meeting, Emele Duituturaga, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) said: “We know that the draft text reflected their intention to take West Papua to the United Nations, but when the final communiqué was released, it had been watered down.”

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