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US intensifies engagement in the Pacific Islands

Last update: 04/10/2019
Exclusive Report By: Manik Mehta

NEW YORK, Oct 4 -- With a number of initiatives, the U.S. is intensifying its engagement with the Pacific Islands.

According to a statement sent Thursday by the Department of State, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, had already announced on September 27 a package of US$65 million in new assistance during a meeting with Pacific Island leaders in New York on the sideline of the high-level United Nations General Assembly.

This new assistance is in addition to the US$36.5 million announced at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum in August, as well as approximately US$350 million that U.S. agencies invest annually in projects, assistance, and operations to build a more prosperous future for the people of the region.

Under the so-called Pacific Pledge of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the U.S. Government is committing over US$100 million in new U.S. assistance to the region.

As part of the Pacific Pledge, the aid agency USAID plans to provide over US$63 million in new programmes over the next year, more than doubling development assistance given over previous years. In addition, USAID will expand its staff presence in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

This new assistance announced by Secretary Pompeo in New York on September 27 includes:

Enhancing Resilience to Environmental Challenges: The United States recognises that addressing environmental degradation and climate change is a priority in the Pacific due to the threat posed by sea level rise and the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. To assist in addressing this Pacific priority, the United States plans to commit US$10 million to provide support for disaster resilience, weather forecasting, and to address environmental challenges in the Pacific region.

Building Resilient Infrastructure and Expanding Connectivity: The United States is committed to improving access to electricity and open, secure, and reliable internet to help drive economic growth in the Pacific. The United States is following through on Vice President Pence’s commitment to electrify Papua New Guinea with US$23 million in immediate assistance. The United States is working with donor partners Australia, Japan, and New Zealand to reach 70 per cent electrification by 2030. USAID will also provide US$7.5 million across the region to help expand broadband connectivity.

Enhancing Good Governance: The Department of State said that the Pacific Islands and the United States share a strong commitment to democracy, rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes, and transparency. As part of the Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative, the U.S. will provide US$15 million to promote sound, just, and responsive governance within the region to empower citizens, help combat corruption, and strengthen nations’ autonomy.

Enhancing Maritime Security: Enhancing maritime security is critical to combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. USAID will provide up to US$7.5 million to help the Pacific Islands stop IUU fishing activities in their own exclusive economic zones.

Enhancing Security Cooperation: To enhance security capacity in the Pacific, the Department of State will embed advisors in Fiji, Palau, and the Solomon Islands. In Fiji, a Defense Strategic Policy and Planning Reform Advisor will be embedded with the Fijian Ministry of Defense to enhance strategic policy and planning processes. In Palau, an advisor embedded at the Ministry of Justice’s Maritime Law Enforcement Division will assist with operationalising the new Maritime Law Center. In the Solomon Islands, an advisor embedded at the Ministry of Police and National Security’s Royal Solomon Islands Police Force will enhance maritime governance and security.

Building Cyber Capacity: On August 19-20, 2019, the State Department held a capacity-building workshop for the Pacific Islands on national cyber strategy development, risk management and incident response, managing broadband spectrum, and digital connectivity.

The Department of State said that the U.S. has and will continue to partner with the Pacific Islands to tackle global and regional challenges, including promoting regional security and stability, advancing sustainable growth, addressing environmental challenges, responding to natural disasters, and strengthening our people-to-people ties.

-- BERNAMA



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