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The Ministerial Action Group for the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers has endorsed a set of five common COVID-19 protocols easing access to and movement of medical supplies and health workers through Forum Member countries.
These protocols will facilitate the work of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C), which was first established on 07 April as a commitment by Pacific Forum leaders to work together in the face of regional security threats.
The protocols, which were developed by a regional taskforce consisting of Members and technical agencies, allow for special cooperation and support in five key areas affected by current border restrictions. They were confirmed on 17 June during the inaugural meeting of the Ministerial Action Group, which was chaired by Tuvalu’s Minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, Simon Kofe.
The five key areas covered by the protocols are as follows:
- Deployment of technical personnel to and between Forum nations
- Customs and biosecurity
- Repatriation of Forum nationals to their homes
- Clearances for planes and ships transporting medical and humanitarian aid, technical personnel, and repatriating nationals.
Implementation of the protocols will differ across Forum Member countries and in line with the requirements of each nation and how they can best apply the protocols given legislation, border procedures, and resources.
Welcoming the endorsement of the common protocols, Minister Kofe thanked fellow members for their commitment and high-level support for the PHP-C.
“In the space of a few short months, Pacific nations and our regional and international partners have come together to deliver a world first in terms of a collective regional approach. We have united against COVID-19 to ensure the protection of our peoples,” Minister Kofe said.
“The endorsement by the Ministerial Action Group of these common protocols has set a new global standard that will enhance the COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery efforts of Forum Members. There are many stakeholders to thank for what has been achieved so far under the PHP-C, and we look forward to this continued support into the future.”
Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor says the endorsement of the protocols has proven the enduring relevance of the 2000 Biketawa Declaration, and the value of the 2018 Boe Declaration’s recognition of an expanded concept of security. These existing regional instruments underpin the PHP-C.
“When our leaders endorsed the Biketawa Declaration in Kiribati 20 years ago, they could see what was over our Pacific horizon. Their focus on regional unity has given us -- and the world- a clear set of guidelines to help our responses to a range of threats to the security of our Pacific people,” says Secretary General Taylor. “It’s a legacy which will help to energise us for the many challenges to come including what we have achieved via the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19.”
During the 17 June Ministerial Action Group meeting, Minister Kofe, along with other Action Group Ministers, welcomed Tonga and the Cook Islands to the group. Also attending were Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne; Fiji’s Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing Inia Seruiratu; the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ Minister for Foreign Affairs Casten Nemra; New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific People’s Aupito William Sio; and senior officials from the Cook Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
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