The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in Fiji has recommended to Parliament to ratify the 2005 Agreement establishing the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).
“Fiji is the only country that has yet to ratify the 2005 Agreement and since it will be hosting and chairing the PIF Leaders Summit in 2021, it would be timely for Fiji to ratify the Agreement, said committee chairperson, Alexander O’Connor in his report to Parliament today.
The Committee said endorsing the Agreement will ‘signal to PIF member countries that Fiji has committed itself to accepting membership of the PIF and all the duties and obligations that flow from it.”
“Fiji would be demonstrating its strong commitment to the PIF by making the 2005 PIF Agreement part of the statutory laws of Fiji. Without ratification by Parliament, this regional agreement is not legally binding on Fiji notwithstanding Fiji’s signature of it.
Fiji is the designated depository to the 2005 PIF Agreement and it cannot lawfully exercise this role unless it has consented to the Agreement.
“By ratifying, Fiji would strengthen its leadership role and avoid fragmentation of the Pacific Island Forum which looked up to Fiji for guidance on issues of regional interest.
“Fiji should assert itself as the custodian of its regional and international organisations and move the process of consolidation forward,” said O’Connor.
He said Fiji has a duty of care for smaller island states and not just its national interest.
“Fiji is well positioned to use the Pacific Way as a means of engagement within the region. Fiji should have the political will and moral responsibility to do it because the Pacific Islands look up to Fiji as the centre of the Pacific.
“Fiji has been very much a part of the PIF from the very beginning, even while the country was suspended post-2009. With its more recent leadership role internationally, through acquiring prominence in Climate Change and Oceans crisis facing the planet, these assets continue to enhance the profile of our region in world forums. Fiji is friend to all and enemy to none.
Significant changes in the 2005 Agreement include the establishment of the Pacific Islands Forum as an international organisation. The role of the Forum is also expanded beyond economic development and trade, to “economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.
“Fiji’s ratification will be significant for the region as it is the final act required to bring into force the 2005 Agreement, and thus set in motion the next chapter of the Forum.
“The incorporation of the 2005 agreement into the statute laws of Fiji is important in the event disputes arise over, for example the privileges and immunities of Fiji based Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and other CROP agencies as well as their respective expatriate staff under the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act, said O’Connor.
The six member Standing Committee in its deliberations heard submissions from the Office of the Solicitor-General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Jioji Kotobalavu of the University of Fiji, Professor Steven Ratuva, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, University of the South Pacific, South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).
The recommendation will be debated at a later sitting of Parliament.