By Pita Ligaiula

Forum Secretary General Henry Puna has warned against ‘strategic manipulation’ by outside states which want to ‘embed’ ideologies into Pacific “norms and standards”.

SG Puna in his keynote address in Auckland Monday on Pacific Transnational Leadership, Pasifika Fale, said the Pacific must exploit strategic interest to win lasting gains, but unity is crucial.

“The pre-requisite for this to be a true success, is our solidarity and unity as a Pacific Islands Forum. Without a united Forum, our strategic leverage is lost.”

“Our current strategic context, and the complexity of the challenges that we are faced with, cannot be optimally addressed if we are not genuinely united, and working towards a common vision”.

“Indeed, our general approach to engagement has revolved around the principle: “Friends to all and enemy to none” approach.”

“However, if you look around us and the evolving global order today, I am sure you will agree, that we live and exist in an increasingly polarised world”.

“A world which continues to be dominated by the geopolitical tussle, between two global super-powers”.

“We witness the introduction of foreign policy ideologies, that seek to embed contrasting world views, into our regional norms and standards,” SG Puna told the public seminar in Auckland.

“We see the strategic neglect of 10 years ago, being replaced by the proliferation of regional strategies and consortiums, that serve to shape and influence engagement with, and in our region – tantamount to, if I put it quite frankly, strategic manipulation, he stressed.

“We see these points of external influence increasingly creep into all facets of our operations, both at the national and the regional level – reaffirming that common adage “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

“Our Blue Pacific continent is an increasingly contested space,” Puna emphasised.

Puna said regional and national stability is critical to maintaining and protecting peace and security, prosperity, and the wellbeing of all Pacific peoples, and of peace.

“If I am honest, we must realise that the strategic interest and attention we enjoy today, will not last forever, and we must capitalise on it in a manner that will ensure sustainable gains for our region and our people, for decades to come”.

“Our partnerships must be genuine and durable, and premised on understanding, friendship, mutual benefit, and a collective ambition to achieve sustainable results”.

“Underlying this partnership approach, must be the recognition and respect for our Pacific leadership, and the responsibility they carry for every decision made, in order to garner support for the sustainable development of their nations,” SG Puna said.