The Pacific Regional and National Security Conference (PRNSC) wrapped up today with a key panel discussion this week focused on national security.

The panel emphasised the vital role of inclusive stakeholder management in crafting effective national security strategies.

Moderated by former senior diplomat and police officer Ross Ardern, the ‘National Security Panel’ included the Cook Islands National Security Advisor, Maara Tetava, Roline Tekon the National Security Advisor for Vanuatu, Marshall Islands Attorney General, Bernard Adiniwin and Alipate Naulivou, Manager Security Division Ministry of Home Affairs, Fiji.

The panel emphasised that effective national security strategies require buy-in at all levels of government and the community. This would ensure broad support and successful implementation.

A key concept introduced during the discussion was ‘kava diplomacy’, which refers to the practice of engaging stakeholders in informal settings to gather essential information and foster mutual understanding.

The panel also noted that national security strategies must be adaptable, continuously updated, and responsive to changing circumstances.

Maara Tetava, National Security Advisor of the Cook Islands, stressed, “These strategies can’t just be shiny documents that sit on the shelf.”

The need for a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of community’ approach was a recurring theme.

The panelists agreed that effective implementation of security strategies requires coordinated efforts across all sectors and communities, ensuring that all voices are heard and considered in the security framework.

The panel also highlighted several critical security issues facing Pacific island nations:

*Climate Change and Natural Disasters were recognised as the most pressing threat, with rising sea levels and extreme weather events increasingly impacting the region.

*As digital threats evolve, there is a growing need for robust cyber defences to protect national infrastructure and personal data.

*Issues such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, and illegal fishing demand coordinated regional responses.

*The health impacts of NCDs pose a significant threat to the wellbeing and economic stability of Pacific communities.

*Addressing the environmental and health impacts of past nuclear testing remains a critical concern.

*Artificial Intelligence (AI): The implications of AI for national security, from deep fakes to fraud to surveillance, require careful consideration and regulation.

Roline Tekon, National Security Advisor of Vanuatu, summarised the collective sentiment with a powerful message: “We are a Pacific village. What affects one affects us all. All nations must work together.”

This statement reflects the shared understanding that regional security challenges require collaborative solutions and the spirit of unity that defines the Pacific community.

Discussions during the National Security Panel concluded with a renewed commitment to fostering regional cooperation, ensuring that national security strategies are inclusive, adaptable, and effectively implemented.