U.S. Engagement in the Pacific

The United States is a Pacific nation with deep, enduring, and long-standing ties to the countries of the Pacific region. The Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are close partners of the United States on many global issues and their challenges are our priorities—fighting climate change, preserving our oceans, increasing the use of renewable energy, empowering women and girls, advancing sustainable and inclusive economic development, and improving health. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom’s participation as head of the United States delegation at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) on September 11 in Papua New Guinea demonstrates our commitment to partnering with the region to address these shared goals.
Climate Change
From rising sea levels to increasing air and ocean temperatures to shifting rainfall patterns, PICs are among the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change. The Pacific Islands are also at the forefront of finding solutions to address this challenge. The United States is partnering with the countries of the region in their efforts to implement programs focused on coastal resilience, ecosystem-based adaptation, climate information services, and capacity building for access and management of multilateral climate finance. The United States remains fully committed to working collaboratively with PICs and all Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to achieve an ambitious and durable agreement in Paris—one that can set the world on a path of low-carbon economic growth and help all nations become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The United States and PICs also share support for phasing down hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol.
In addition to the more than million we have committed to climate change adaptation assistance for the Pacific region in recent years, the United States will be devoting another .5 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) ADAPT Asia-Pacific program. This investment will help build the capacity of Pacific governments, the PIF Secretariat, and the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program to access and manage adaptation funds, including from the Green Climate Fund. This program has already helped Pacific governments access nearly million for new adaptation projects.
The Peace Corps is developing a Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency Project for the Pacific Islands. The project will be initiated in countries where Peace Corps is currently working, including the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu. The project will start with Peace Corps Response Volunteers, who will receive assignments for up to one year. Regular two-year Volunteer assignments may follow in the future. Peace Corps is assessing the feasibility of placing Peace Corps Response Volunteers in additional PICs.
Disaster Risk Reduction
The United States appreciates the work done by the Pacific region to integrate disaster risk management strategies into national and regional level programs. These collaborative projects are contributing to social, economic, and environmental sustainability and helping to build a resilient future for the people of the Pacific.
Since 2013, USAID and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been investing in capacity building programs that help the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia respond to natural disasters and public health emergencies. These initiatives help support preparedness, contingency planning, and the establishment of rapid emergency response mechanisms.
USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has ongoing community-based disaster risk reduction activities that aim to increase awareness and prepare communities for disaster response in Tonga, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu—the last of which helped reduce the devastating impacts of Cyclone Pam earlier this year.
USAID will provide nearly .5 million in new funding this year to expand its existing disaster risk reduction program in Papua New Guinea. This program is already working with the Government of Papua New Guinea to respond to the effects of El Niño, and with this increase, it will be able to reach a total of twelve provinces.
Ocean Management and Regional Fisheries
Enhancing maritime security and maritime domain awareness is critical to combating piracy, illegal fishing, and transnational crime in the Pacific. Illegal fishing activities result in an estimated 0 million revenue loss for the Pacific region each year—a figure that is greater than the GDP of a number of the countries in the region—and the inability of PICs to adequately patrol their waters leaves them vulnerable to external non-state actors and other non-traditional threats. The United States has been a strong partner with PICs in our shared effort to achieve the sustainable management of Pacific fisheries resources and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The U.S. “shiprider” agreements with nine PICs provide a critical mechanism for cooperation on the reduction of IUU fishing and the enhancement of maritime law enforcement. Over the past year, the United States has worked closely with Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia on maritime surveillance through the use of pilot surveillance projects and the development of Maritime Domain Awareness strategies.
Globally, the United States is working to make it more difficult and costly for IUU fishers to sell their catch. One important step we can all take is to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which the United States Senate consented to ratify on April 3, 2014. The PSMA is just one of several U.S. Government recommendations that have been made by the Presidential Taskforce on Combating IUU and Seafood Fraud.
The United States and the Pacific Islands are global leaders on marine protected areas. At the World Parks Congress last November, the United States and Kiribati signed a cooperative arrangement to strengthen research and conservation in the expanded U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area. This year, the United States will expand its conservation management collaboration to include two additional Pacific island marine protected areas—New Caledonia’s Natural Park of the Coral Sea and Marae Moana in the Cook Islands—via a new grant to the Pacific Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The United States works globally to enhance cybersecurity—an increasingly important issue for the Pacific Islands as the region becomes more technologically connected. In August 2015, the Department of Justice and the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs partnered with Australian trainers and the U.S. Embassy in Fiji to deliver a regional workshop on cybercrime legislation to officials from the Pacific Islands. Attendees included Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Cook Islands. The workshop helped participants understand international policy and legislative standards relating to cybercrime and electronic evidence. The training was tailored to follow up on cybercrime legislative workshops carried out in April 2011 by the Council of Europe. Tonga is moving to join the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, and the United States is encouraging further accessions.
Seventy-five percent of Pacific Islanders die from non-communicable diseases—a rate much higher than the global non-communicable disease mortality rate of sixty three percent. Other health threats such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and injuries also take a high toll. The United States is working with its partners in the Pacific to address health-related issues through a variety of development, outreach, and educational programs. We also support the PIF’s decision to make cervical cancer—a very preventable but common cancer for women—a focus of this year’s discussion.
Obesity and diabetes contribute significantly to non-communicable disease rates in the Pacific. To combat this phenomenon, the U.S. Embassy in Palau recently launched a school chef training program designed to promote healthy food choices among school-aged children. They plan to build on this success by partnering with the Palauan Ministries of Education and Health, the Bureau of Agriculture, and local NGOs this coming school year to implement additional curriculum modules focused on teaching students to grow indigenous vegetables and prepare healthy meals, culminating in a national healthy-cooking junior chef competition. These efforts are part of a multi-pronged approach to encourage young Palauans and their parents to eat healthy local food sources and adopt a more active lifestyle.
In Papua New Guinea, where HIV/AIDS prevalence is the highest in the Pacific, USAID and the CDC provide technical assistance to build local capacity in HIV prevention, care, and treatment for most-at-risk populations.
Women’s Empowerment
The United States applauds PIF Leaders for issuing the Pacific Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration in 2012 and making a commitment to address endemic gender-based violence and promote economic opportunities for women in the region. No country can flourish if it fails to capitalize on the talents of half of its people. This is why the United States is investing over .5 million to empower women economically and reduce gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. Part of this funding comes from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), which is working with Population Services International to launch a new program aimed at reducing gender-based violence through coordinated community action in Papua New Guinea. The program will develop and mobilize a network of activists equipped to advocate for government commitment to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. These efforts build on momentum created by an earlier DRL program focused on increasing political participation and the representation of women through advocacy trainings, public awareness campaigns, and radio programming from 2011 to 2013.
Human Rights
The United States supports efforts to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons globally. We were proud to support the regional launch of the UN’s Free and Equal Campaign in Fiji last month. This global campaign aims to raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination as well as promote greater respect for the human rights of LGBT individuals everywhere.
Source: technology

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