3 Sep 2013

Pacific leaders gather for forum

8:54 am on 3 September 2013

Leaders from around the Pacific will see first-hand how vulnerable some countries are to the effects of climate change when they travel to the Marshall Islands this week.

The Marshall Islands, in the northern Pacific, is hosting the 44th Pacific Islands Forum.

Earlier this year, it declared a state of disaster after a prolonged and unprecedented drought in the north and floods in parts of the capital, Majuro.

Speaking ahead of the forum, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said: "We're going to come to grips with some of the more difficult realities within the region.

"Droughts and water shortages, storm effects and so on - these are all things that we'll see at first hand. There has been a significant issue with the supply of fresh water right across the north Pacific in recent months."

The Marshall Islands Government is calling for developed nations to recognise and respond to the disastrous effects of climate change. It says countries like New Zealand could do more and it will be calling on larger member nations as well as forum dialogue partners China and India to make more ambitous climate change commitments.

The forum will also discuss Fiji, its new constitution released in August and its move towards elections next year.

Mr McCully has so far been reluctant to voice any criticism of Fiji and the new constitution, which replaces the 1997 constitution set aside by the military regime four years ago and paves the way for elections.

The constitution provides for a 50-seat parliament, with elections to be held every four years.

It also keeps in place general pardons for anyone - including Fiji's interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the police and the military - who has been involved in any way in political coups or other actions since 2000.