11 Jul 2022

Kiribati's exit from Pacific Forum not a sign of wider disunity - Jacinda Ardern

6:03 pm on 11 July 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern believes Kiribati's withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum does not speak to wider disunity amongst its members.

PM PIF Roundtable

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

She and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta have this evening touched down in Fiji's capital Suva for the 51st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

The pair are arriving at a fractious time for the forum, with Kiribati leaving when unity on climate change and regional security is desperately needed.

Ardern sat down with the delegation of New Zealand journalists travelling with her this morning to lay out her thoughts on the withdrawal, as well as key points in the wider forum agenda.

She said the forum had undertaken "a lot of work" to resolve Kiribati's concerns about the role of Micronesia within the forum, without success.

"Ultimately, they haven't been able to do that to the satisfaction of Kiribati. I don't believe that means that as a whole that that's a sign of a wider disunity.

"I think actually rather it demonstrates that efforts have been made and I imagine that efforts will continue to be made."

Kiribati's withdrawal has dominated headlines in the run-up to this year's PIF but Ardern said climate change remained the most important topic of discussion.

"We have within the region members who are not expecting to experience climate change in the future, they are experiencing it now and some of us have had the opportunity to see that firsthand.

"This is not a hypothetical and so I expect the region will want to see from within region members a firm commitment to our own contribution, our own mitigation, and what we are doing to support one another."

The New Zealand government has allocated $1.3 billion over the next four years to support countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, half of which will go to the Pacific region.

This week is also the first chance Pacific leaders will meet for face-to-face talks about the security pact between the Solomon Islands and China.

Ardern anticipated forum members would discuss their expectations about how pacts signed by individual nations affected the entire Pacific family.

"I think what we need to establish, though - as a forum and as a family - is just what the expectation is when we have attempts to create new relationships that may have an effect on the region?

"What voice does the region expect to have? What notice ... does the region expect to have? And is it reasonable to expect that as a family, we try and provide for those needs first and foremost?"

PIF members will be in Suva all week, building up to the key event of the forum - the leaders' retreat - on Thursday.

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