Climate change and security big focus for Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

Climate change is a major worry to the Pacific Islands and it was the major talking point at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) earlier this month. Barbara Dreaver of Television New Zealand, who was detained and questioned in Nauru, talks to Sri Krishnamurthi of Asia-Pacific Report.

Two significant events happened at the 49th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) earlier this month – climate change and ratification of the Boe agreement (a regional security pact that succeeded the 2000 Biketawa agreement), says Barbara Dreaver, a veteran journalist with 20 years’ experience covering the Pacific.

Dreaver made headlines herself by being detained and questioned for four hours after interviewing an asylum seeker from a detention centre on Nauru.

The centres were declared a forbidden area when Nauru approved journalists’ accreditation for the forum on September 3-6.

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READ MORE: Climate change, at the frontlines

Initially, Nauru revoked Dreaver’s accreditation but reinstated it, so she could cover the forum proper, and she did not allow it to detract from doing her job.

Climate change is a growing burden for the Pacific and was the key discussion point at the forum.

-Partners-

Central to this is the demand by the Pacific Island countries that the United States return to the Paris climate agreement of 2015.

In short, the Paris Agreement is an ambition to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C – and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C – as called for by the smaller island states at the forum.

Plea to the US
“Pacific leaders have also called on the US to return to the Paris agreement,” says Barbara Dreaver.

The call comes on the back of US President Donald Trump announcing his intention in June 2017 to withdraw. Under the agreement, the earliest possible withdrawal date for the US is November 2020, although moves have been afoot for the US administration to withdraw from the agreement.

Climate change has become such an important problem for Pacific Island nations that it had to take centre stage at the forum.

“Yes, this was the main thrust of the forum. The leaders have formally requested the United Nations appoint a special adviser on climate change and security and they have also called on the UN Security Council to appoint a special rapporteur to produce a regular review of global, regional and national security threats caused by climate change,” Dreaver told Asia Pacific Report.

Most of the controversy at the forum centred around Nauru, which was once a phosphate-mining mecca now virtually stripped dry and reduced to playing an off-shore role as a detention centre for asylum seekers to Australia.

Nauru is set to receive nearly A$26 million from Australia in Official Development Assistance  in 2018-19, which is almost a quarter of its gross domestic product.

“The money Nauru receives from Australia is valuable to this cash-strapped nation. It’s not only in cash terms – buildings have been improved etc. For Nauru, while it’s a headache, it’s also a godsend,” says Dreaver.

Sensitive refugee discussions
Sensitive discussions around the detainees did take place under muted conditions and away from the media, she noted.

“The discussion around the detainees on Nauru took place in the bilaterals and only at a general level.

“There was some sensitivity given it’s a domestic issue for the most part and Nauru had made it clear it did not consider it part of the forum – even if others did.

“It should be noted that the bigger non-government organisations like World Vision or Amnesty, which would have brought up the issue at side events [civil society discussions)] were refused visas to Nauru.”

Incarcerated children on the island, kept in conditions widely considered inhumane, hardly rated a mention at the forum.

“The children on Nauru are staying put – I understand there are now approximately 109 of them,” says Dreaver.

An Australian decision
New Zealand did discuss the potential resettlement of some of the asylum seekers but were told it was an Australian decision.

“Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister) discussed it with Nauru at the bilateral discussions but at the end of the day, if Australia doesn’t agree with the transferral of refugees to NZ it won’t happen. The decision is not the Nauru governments’ to make,” says Dreaver.

That was not to say New Zealand did not have a contribution to make at the PIF, even though one commentator in New Zealand likened Pacific countries to “leeches”.

“Most of New Zealand’s contribution was behind the scenes. For example, like some of the other member countries it had input on the Biketawa Plus or Boe Declaration,” she said.

“New Zealand’s presence must not be underestimated… the only times a New Zealand Prime Minister has not attended a forum has been when it has been close to an election.

“While fellow leaders have always publicly expressed their understanding, they have also made it clear New Zealand is missed and it doesn’t go down well.

“New Zealand is strong on fisheries in the region and its input in this area is strong,” she says on a food source that is dear to the heart of all Pacific Islanders.

Climate change priority
Again, there was no getting away from climate change and the security of the region, as Dreaver points out.

“Yes, the Boe declaration was ratified (named Boe as this is name of the President of Nauru’s [Baron Waqa] village where it was signed).

“The leaders had to go back to the table in the evening as Australia had some concerns over the language about climate change which other leaders describe as the single greatest threat to the region.

“There is a strong agreement for resources for cash-strapped nations, particularly in the area of cybercrime – it’s expected New Zealand and Australia will provide specialist and technical knowledge to help small island nations combat this,’’ Dreaver says.

Progress was made at the 49th sitting of the Pacific Islands Forum despite it being held in the controversial venue of Nauru.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Dump Trump,’ say Philippine women protesters

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘Dump Trump,’ say Philippine women protesters

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Philippine protesters at an anti-Trump rally in Manila at the weekend. Image: Eagle News Philippines

Hundreds of Filipinos protested outside the United States embassy in the Philippines capital of Manila at the weekend to denounce Donald Trump as incoming president, accusing him of sexism, racism and xenophobia.

Chanting “Dump Trump,” the protesters from leftist groups also expressed concerns that Trump was a threat to the millions of Filipino immigrants living in the US.

Filipino activists arrive for an anti-Trump rally in front of the US embassy in Manila at the weekend. Image: Rappler/AFP

“It is alarming to know that an accused sexual predator, a known racist, sexist, xenophobic man is assuming the presidency of the strongest capitalist country in the world,” said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of women’s group Gabriela.

“The decades of struggle of women across the world to fight for their rights is threatened by Trump’s presidency.”

The about 300 people who gathered near the US embassy in Manila held placards with the message “@realDonaldTrump hands off Filipino immigrants” and “Trump you’re trash.” They symbolically dumped photos of Trump in the rubbish bin.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton after a divisive campaign in which the real-estate billionaire vowed to deport millions of illegal migrants and faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

“We are very concerned about Filipino workers in the US dealing with a rise of racism. Some Filipinos there are getting paranoid about their personal safety and their job security,” Salvador said.

The Philippines, a former American colony, has strong cultural and economic ties with the United States. The two countries are bound by a mutual defence treaty and US forces have for many years helped the Philippines on various security issues.

However leftist groups have long railed against the US for exporting its capitalist model and for what they see as continued American domination of the Philippines.

Protesters at the rally also burned an American flag as they reiterated their longtime demands for US troops to leave the Philippines and the tearing up of what they called “unequal” military agreements.

Bilateral relations have soured under firebrand Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pivoted his nation’s foreign policy towards China and Russia since taking office nearly seven months ago.

Obama’s legacy is bittersweet – and its chance of survival hangs in the balance

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Obama’s legacy is bittersweet – and its chance of survival hangs in the balance

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

By Professor Thomas Clark

The grace. The elegance. The deftness of touch. The quick intelligence. The soaring rhetoric. The unlimited aspirations. The hope of a better life for all.

Though Barack Obama’s legacy is rather lesser than some might have hoped for when he was inaugurated president of the United States in 2009, in him the world has lost the leadership of a gentle soul, a humble man of immense quality and kindness.

And now, these qualities will be replaced with bitter self-interest and vulgarity.

Even without the contrast of Donald Trump, Obama’s dignified bearing, even his very existence, was an inspiration. He and his wife Michelle were an unrivalled illustration of dignity in public office – and more than that, he has clearly left a profound mark on his country.

In his valedictory address in Chicago, Obama was as always breathtakingly optimistic, both about what has been achieved and in his estimation of America’s potential to achieve greater things yet:

If I’d told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history; if I’d told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11; if I’d told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20m of our fellow citizens – if I’d told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

To watch the incoming administration crumble this legacy into rubble will be unbearably painful. But it also pays to ask why this hugely gifted politician didn’t accomplish more – and why he won’t leave a more durable legacy.

Back from the brink
The task Obama faced after his inauguration was monumental. The 2008 financial crisis had threatened to engulf the US in a recession as deep and lasting as the Great Depression in the 1930s; the new president inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, which by October 2009 had risen to 10 percent.

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act delivered an $831 billion stimulus package, pumping money into infrastructure, education, health, energy, federal tax incentives, and expansion of unemployment benefits and welfare provisions.

According to the Council of Economic Advisers, the US economy added jobs for 74 consecutive months and reached its pre-recession average by mid-2015, falling to 4.6 percent by November 2016. Non-farm employment exceeded its pre-recession peak by 6.7m, with the automobile industry adding 700,000 jobs.

This was a stunning turnaround, but millions of casualties of the financial crisis have still not recovered. There remains a lingering sense that the financial institutions that caused the crisis were never made to pay for it.

Then there was the battle to achieve affordable universal health care, Obama’s signal social reform. This was a titanic fight that left him in an intractable conflict with the Republican Party in Congress for the whole of his two terms in office.

The Affordable Care Act, now widely known as “Obamacare”, requires all Americans to purchase a private health plan, secure an exemption, or pay a tax penalty. Those who could not afford health care qualified for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or assistance in the form of tax credits.

Health care was ultimately extended to all citizens. But the system’s troubled implementation and the political guerrilla war waged against it before and since its introduction demonstrates the just how unprepared US for any comprehensive form of social provision.

Bad examples
Obama drew a line under the US’s military adventurism in the Middle East, finally withdrawing US forces from Iraq in December 2011; he also declared an end to the war in Afghanistan in November 2014. But he was unable to head off the horrors of the Syrian civil war, first setting out a “red line” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime could not cross without consequences and then declining to act when it did.

While he avoided putting American “boots on the ground” on a grand scale, he presided over actions by special forces, including the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. He also continued to rain bombs on Muslim countries, and his apparent penchant for drone strikes has arguably set a dangerous precedent.

Obama also maintained a quiet but determined commitment to protect the environment, working hard to replace fossil fuels with renewables. And while the world’s developing economies rebuffed a global climate agreement at Copenhagen in 2009, they ultimately committed to a rapid reduction in emissions at the 2015 Paris summit.

The sense of optimism was capped by Obama’s emmissions reduction agreement with President Xi of China.

But once again, by using his executive powers to circumvent an intransigent Republican congress, Obama laid this and other key achievements open to destruction by future presidents – and first in line is Donald Trump.

The fate of the US economy now lies in the hands of a man who claims to be a serial entrepreneur, but who could just as well be described as a serial bankrupt. The new Republican-controlled Congress is already preparing to dismantle Obamacare, but needs to ensure millions of Americans who now have access to health care don’t suddenly lose it.

In foreign affairs and military intervention, Obama’s successor promises to be highly unpredictable. He might be most dangerous of all when it comes to climate change and environmental protection, although international support for serious global measures to curb emissions has probably never been higher.

System flaws
Obama also failed to achieve some of his fundamental objectives, but many of these failures reflect fundamental flaws in the American system that are beyond any one president’s power to repair.

Above all, his hopes for a new era in race relations were cruelly dashed. Black Americans were still being lethally victimised as his presidency drew to a close, with police brutality perhaps a more incendiary issue than ever. Throughout it all, he remained dignified as ever; his plaintive rendition of Amazing Grace at a church in Charleston, South Carolina where eight worshippers and a pastor were brutally killed marked the end of his effort not to be portrayed as a black president.

Tragically, his efforts to constrain gun violence in the US failed to overcome the onslaught of political opposition to responsible control, and a constant patter of gunfire punctuated his presidency.

At Sandy Hook elementary school, 20 young children and six adults perished at the hands of a single shooter. The event brought Obama to tears: “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

By his own admission, Obama failed to overcome the intense partisanship of American politics and society. The disfigurement of US democracy continues, undermining the possibility of stable government. Tens of millions of Americans don’t participate in the democratic process at all, and the political agenda is still disproportionately shaped by a wealthy corporate elite.

We can only hope that while the traumatic 2016 election may have left America’s more idealistic political forces chastened, they are not broken.

Thomas Clark is professor of business at the University of Sydney Technology. This article is published from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.

President Trump – best and worst case scenarios over next four years

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: President Trump – best and worst case scenarios over next four years

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pack into downtown Washington today for a women’s march in opposition to newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.

Thousands more will also protest at marches in London and around the world on the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

What are the best and worst-case scenarios for Americans under a Trump administration?

AJ+ went to five US cities to find out how people feel the next four years will impact them personally.

Diverse Americans talks about their future