Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)
The origins of the Pacific Islands Forum date back to 1971 with the creation of the South Pacific Forum by the states of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa. In 2000 the Forum took the decision to change the nature of the organization from a loose affiliation that mainly revolved around annual meetings at the level of heads of state and government, to an intergovernmental organization based on an international treaty, with specific permanent institutions and a name change to the Pacific Islands Forum. Membership of the Forum now stands at sixteen with the inclusion of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The Forum also has provisions for associate membership status for territories in the region that have yet to achieve self government.
||Keywords: food security, nutritional health, global trade, land use
The main meeting of Forum is the annual gathering of the heads of state and government to discuss matters concerning the region and issue a communiqué that sets out subjects of concern, areas of agreement and plans for future action. At the Port Moresby Summit in October 2005 final agreement was reached on the new constitutive treaty for the Forum. The Treaty is the first step in establishing the Forum on a legal basis, establishing an institutional framework for the organization. The Agreement has been signed by all members of the Forum but has not yet received full ratification.
Recent Developments: The Pacific Food Summit
During April 2010 the Pacific Food Summit was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu. This event was driven by the Pacific Islands Forum and received substantial support from other international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Health Institute (GHI), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).1 The Summit was attended by government ministers and senior policy makers from sectors directly involved in the issue of food security, such as trade, health and agriculture. It included high level representatives from a range of international organisations with a concern with food security in the region. The meeting was also attended by representatives from relevant industries, various nongovernmental and faith-based organizations, along with consumer organisations.
Food security is a global issue and at the same time it has been identified as a major concern for the Pacific region.2 Factors such as increases in food and fuel costs, volatile economic conditions and climate change are all having a detrimental impact on the ability of the Pacific Region to access safe, nutritious food in sufficient quantities. The lack of access to safe, nutritious food is having negative consequences for Pacific island societies especially in terms of health. Studies have revealed that Pacific Island societies have some of the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the world; a direct consequence of the region’s food supply.3 The rise in health problems directly connected with food supply in the region are having substantial consequences on the states and societies of the Pacific, making food security a high level priority for regional action now and for the future.
The Summit worked with the FAO’s definition of food security, which states: ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’ 4 This definition accommodates an expansive approach to the issue as it deals with the availability and accessibility of food and the dynamics influencing these factors, along with action directed at food safety and nutrition. It also requires an approach to food security that involves interested and affected persons from across society, government and industry incorporating policy initiatives across sectors such as health, trade and agriculture. However given that expansive definition a co-ordinated multisector approach is necessary. One of the primary purposes of the Summit was to provide an organisational plan for bringing together the multiple actors involved, including those impacted by poor food supplies.
The desire for a framework for action addressing food security has been priority for the Pacific Region for a number of years. A 1995 WHO study identified food security as one of the major factors for supporting the vision of ‘Healthy Islands’.5 In 2007 the PIF Ministers of Health called for a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to health promotion which included the need for regional efforts directed at food security. To this end the Ministers also called for a food summit to be held based on an approach that would bring together and integrate policies between representatives from health, agriculture, trade and finance. This call was supported by the 39th Pacific Islands Leaders’ Forum of 2008. The Leaders’ Forum ‘acknowledged the high importance of food security as an emerging issue’ for the region. PIF Ministers of Agriculture and Trade held follow up meetings in 2009 when the matter was referred to the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) an umbrella body which coordinates activities among the various regional organisations. 6 In the run up to the Summit meetings were also held between government representatives, interested NGOs and industry as well as national food summits in a number of Pacific Island states. 7
The Pacific Food Summit was held in Vanuatu on 21-23 April 2010. The Summit adopted an Outcome document and a Framework for Action. The Outcome document is the Summit’s declaration of broad principles for action supporting the Framework for Action and calling on the PIF and relevant partners to implement the Framework. 8 The Framework for Action document is intended to provide an ‘over-arching strategic Framework that guides Pacific countries to move towards ensuring that all our people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.’9 The Framework has been formulated as a living document recognising that not all possible strategies or programmes for dealing with food security have been covered. It remains open ended as no specific time frame for achieving agreed objectives has been set out. There will be a review of the document and progress to date in five years time. The Framework has been placed in the context of the PIF’s Pacific Plan which has been the leading programme for action for regional cooperation since 2005.10
The Framework articulates a core vision underlying the efforts to enhance food security in the region. This vision asserts ‘All people in the Pacific have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’ 11 To realise this vision the stated goals are directed at strengthening and improving the availability and stability of food in the region, as well as ensuring access to food and improving food utilization. To do this a number of Guiding Principles are set out. These include a commitment to a coordinated multi-sectoral approach that moves beyond governments to include the wide diversity of actors involved in food policy and production. The desire is to bring a greater degree of consistency to policies and actions that impact upon food security. Attention to regional cooperation in this respect is identified in order to best ‘address challenges such as food security policies, trade and investment promotion, research and development, capacity building and adaptation strategies for climate change.’12 The Framework calls for recognition of food security as a human right due to the impact it on living conditions and the life and health of Pacific populations. Food security is also to be seen as a critical issue on the development agenda due to the ‘role of economic development in shaping the social determinants of health to enable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times by all people.’ 13 This leads to the need to adopt sustainable solutions for food security that reinforce self-reliance and empowerment for the region. Attention here is on food supply systems that can deal with fluctuations and stress caused by markets and the environment. A key feature in this respect is building up and strengthening local capacity for food security. 14 The emphasis on local capacity further requires respecting and valuing indigenous systems and culture. The attention here is on ensuring that traditional mechanisms and practices related to food production and consumption are respected.15
The Guiding Principles are further developed through seven themes articulated in the Framework that are intended to guide all future activity in this area. These themes begin with the idea that leadership and cooperation for implementing the Framework while led by governments will also require input from all sectors involved in food security. There is an emphasis on regulatory frameworks for enforcement and compliance based on collaboration between the public and private sectors. Activities under the Framework are to be directed at enhanced and sustainable food production. Furthermore, actions are to give particular attention to the needs of infants and vulnerable groups as well as working towards consumer empowerment through ensuring consumers have access to information in order to make informed decisions. And to this end there is the need to establish and provide information on food security in the region that is more evidence based in order to better understand what needs to be done. The main concern here is ensuring that the diversity of the region and varying needs that exist are appropriately addressed. The final theme calls for dealing with various cross-cutting areas of activity that influence food security such as land tenure, energy and transport policies and systems. In general the action points identified in the Framework under each of the themes deal with information gathering, assessments on current capacity, calls for education and the dissemination of accurate information. There are also vague calls to create new systems or mechanisms for addressing areas of food security some of which, such as improving transportation infrastructure, will require a good deal of investment and cooperative action among governments such as improving transport infrastructure. The Framework is just that, only a framework. It lacks any further detailed information regarding implementation with the exception of the five year review.
The Pacific Food Summit highlighted the importance of pursuing a regional food security policy through statements such as ‘Food is central to Pacific life’ or that ‘Food security is a fundamental health and development issue in the Pacific. Food plays an important social and cultural role in all Pacific societies.’16 The purpose of the Framework document is to focus the mind of government leaders and industry participants on the importance of dealing with food related issues. A unique element of the Summit and Framework document is the inclusive nature involving a range of government offices and policy makers, industry leaders and consumers. This approach is justified as a ‘holistic perspective links economic development, environmental protection and health promotion and protection, and recognises the values that make up the unique Pacific way of life.’17 It is hoped that collective action in the region involving regional and global organisations will result in more integrated approaches to the issue of food security, a necessary thing for the future of the Pacific region.
At the same time the lack of any concrete measures in the Framework suggests that this is only a first step in dealing with food security for the region. Given the detrimental consequences being experienced in the region due to problems with food security one would have expected a Summit outcome document with more detail and force behind it. However, given that the multi-sectoral approach involving governmental and non-governmental actors is the only way to effectively address food security, a more measured first approach is understandable. Now that the Summit Outcome and Framework are part of the regional agenda through inclusion in the Pacific Plan, the matter will remain visible and progress towards the stated objectives will be measured. The Pacific Food Summit brought attention to the negative picture regarding food security and societal health in the region. It can only be hoped that the action identified under the Framework is effectively pursued to bring about the changes necessary for making the Pacific a more secure place when it comes to the supply of and access to food.
McCoubrey Centre for International Law
An umbrella organisation the Food Secure Pacific Working Group has been created by these partners, see http://www.foodsecurepacific.org/about.html
2 See the concept paper produced prior to the Summit that was the basis for discussions, Facilitating Action for a Food Secure Pacific 12 May 2009, available at http://www.foodsecurepacific.org/summit.html
4 For a survey of the development of this definition see FAO, Trade Reforms and Food Security: Conceptualizing the Linkages Rome, 2003, chapter 2, available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4671e/y4671e00.htm#Contents.
5 Yanuca Island Declaration of 1995, adopted at the. Conference of the Ministers of Health of the Pacific Islands. Yanuca Island, Fiji, 10 March 1995.
6 See http://www.forumsec.org.fj/pages.cfm/about-us/crop/.
7 For information see, the Food Secure Pacific website, at http://www.foodsecurepacific.org/events.html.
8 Pacific Food Summit, Summit Outcomes Document available at http://www.foodsecurepacific.org/summit.html.
9 Pacific Food Summit, Towards a Food Secure Pacific: Framework for Action on Food Security in the Pacific available at http://www.foodsecurepacific.org/documents/FINAL%20TOWARDS%20A%20FOOD%20SECURE%20PACIFIC_June1.pdf, at 4.
10 See Richard Burchill, ‘A Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration’ ASIL RIO December 2007 available at http://asil.org/rio/pacific_2008.html.
11 Framework for Action, supra note 9, at 14.
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