Securing a Safer Pacific

More than thirty officials of Forum and United Nations Member Countries and representatives of civil society attended the ‘Security Sector Governance in the Pacific’ meeting that was convened jointly by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre in Suva, Fiji from 22 to 24 May 2013.

The meeting examined the need to develop national overarching policies that guide agencies such as police, customs, immigration and defence in the development of coordinated responses to to address potential security threats. Key discussions included the need for Pacific countries to establish mechanisms for effective civilian oversight and accountability to ensure security sector institutions are effective in protecting human rights, democratic processes and the rule of law.

Deputy Secretary General, Andie Fong Toy of the Forum Secretariat emphasised that security was important in creating the stable foundations for economic growth and sustainable development. “While we may never be able to plan for every threat or challenge that our nations may face, it is important that we develop the policy, legislative, operational and institutional capacity to minimise or avoid possible impacts,” said Ms Fong Toy. “Creating institutions that are suitably flexible to meet these challenges but firm in their adherence to accountability, the respect for human rights and the rule of law, is a sensible way to begin” added Ms Fong Toy.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Knut Ostby, said that “the Pacific understanding of security had shifted from a state-centred approach to a people-centred or human security approach with a broader peace, security and development focus.” He also noted that the region’s enhanced understanding of human security is reflected in the Human Security Framework for the Pacific, which was welcomed by Forum Leaders at their meeting in 2012.

Participants at the meeting discussed issues to be considered when developing national security policies such as the significance of parliament, accountability institutions and the media: the role of civil society for ensuring civilian oversight of the security sector; the need to recognise gender perspectives; and the need of a robust and inclusive consultation process. Participants also reviewed the draft Pacific Security Sector Governance Principles which will be considered by the Forum Regional Security Committee as a resource for guiding countries as they move to develop national security policies.

Participants agreed that National Security Policies can contribute to national security by providing a common understanding of security threats and allowing for the development of proactive, prioritised and appropriately resourced responses. They also agreed that possible next steps for Pacific countries would include: possible national consultations to determine the need for the development of security sector policies and the formation of domestic inter-agency technical working groups to prepare concept papers and implementation plans for Executive consideration.

The three-day meeting was organised by the Forum Secretariat and the UNDP Pacific Centre through their joint Security Sector Governance Initiative, with support from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control for Armed Forces (DCAF) and with significant financial contribution from the Australian Federal Police’s Pacific Policing Development Programme Regional.

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