The Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat
The Pacific Islands Forum, formerly the South Pacific Forum until a name change in October 2000, was founded in August 1971 and comprises 16 independent and self-governing states in the Pacific. The Forum is the region’s premier political and economic policy organisation. Forum Leaders meet annually to develop collective responses to regional issues.
The Forum’s membership has increased from the original seven founding members (Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Tonga and Western Samoa – now Samoa) to also include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. New Caledonia and French Polynesia, previously Forum Observers, were granted Associate Membership in 2006. Current Forum Observers include Tokelau (2005), Wallis and Futuna (2006), the Commonwealth (2006) and the Asia Development Bank (2006), with Timor Leste as Special Observer (2002).
The Forum has no formal rules governing its operations or the conduct of its meetings. The agenda is based on reports from the Secretariat and related regional organisations and committees, as well as other issues that members may wish to raise. Decisions by the Leaders are reached by consensus and are outlined in a Forum Communiqué, from which policies are developed and a work programme is prepared. The annual Forum meetings are chaired by the Head of Government of the Host Country, who remains as Forum Chair until the next meeting.
Since 1989, the Forum has held Post Forum Dialogues with key Dialogue Partners at Ministerial level. There are currently thirteen partners – Canada, People’s Republic of China, European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States. A review of the Post Forum Dialogue process was commissioned by the Forum Secretariat following the directive of the Forum Leaders for a reassessment of its arrangements and the criteria for membership. The report and its recommendations were considered at the 2006 Forum Leaders Meeting, and work towards improving the quality of dialogues remains in progress.
The Forum’s administrative arm is the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, based in Suva, Fiji. It acts as the Secretariat for Forum-related events, implements decisions by the Leaders, facilitates the delivery of development assistance to member states, and undertakes the political and legal mandates of Forum meetings. The Secretariat is funded by contributions from member governments and donors with a total budget in 2006 of around FJ$36 million.