Australia places a special value on its close historical, political, economic, aid and community links with the island countries and territories of the Pacific, and is committed to playing an active and constructive role in our region. The strength of this commitment is reflected in the fact that Australia is the leading provider of development assistance to the independent countries of the Pacific, supporting their sustainable economic and social development through bilateral and regional programs. This assistance is complemented by a program of defence cooperation with many of the Pacific island states, contributing to their efficient and sustainable use of maritime resources and enhancing regional security. Australia also has significant trade and commercial interests in the region - the Pacific is Australia’s closest market.
Australia is a founding member and active participant in the key political and technical organisations in the Pacific which have emerged in recent decades to deal with issues specific to the region. These organisations are outlined below.
- The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) is the region’s principal political institution. It brings together 16 Heads of Government of the independent and self-governing states of the Pacific, as well as French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Tokelau as associate members, and a number of observers. The Forum’s annual Leaders’ Meeting is the key regional political meeting that establishes the Secretariat’s mandate and sets priorities for the collective regional agenda.
- The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (formerly known as the South Pacific Commission) is a non-political organisation that delivers technical assistance, policy advice, training and research services for the region. It has a broad membership encompassing all 22 Pacific Island countries and territories as well as four major – and founding – metropolitan members: Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States. Its mandate and programs span more than 20 sectors, addressing sustainable economic development, natural resource and environmental management, and human and social development.
- The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), is an advisory body that aims to assist members to maximise benefits from the conservation and sustainable use of their fisheries resources.
- The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has evolved from a small program which was formerly part of the SPC to an autonomous organisation promoting regional cooperation in environmental matters.
Cooperation and collaboration between Pacific regional organisations is promoted through the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), Established in 1988 by Forum Leaders, CROP comprises the 4 organisations listed above, as well as the following 5 organisations:
- The Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), which assists Pacific Islands Leaders to advance their collective efforts to achieve and sustain equitable social and economic development consistent with the goals of the Pacific islands region’s people;
- The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), which is the mandated inter-governmental body for the tourism sector in the region, with the mission to market and develop tourism in the South Pacific;
- The University of the South Pacific (USP), a premier provider of tertiary education in the Pacific region and an international centre of excellence for teaching, research and consulting on all aspects of Pacific life;
- The Pacific Power Association (PPA), which promotes the direct cooperation of Pacific island power utilities in technical training, exchange of information, sharing of senior management and engineering expertise and other activities of benefit to the members; and
- The Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) which oversees aviation safety and security in the Pacific Islands using guidelines provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Australian support for Pacific Islands regional organisations
Australia is a leading donor to the major regional organisations in the Pacific.
Australian support comprises both assessed member contributions – typically provided annually- as well as additional funding for specific programs delivered by the organisations. In 2013/14, Australia contributed approximately 50% of the budget for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and 36% of the budget for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
Australia has signed Partnership Agreements with the key regional bodies, which set out our shared visions for cooperation and integration.
Further information on Australia’s support for Pacific Islands regional organisations, and overseas development assistance in the region