U.S. Engagement in the Pacific
For over a century, the United States has remained a positive force for development throughout the Pacific region -- from the establishment of Naval Station Pearl Harbor in 1912 to its commitment of over 200 Peace Corps volunteers serving throughout the region today. A Pacific nation itself, the United States not only shares the same values as its neighbors; it understands their hopes and aspirations – and seeks to assist the peoples and nations of the Pacific as they strive to realize them. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue, the first ever by a U.S. Secretary of State, demonstrates the Unites States’ commitment to partnering with the Pacific Island countries to address local and global challenges, such as climate change, economic development, gender equality, education, and peace and security.
Environmental Stewardship: The United States is committed to working with the Pacific Islands to protect the unique marine resources of the Pacific and has stated its intent to explore with Kiribati areas of cooperation to facilitate the protection, preservation, and conservation management of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which together account for 244,514 square miles of protected marine areas.
Climate Change: Recognizing that climate change is one of the most pressing concerns for the peoples of the Pacific, the United States is working to build capacity in the region to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change. The United States is launching a Coastal Community Adaption Program that will provide $25 million over five years to build climate and severe weather resilience for vulnerable coastal communities. The United States is also establishing Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC), a $1 million program aimed at sustaining renewable energy investments.
Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative: In collaboration with Australia, New Zealand and other public and private partners, the Department of State will launch the next phase of the Pacific Women's Empowerment Initiative – the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women, an innovative partnership that will sharply expand leadership training, academic scholarships, and other educational opportunities through programs that actively embrace and address gender issues. As the centerpiece of the Initiative, the East-West Center (EWC) will coordinate the Rarotonga Partnership to serve as a catalyst for change and a dynamic collaborative hub among regional educational institutions across the Pacific, creating new opportunities for enhanced participation of Pacific women in public and private leadership roles. The United States and New Zealand will also collaborate on women’s economic empowerment and sustainable agriculture programs at the Caribbean and Pacific Forum in Jamaica in 2013.
Safety and Security: Many Pacific Island countries continue to deal with the legacy of unexploded ordnance and other remnants of the battles of World War II. In cooperation with our Pacific Islands partners, the United States Departments of State and Defense will support a more integrated approach to cleaning up unexploded ordnance by investing over $3.5 million over the next three years for assessment, training and clean-up projects in Pacific Island states. To increase maritime awareness and enforce conservation measures, the United States is expanding the highly successful Ship Rider Agreements, which enable joint law enforcement operations with nine Pacific countries. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard, which maintains readiness to conduct search and rescue operations across 19,600,000 square kilometers in the Pacific, is working with U.S. Pacific Command to explore the possibility of developing enhanced maritime domain awareness training to the Freely Associated States.
Economic Growth and Prosperity: U.S. exports to Pacific Island countries have amounted to more than $17 billion so far in 2012. The U.S. enjoys a trade surplus with all but two PIF members. Economic growth and development in the region is good for U.S. business. Ex-Im Bank is active in the region, and seeks to provide short-, medium- and long-term financing for the procurement of US equipment and services in most PIF countries. Over the past three years Ex-Im has supported financing in the amount of approximately $7 billion dollars for projects in the Pacific, including new liquid natural gas project developments in Australia and Papua New Guinea and commercial aircraft purchases for New Zealand. Since 1980, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has invested over $341 million dollars in the Pacific Islands region, supporting investment and development in Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Fiji. OPIC currently has over $45 million in investments and insurance in the Pacific Islands region, and is actively looking to support viable projects in the region.
Developing Economic Linkages: In recognition of the cultural and economic ties between the United States and Pacific Islands, the Department of State is partnering with the PIF Secretariat’s Pacific Islands Trade & Invest to launch the Pacific Islands IdEA Marketplace (PIIM). PIIM is being implemented within the context of the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), an innovative program that has successfully linked diasporas to local populations in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. PIIM collaborators will develop a competition that seeks out innovative ideas to promote economic development and reduce the vulnerability of populations to natural disaster. Winners will be provided with technical assistance for developing their business plans and access to project financing and entrepreneurial networks.
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice to Combat Environmental Crimes: The Department will continue to help link the Pacific Island nations with other countries in the region to increase capacity building for anti-corruption, law enforcement and rule of law communities. The Department, in partnership with DOJ’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training, supports a new prosecutor-led Natural Resource Crimes Task Force in Indonesia that could serve as a model for Pacific nations on improving prosecution of natural resource crimes.
Pacific Partnership: Next year, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Partnership will return to the Pacific. Pacific Partnership deployments collectively have provided medical, dental, and educational services to 250,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries.
Constitutional Development and Democracy: This year, USAID provided nearly $2 million to support democratic institutions in Fiji and free and fair elections in Papua New Guinea.
Regional Project Support: The Regional Environmental Office of U.S. Embassy Suva provides between $75,000 and $125,000 per year in numerous small grants for local projects throughout the region tackling both environmental and health issues.
Civil Society Small Grants: The Department of State and USAID provide small grants in the region to help develop civil society. These grants include:
- (Koror) 20th Anniversary of the Mechesil Belau Conference: On the 20th anniversary, the achievements of Mechesil Belau will be highlighted and a publication documenting the historical and cultural development of the organization developed.
- Majuro) Adopt the Airport Project: This project plans to transform unused land beside the Majuro Airport into the atoll’s largest eco-friendly outdoor exercise facility.
- (Koror) Strengthening Democracy to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change on Public Health: This project aims to expand on a newly published book, “Public Health Impacts of Climate Change in Palau” by Southern Illinois University and funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a television and print campaign to raise awareness and foster discussion about the impacts of climate change on public health.
- (Kolonia) Economic Innovation Fund: Transition from Substance Living to Market Economy: This program will work in conjunction with the Federated States of Micronesia government’s current program designed to improve income for rural communities and increase household nutrition standards.
People-to-People Ties: In all areas, the United States engages with the people of the Pacific to address their concerns and build lasting relationships. These include:
- PIF Youth Conference: This will be a conference, held in New Zealand, for youth leaders from each of the 16 member countries of the PIF to discuss key political, economic, environmental and social issues of the region and create a Pacific youth leaders network that will continue to communicate following the conference.
- Pacific Islands Sports Visitor program: Sports Visitors Program focused on hearing-impaired track and field athletes. The program in spring 2013 will reinforce awareness, locally and regionally, about disability inclusion especially for youth.
- American Youth Leadership Program with Samoa: Twenty American participants will travel to Samoa for a four-week exchange in December 2013 to study food security and nutrition alongside twenty Samoan teens.
- Leadership Development: The East-West Center will partner with other regional donors on a $3 million program to provide leadership development skills training for 125 young Pacific Islanders.