Vanuatu continues push for UN resolution on West Papua

From Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Nauru

An Indonesian police officer triew to remove a 'Morning Star' flag from a West Papua protester during a demonstration this week.
An Indonesian police officer tries to remove a ‘Morning Star’ flag from a West Papua protester during a demonstration this week.

THE government of Vanuatu is pursuing bilateral discussions with Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru this week to seek their support for its proposed resolution to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to relist West Papua on the UN Decolonisation committee.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu told PACNEWS his government was mindful of the opposition from some member countries.

“They are going to try to block it and we know they are not going to support it. We are simply asking other Pacific states to support that resolution when it comes to the UNGA next year. We are working on putting together that resolution to the UNGA in 2019 and getting a vote of majority support,” said Mr Regenvanu.

Despite opposition from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia, the Vanuatu Minister said his government will continue to engage with them in the lead up to the UNGA session next year.

“We continue to talk with them all the time. We respect their positions. We didn’t come to the Forum with the intention to have a resolution because we know we won’t get it.

“All we are doing is bring it to the attention of the members and ask them for their support. As I said earlier, so far there are indications that we will get the support of the majority of Forum members.”

Mr Regenvanu said indications from the bilateral meetings conducted so far, show majority of the Pacific Island States at the Pacific Islands Forum will support the resolution.

Apart from the Pacific, the Vanuatu Government has also started its campaign for support in other regions of the world.

Ralph Regenvanu
Ralph Regenvanu

“The Pacific will represent some of the votes but most of the votes will come from outside the region so we are working on all fronts to try and get those votes secured.

“There are signs of support from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. We had a series of bilateral at Lome earlier this year. It’s now on the agenda of the ACP political sub-committee to discuss and hopefully come up with a resolution of the ACP in December this year – at the Council of Ministers meeting. We’re also on the agenda of the Caricom Foreign Affairs Minister meeting and the African Union Summit. We are now approaching Latin American States and the European Union.”

At the same time, Vanuatu has also put its name up to be on the UN Decolonisation Committee in the next round of voting.

On the new security arrangement for the region through the Biketawa Plus, Vanuatu strongly supports the assertion by the Forum Island countries that climate change is the greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.

“The Pacific has consistently said that climate change is the single greatest threat to the existence of our countries and that statement will be reaffirmed in the Biketawa Plus Declaration coming out of Nauru,” said Mr Regenvanu.

“If it is the single greatest threat to our security, then any concerns about security must be addressed and taken into account by our partners as our main concern and addressed accordingly.”

He revealed that certain Forum members have attempted to water-down some language in the security declaration.

“There has been some attempt by certain of our members to do that but luckily that phrasing comes directly from the 2015 Leaders communique. You can’t change the wording without changing what the Leaders agreed to.”

The Biketawa Plus Declaration endorsed by Foreign Affairs Ministers in Samoa last month recognised human security, humanitarian assistance and environmental security in building resilience and disasters and climate change.

The declaration also respects and assert the sovereign rights of every member to conduct its national affairs free of external interference and coercion the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of members.