You are here

Op-Ed Global Development

Reigniting Pacific regionalism for transition to a post-COVID era

London, United Kingdom

Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua is Tonga’s candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. A development economist, women’s rights advocate and an international civil servant, Amelia is a former Regional Programme Director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for the Pacific, and works for the Commonwealth.

By Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua

This week's dialogue on economic strategies by the Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting, 11-12 August, is critical to building back better, or differently, for the Pacific Forum Islands.

The issues at hand are familiar, except they have been further exacerbated by COVID-19. These issues include our economic vulnerability; our priority high-risk issue of climate change; our mounting external debts and related issues such as access to financing and debt sustainability. All these challenges have profound impacts on achieving the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals that Pacific Islands are individually committed to. The scope of the challenge surely demands that Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) reignite Pacific regionalism.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) has a strategic role to re-group, reform, and mobilize regional actions and cooperate with international partners to address the socio-economic challenges facing the region. Whatever the future holds, all these areas have been fundamentally changed in just a few months.

The Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM2020) will be mapping out economic strategies for the region. We would like to see a collective voice of 18 members speak volumes in the transition to a post-COVID era. As a region, we need to strengthen our solidarity through weaving stronger strands of Coordination, Cooperation, Commitments and Care (4Cs) for a coherent recovery.

Strategies must be inclusive of both men and women. Strategies need to consider the issue of debt instability in our small economies and put specific and deliberate systematic policies in place. To pursue these goals, we must engage with the international multilaterals and the private sector.


There's a need for all development partners to better coordinate their efforts in support of regional integration and resetting back differently at all levels. Better coordination for stronger cooperation within the Pacific family of regional organisations is equally important.

The actions of governments, policy makers and business leaders must aim to encourage the most robust recovery possible, and they will need to take into account the different patterns of recovery that industry sectors are likely to see.

We are at a very critical juncture when this week #FEMM2020 will embark on a new set of strategies and a roadmap towards 2030 and 2050. Pacific Finance and Economic Ministers have key leadership roles in developing the vision and strategies necessary for their respective countries to meet the governance, economic development and poverty reduction challenges in the region.

Since March, the common phrase ‘We are all in this together’ has been used to describe the fight against COVID-19. I perceive that as ‘No one should suffer alone, we are all in this storm together, except we are not in the same boat.’

This Decade of Action agenda calling for accelerated sustainable solutions to all the region's biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap, has become ever more important for a stronger Blue Pacific.


What exactly is the process for Tonga's nomination to be Amelia Siamomua Kinahoi? Is it just a private conversation between her and the PM? In the era of transparency etc this should be known. Same for Dr Jimmie Rodgers -the nominee from the Solomon Islands govt and all the other nominees. Dr Jimmie led the SPC for 9 years - his payout when he retired and while he was the Head was? Amelia and Dr Jimmie are former international/regional civil servants and have been financially rewarded for their service to their employers and Pacific Island countries?
Isn’t it about time we give the younger generation a chance to take the lead in dealing with today's extraordinary problems? National civil servants are compulsorily retired when they reach 55 years. Politicians and international civil servants can go on beyond 55 years. It doesn't make sense. Why are international civil servants and politicians exempt from getting health tests including mental health assessments. They go on and on ad nauseam because “He who makes the rules, rules”!
I think that our political system should be geared towards giving the younger generation a chance to run our Pacific Island countries, nationally and regionally. So much of our country's budget is spent on medical bills for elderly and unhealthy politicians. Aid funds to improve the quality of life of the poor and marginalised Pacific people end up being spent on excessive allowances, perks and privileges of international, regional civil servants and politicians. Assistance doesn't trickle down to the people most in need. The pay out for retiring Heads of regional organisations - PIFS, SPC, USP is startling.
Give the younger leaders a chance to lead. They are the ones that will have to pay future debts.