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Defense & Security
Paris,France,1st of May 2024.Thousands of people protested and celebrated on mayday in Paris. Labour unions,workers,students and others marched through the streets

The nickel behind Macron's recolonization project in New Caledonia

by Pablo Elorduy

The protests by the Kanak population are taking place against an electoral reform that will further benefit the settlers recently established on the island. In the background are the profits from nickel mining, which the metropolis wants to monopolize. The riots in New Caledonia have led the Government of the French Republic to intensify repression on the Pacific Island. This week, High Commissioner Louis Le Franc has announced that the police presence would be increased, nearly doubling from 1,700 to 2,700 officers. Officially, five people, including two police officers, have died in the clashes, which have arisen due to a legal change in the system of electing representatives that discriminates against the indigenous Kanak population, who make up 40% of the total population. The clashes are also a result of the deep inequality between the Kanak people and the settlers, who are organized into militias, and are said to have carried out executions of civilians. Kanak organizations claim that the death toll among civilians could be higher. Since Wednesday, May 15th, an emergency state has been declared in the archipelago, and the army has been deployed around ports and airports. More than two hundred people have been detained. The situation has worsened due to problems accessing food — due to distribution issues, according to the island government — and healthcare services, which have arisen since the unrest began in early May. The government has stated that in several neighborhoods, "control is no longer assured," and they hope to dismantle the barricades with explosives placed by the masses of protesters. It is estimated that there are around 9,000 protesters, of whom 5,000 are in Nouméa, the capital, especially in the neighborhoods of Kaméré, Montravel, and Vallée-du-Tir. Additionally, the metropolis has banned access to TikTok — a network used for information among the protesters — and the Ministry of Justice has announced "harsher penalties against rioters and looters." The Ground Action Coordination Cell (CCAT) is the main organization of the Kanak population and has linked the protests to the "methodical sabotage of the decolonization process by the French state" from the very beginning. The fact is that since 1986, New Caledonia has been part of the territories to be decolonized according to the United Nations. "Since Emmanuel Macron came to power, France has radically sabotaged the decolonization process," stated the anticolonial organization Survie in a statement. The government's response has been to discredit the CCAT as a "mafia-like" organization and to denounce foreign interference from Azerbaijan, a country which, according to the Élysée Palace, would be seeking revenge for France's support of its Armenian rivals in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Why do protests arise in New Caledonia? The protests arose in response to a reform by the French government aimed at expanding the electorate for provincial elections in New Caledonia, a territory with an estimated population of 300,000 people. The plan involves extending the right to vote to the recently settled colonial population, around 25,000 people, which would further exclude 40% of the island's indigenous population from the representative system, who are the most affected by poverty and exclusion. The settlers are already able to vote in French presidential and municipal elections, but the plan would change the balance in provincial elections. Thus, supporters of independence and the Kanak population interpret that the "Nouméa Accord" of 1988, which grants more guarantees to the Kanak population, would be reversed in order to further privilege the settlers who have gradually been settling in the territory, attracted by tax benefits and the relationship between their high salaries with European standards and the low prices in the archipelago. This is yet another nail in a hardline shift directed by Macron's government, which in 2021 imposed a referendum to shore up French colonial power over the archipelago despite demands for postponement from the Kanaks and significant voices in French society, who called for respect for the Kanak mourning for those who died from COVID-19. As expected, abstention determined the results. The current constitutional bill to "unfreeze" the electorate, which has been voted on in the Senate and must be endorsed by the French Assembly, has sparked multiple protests, including strikes at the port and airport of Nouméa, closure of numerous administrations, the beginning of a riot at the Nouméa prison, and clashes between police and youth from working-class neighborhoods of Nouméa. As noted in an article from the environmentalist newspaper Reporterre, the control of New Caledonia is strategic for France. The island hosts between 20 and 30% of the world's nickel resources, a resource used in the manufacturing of batteries for electric cars. One out of every four people works in the nickel sector, despite which the industry is in crisis, leading the metropolis, under the guidance of Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy, to present a "nickel pact" that would introduce millions in aid to the sector but, at the same time, reverse a 1998 agreement by which the island secured management of the nickel. The proposed pact, explained by an expert cited by Reporterre, "completely departs from the model of mining revenues that benefit New Caledonia for its own development" and follows point by point with a neocolonial logic. Additionally, the metropolis aims for the archipelago to export more raw material, which would lead New Caledonia to lose the added benefit of in-situ nickel processing.

Defense & Security
Wellington, New Zealand - November 29 2019: HMNZS Wellington, a protector-class off-shore patrol vessel in the Royal New Zealand Navy sailing into Wellington harbour.

New Zealand is waking up to threats

by Tim Hurdle

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском While Australian defence policy looks north, Kiwis focus west. New Zealand has always benefited from strategic isolation and the distance from international conflicts. But as global dangers increase, the reality of the geo-political situation is cutting through in New Zealand’s public discourse. With the active aggression of totalitarian powers like China and Russia causing disruption, New Zealand is waking up the threats they pose to the international order. That’s a good thing for Australia, creating a stronger, more engaged partner to work with in the Pacific and on regional security arrangements. Awareness of the threat that China and Russia pose has evolved in the past 10 years. In June 2022, then Labour prime minister Jacinda Ardern attended the NATO Summit, calling her participation a ‘rare thing’. She condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said ‘China’s increasing assertiveness is resulting in geopolitical change and competition.’ This mild comment provoked the strong rebuke from Beijing that her comments were ‘unhelpful, regrettable and wrong.’ Her open criticism was a shift from a foreign policy that had been closely tied to protecting the strong trading relationship with China. This shift continued under Chris Hipkins, who replaced Ardern as prime minister until Labour lost office in November. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a strategic foreign policy assessment, ‘Navigating a shifting world’, in July 2023. And Hipkins’s defence minister, Andrew Little, said ‘In 2023, we do not live in a benign strategic environment’ as he unveiled a Defence Policy Strategy Statement that achieved cross-party support. With a three-party centre-right coalition government now in office, there is a growing recognition that New Zealand will need to spend more on defence. This is challenging due to excessive pandemic spending that has left a legacy of a bloated public service and a structural fiscal deficit. But on 10 May the government said money from cost-cutting elsewhere in the Defence budget would be recycled back into Defence rather than being subsumed by fiscal consolidation. All parties in the new government have made positive statements about New Zealand reaching the NATO standard of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence. New Zealand last achieved this level in 1992, and spending has continued to decline in recent decades. Currently sitting just above 1 percent of GDP, the fraction is significantly less than Australia’s. New Zealand’s GDP per capita is only three-quarters of Australia’s, meaning its defence spending per person is much lower. The inaugural Australia–New Zealand Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations in February bought a new focus to the trans-Tasman relationship. Ministers of both countries said the meetings had taken place amid the most challenging global strategic environment in decades. They committed to increasing military integration. The debate in New Zealand has become sharper as the country has considered joining Pillar 2 of AUKUS, the part of the Australian-British-US defence partnership that deals with technology other than nuclear submarines. Active military collaboration for international security marks a strong shift away from the view of then Labour prime minister Helen Clark, who said in March 2001 that New Zealand was ‘very lucky to live in one of the most strategically secure environments in the world’ and that New Zealanders ‘would like other nations to experience the peace of a benign strategic environment too.’ For as long as her view dominated foreign policy circles, attention was on trade policy; there was little focus on national security or defence issues, beyond a fascination with nuclear disarmament. Clark and her generation promoted a so-called independent foreign policy. Encouraged by the anti-American and anti-nuclear lobby, this amounted to a shift away from the Western alliance. The more modern view in New Zealand is that, as a small country, it must help to uphold the international rules-based system and contribute to stability and security efforts. New Zealand has engaged with Asian-centred regional collaborative security frameworks. More spending is needed. The government will release a new Defence Capability Plan in June or July, setting out procurement priorities. There is no longer a sense that spending on defence will be unpopular. The main challenge will be renewing the fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). Key units that need replacement are the two Anzac-class frigates, and there are clear signals that New Zealand will consider buying ships of the general-purpose frigate class that is intended for the Royal Australian Navy. Using the same design would promote interoperability and economy. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has modernised with the recent purchase of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrollers and C-130J Hercules airlifters. New naval helicopters are likely to come soon. New Zealand can provide better awareness of the eastern approaches to Australia with Poseidons. A runway extension on the Chatham Islands, 800km east of mainland New Zealand, was opened in January to handle aircraft of the size of Poseidons. These assets are vital to supporting ongoing participation in collective security efforts. The first international deployment of a New Zealand Poseidon was to Japan in April, to help enforce UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. Kiwi gunners have trained Ukrainian soldiers in Britain. The RNZN is vital to Pacific relationships. New Zealand’s strategic isolation is becoming less apparent amid cyber attacks on the parliament in Wellington, great-power competition in Antarctica and acceptance that the country’s trade routes are exposed. Global conflicts feature on Kiwis’ screens daily, showing that the world is a more dangerous place and that foreign policy must change. It’s understood that stepping up will come at a cost. New Zealand needs to have defence capability that can integrate and enhance Australian forces in the Indo-Pacific. The new government knows that Australia, as New Zealand’s only formal defence ally, is the most important partner.

Defense & Security
France and New Caledonia flags.

France, New Caledonia and the Indo-Pacific

by Denise Fisher

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском How France manages the first outbreak of serious violence in New Caledonia in 40 years will affect not only its future role there but its acceptance as a resident Pacific, and Indo-Pacific, power. The violence of indigenous independence supporters, many of them very young, signals that the inconclusiveness of earlier peace agreements risks taking New Caledonia back to the bloodshed of the 1980s. The unrest is targeting the capital, Noumea, and its population of Europeans, who mostly support staying French. The wounds are deep. The peace agreements that ended violence in the 1980s largely succeeded because of difficult and constant compromises by the French state, loyalist parties and independence parties. Mutual trust in the promises of those agreements to work towards self-determination underpinned the French state conducting three referendums in New Caledonia from 2018 to 2021. The first two were impeccably organised and showed, respectively, that 56.7 percent and 53.3 percent opposed independence. But the state dropped the ball in a third referendum in 2021, sticking with an intended voting date despite indigenous requests for postponement. At the time, hundreds of Kanaks had died from Covid-19. Their leaders said they could not ask their people to campaign or vote when their traditions required lengthy mourning rituals. The resulting indigenous boycott saw the count of opposition to independence soar to 96.5 percent. Since then, divisions have deepened. Loyalists, backed by the government in Paris, say all three votes were valid and want to cement the territory as part of France. Independence groups reject the third vote and seek another; some refuse to participate in discussion about the future. They rejected Macron’s offer of a chemin de pardon (path of forgiveness) when he visited in July 2023. They did not attend a meeting he convened, and their supporters did not turn out for his major speech there, sending a strong message of discontent. Macron then threatened unilateral action unless local parties came to an agreement. Informal discussions between some parties from each side in December ended with wide divergences, including over a further independence vote and voter eligibility. To set a deadline, Macron introduced legislation postponing local elections from April 2024 to December 2025, and he put forward another bill that would amend the French constitution, imposing broader voter eligibility and thereby diluting the Kanak voting share, unless locals reached agreement before the end of June. Demonstrations erupted into violence on 13 May, the day France’s National Assembly debated imposing from Paris the enlargement of voter eligibility. The destruction perpetrated by young Kanaks signalled not only to France and loyalist parties who were their targets but also to Kanak leaders and neighbouring countries the depth of distress of a new generation who felt disrespected and excluded from determining the future of their homeland. How France responds will be decisive for its sustainable future in New Caledonia. New Caledonia’s population is about 270,000. In the census of 2019, indigenous Kanaks were 41 percent, Europeans 29 percent and other Pacific islanders and ‘others’ composed the remaining 30 percent. Another census is due this year. Kanaks may now exceed 45 percent, since there have been net departures of about 2000 people a year since 2015, almost all presumably non-indigenous. Moreover, some people in the ‘others’ category, which includes the sub-categories of ‘mixed’ and ‘Caldeonian’, would also be Kanaks. And the Kanak share of the population will rise, especially since recent developments may contribute to an increase in non-Kanak departures. While New Caledonia’s neighbours have quietly supported the peace agreements, they remain concerned about the interests of the islanders in the non-self-governing French territory. Some of them took New Caledonia to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee in 1986, ensuring annual UN scrutiny of the territory and France’s dealings with it since then. The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has regularly sent missions monitoring implementation of the Noumea Accord and observed each referendum, expressing serious reservations on the third. The Melanesian Spearhead Group (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS independence coalition) was formed in the mid-1980s specifically to support Kanak independence claims. With the eruption of violence, their silence has broken. Making Australia’s highest-level statement in decades, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia was closely monitoring the situation and encouraged all parties to work together constructively to shape the institutional future of New Caledonia. PIF Secretary-General Henry Puna said he was not surprised by the riots, noting it was unfortunate that the third referendum had been allowed to go ahead amid the pandemic. PIF chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said New Caledonia and French Polynesia had been included in the forum ‘in recognition of their calls for greater autonomy coming from their people’, and supported providing help to prevent conflict. Vanuatu Prime Minister and Melanesian Spearhead Group Chair Charlot Salwai publicly opposed France’s constitutional change and urged a return to the spirit of the peace agreements and the sending of a dialogue mission led by a mutually respected person. France has done much to regain the acceptance and trust of the region in recent decades. Responding to island governments’ visceral opposition to its policies in the 1980s, France abandoned nuclear testing in the region and gave greater autonomy to its Pacific territories. It did so by respecting local governments and people. Macron has articulated an Indo-Pacific vision for France that’s firmly based on its sovereignty in the Pacific. But, to maintain France’s claims as an Indo-Pacific power, he must listen to the large and growing indigenous minority in its pre-eminent Pacific territory, New Caledonia. And he must listen to the appeals of Pacific island governments, so they and France can move forward together with humility and respect.

Defense & Security
Map of New Caledonia, world tourism, travel destination, world trade and economy

Why is New Caledonia on fire? According to local women, the deadly riots are about more than voting rights

by Nicole George

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском New Caledonia’s capital city, Noumea, has endured widespread violent rioting over the past 48 hours. This crisis intensified rapidly, taking local authorities by surprise. Peaceful protests had been occurring across the country in the preceding weeks as the French National Assembly in Paris deliberated on a constitutional amendment that would increase the territory’s electoral roll. As the date for the vote grew closer, however, protests became more obstructive and by Monday night had spiralled into uncontrolled violence. Since then, countless public buildings, business locations and private dwellings have been subjected to arson. Blockades erected by protesters prevent movement around greater Noumea. Four people have died. Security reinforcements have been deployed, the city is under nightly curfew, and a state of emergency has been declared. Citizens in many areas of Noumea are now also establishing their own neighbourhood protection militias. To understand how this situation has spiralled so quickly, it’s important to consider the complex currents of political and socioeconomic alienation at play. The political dispute At one level, the crisis is political, reflecting contention over a constitutional vote taken in Paris that will expand citizens’ voting rights. The change adds roughly 25,000 voters to the electoral role in New Caledonia by extending voting rights to French people who’ve lived on the island for ten years. This reform makes clear the political power that France continues to exercise over the territory. The current changes have proven divisive because they undo provisions in the 1998 Noumea Accord, particularly the restriction of voting rights. The accord was designed to “rebalance” political inequalities so the interests of Indigenous Kanaks and the descendants of French settlers would be equally recognised. This helped to consolidate peace between these groups after a long period of conflict in the 1980s, known locally as “the evenements”. A loyalist group of elected representatives in New Caledonia’s parliament reject the contemporary significance of “rebalancing” (in French “rééquilibrage”) with regard to the electoral status of Kanak people. They argue after three referendums on the question of New Caledonian independence, held between 2018 and 2021, all of which produced a majority no vote, the time for electoral reform is well overdue. This position is made clear by Nicolas Metzdorf. A key loyalist, he defined the constitutional amendment, which was passed by the National Assembly in Paris on Tuesday, as a vote for democracy and “universalism”. Yet this view is roundly rejected by Kanak pro-independence leaders who say these amendments undermine the political status of Indigenous Kanak people, who constitute a minority of the voting population. These leaders also refuse to accept that the decolonisation agenda has been concluded, as loyalists assert. Instead, they dispute the outcome of the final 2021 referendum which, they argue, was forced on the territory by French authorities too soon after the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. This disregarded the fact that Kanak communities bore disproportionate impacts of the pandemic and were unable able to fully mobilise before the vote. Demands that the referendum be delayed were rejected, and many Kanak people abstained as a result. In this context, the disputed electoral reforms decided in Paris this week are seen by pro-independence camps as yet another political prescription imposed on Kanak people. A leading figure of one Indigenous Kanak women’s organisation described the vote to me as a solution that pushes “Kanak people into the gutter”, one that would have “us living on our knees”. Beyond the politics Many political commentators are likening the violence observed in recent days to the political violence of les événements of the 1980s, which exacted a heavy toll on the country. Yet this is disputed by local women leaders with whom I am in conversation, who have encouraged me to look beyond the central political factors in analysing this crisis. Some female leaders reject the view this violence is simply an echo of past political grievances. They point to the highly visible wealth disparities in the country. These fuel resentment and the profound racial inequalities that deprive Kanak youths of opportunity and contribute to their alienation. Women have also told me they’re concerned about the unpredictability of the current situation. In the 1980s, violent campaigns were coordinated by Kanak leaders, they tell me. They were organised. They were controlled. In contrast, today it is the youth taking the lead and using violence because they feel they have no other choice. There is no coordination. They are acting through frustration and because they feel they have “no other means” to be recognised. There’s also frustration with political leaders on all sides. Late on Wednesday, Kanak pro-independence political leaders held a press conference. They echoed their loyalist political opponents in condemning the violence and issuing calls for dialogue. The leaders made specific calls to the “youths” engaged in the violence to respect the importance of a political process and warned against a logic of vengeance. The women civil society leaders I have been speaking to were frustrated by the weakness of this messaging. The women say political leaders on all sides have failed to address the realities faced by Kanak youths. They argue if dialogue remains simply focused on the political roots of the dispute, and only involves the same elites that have dominated the debate so far, little will be understood and little will be resolved. Likewise, they lament the heaviness of the current “command and control” state security response. It contradicts the calls for dialogue and makes little room for civil society participation of any sort. These approaches put a lid on grievances, but they do not resolve them. Women leaders observing the current situation are anguished and heartbroken for their country and its people. They say if the crisis is to be resolved sustainably, the solutions cannot be imposed and the words cannot be empty. Instead, they call for the space to be heard and to contribute to a resolution. Until that time they live with anxiety and uncertainty, waiting for the fires to subside, and the smoke currently hanging over a wounded Noumea to clear.

The red wave is coming to Arizona in 2022. Starting at 6 am on Sunday, thousands of Trump supporters lined their cars outside the event, hoping to be one of the first people inside the Trump Rally.

Australia can’t muddle through Trump 2.0 – we need to plan now

by Richard Maude

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском If it comes to pass, a second Donald Trump presidency will once again strain the bonds that have kept Australia and the United States close through so many decades. The self-interested nationalism of “America First” sits in fundamental opposition to the ideas that animate Australian foreign policy. We will have significant policy differences. Trump’s autocratic instincts, laid bare in attempts to steal the 2020 election, make talk of shared values a stretch. A Trump victory is far from assured. Still, the government needs a plan for one, and well before election day. Australia’s instinct will be to “manage through” pragmatically – to pick fights carefully, to be tough in private when needed while disagreeing politely in public, to build support for Australia in the administration, Congress and big business, and to work around Trump wherever possible. This was the model for Trump’s first presidency. There is nothing illegitimate in it, recognising as it does the enduring national interests that Australia has in its relationship with the United States – interests that are too important for governments to ignore, whatever they might think privately of Mr Trump. The alliance, on which Australia has staked so much as China’s power grows, is deeply institutionalised and will outlast Trump 2.0. The government is doing as much as it can to lock down AUKUS arrangements before the election. There is every chance economic ties will escape Trump’s obsession with “unfair” trade – Australia’s economy is open and the US enjoys a healthy trade surplus. Australia will hope that the institutions of the American state will temper excess: the US Constitution limits the ability of any one branch of government – legislative, executive, or judicial – from gaining too much power. Republicans in Congress, for example, won’t challenge Trump publicly, but nor will they give him free rein. And what shapes America happens in its states as much as in Washington. Tempering will happen in other ways. Trump doesn’t usually pay much attention to the interests of close partners, but others in a Trump administration will. The US needs dependable partners – that gives Australia access and at least some influence. Then there’s the noise-to-signal ratio: not everything Trump says will result in action. In short, Australia will be able to get things done, even if it is a wild ride. There is a good argument for protecting the alliance but not for normalising what Trump represents. Still, one doesn’t have to catastrophise about Trump to be alarmed at what might be in prospect. Constrained or not, the radical intent of Trump to remake America and its place in the world is clear. We have been here before, of course, but the stakes are higher, the context different, and the Trump movement better prepared. Today, China’s challenge is sharper and its global dimensions clearer. China’s military modernisation is quickening. The noose is tightening around Taiwan. The bloody, grinding conflict in Ukraine is a daily test of US resolve to stand against totalitarianism in Europe. Democracy and liberalism continue their world-wide retreat. Meanwhile, last year was the hottest on record globally. Unpredictable, inconsistent US leadership won’t support Australian national interests at such a critical moment. The rupture of transatlantic relations; a weaker NATO; the abandonment of Ukraine; emboldened leaders in China and Russia; disengagement from climate change processes; deeper global economic fragmentation; neglect of South-East Asia – if Trump were to win, not all of these outcomes are certain, but all are plausible. “Managing through” a second Trump term will therefore be necessary but not sufficient. For example, the government would need to consider a like-minded “coalitions of resistance” to shape or push back on some US decision-making – that will require loads of diplomatic finesse. Japan and South Korea would be key partners, and Europe more central to Australian thinking than it is today. Australia could choose to deepen the nation’s already evident hedge in Asia against both US inconsistency and Chinese aggression, diverting even more resources and political attention to its major Asian relationships. It may be necessary to spend more on defence and accelerate efforts to develop some sovereign military capabilities. Plurilateral co-operation without the United States, in groups small and large, could become more necessary. We would likely need to do more patching of the international system where our interests are strongly engaged, as the Morrison government did in supporting an interim appeal arbitration arrangement for trade disputes. Australia will need to think hard about how to influence a Trump administration on China. US and Australian approaches to China currently combine deterrence with reassurance through diplomacy. Under Mr Trump, misalignment could occur quickly. Trump has also flagged swingeing new tariffs on Chinese imports and greater self-reliance in “essential goods”. A new trade war and the ever-advancing boundaries of “de-risking” will pose complex policy challenges. Australia’s closest friends in America remind us that US democracy is often untidy and that for all its flaws, America is, well, the only America we have. This is a good argument for protecting the alliance but not for normalising what Trump represents. If Trump wins, that distinction will be as good a guide as any to policy-making in the national interest. This article originally appeared in Australian Financial Review.

The Chinese flag and the flag of the Solomon Islands

Will Solomon Islands’ new leader stay close to China?

by Priestley Habru , Claudina Habru

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Former foreign minister Jeremiah Manele has been elected the next prime minister of Solomon Islands, defeating the opposition leader, Matthew Wale, in a vote in parliament. The result is a mixed bag for former prime minister Manasseh Sogavare’s Ownership, Unity and Responsibility (OUR) Party. The party won just 15 of 50 seats in last month’s election. But even though Sogavare declined to stand for PM this week, his party still had the upper hand in the vote after courting independent MPs. So, what kind of leader will Manele be? Will he bring big changes to the country or its relationships with China, Australia and the United States? Quality-of-life issues remain paramount One of the authors here (Claudina) voted in Solomon Islands’ general election in November 2014. At that time, political campaigns were low-key and largely localised to particular areas in the country. Ten years on, we have noticed a huge change in the way campaigns are staged. This year, the livestreaming of campaign events was ubiquitous on social media, which amplified and sensationalised the messages of candidates like never before. Frenzied parades involving floats and legions of supporters were common. Despite all the fanfare leading up to polling day, the primary concern of ordinary Solomon Islanders was not political wrangling, but the dire state of services in the country. The healthcare system is dilapidated, road conditions and infrastructure are poor and power cuts are constant. The increased cost of living and lack of educational and job opportunities have only made daily life more difficult for residents. For example, one voter in Isabel Province told us as part of our research that he did not care what political party his preferred candidate aligned himself with. His main concern was for his MP to continue to provide financial support through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The fund pays for iron roofing for homes, school fees, outboard motor engines for transport, chainsaws and other material needs. Many voters similarly wanted their MPs to join the majority coalition so they would be able to access more benefits through the government. This was why nine of the independent MPs who unseated incumbents from the governing coalition came back to join that same coalition going into the PM’s election this week. Manele got 31 votes from lawmakers, which included 15 from his OUR Party, three from Solomon Islands People First Party, one from the Kadere Party, nine independents and three other MPs who switched allegiances from Wale’s camp. It was a smart move for Sogavare and his coalition to select Manele as their candidate. Sogavare’s popularity has waxed and waned over the past two decades. He was forced to vacate the PM post after no-confidence votes in both 2007 and 2017. He survived another no-confidence vote in 2021, which led to violent protests on the streets of Honiara and the destruction of Chinatown. Though Sogavare managed to hold onto his seat in last month’s election, he won by just 259 votes. It was his narrowest margin of victory since he was first elected to parliament in 1997. To avoid a similar backlash from voters who did not want to see Sogavare become PM again, the sensible thing for his coalition was to select another candidate. The 55-year-old Manele is from the same village (Samasodu) in Isabel Province as the governor-general, Sir David Vunagi, which means the two men in the highest offices in the country are closely related. Manele will likely be an inclusive leader. He has a friendly and humble personality, as reflected in his maiden speech in which he acknowledged his rival, Wale, and members of his coalition. A more matter-of-fact foreign policy One of the main reasons Sogavare courted controversy was his increasingly cosy relationship with Beijing since his government switched Solomon Islands’ diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019. He signed a secretive bilateral security deal with China in 2022 that raised alarm bells in Australia. Last year came another deal to boost co-operation with China on law enforcement and other security matters. With Manele now at the helm, the country should return to a more business-as-usual approach to diplomatic ties with China. His experience as a career diplomat, public servant, opposition leader and foreign minister will help him navigate the country’s complex relationships without the fiery rhetoric his predecessor had become known for. In addition, we may finally be able to see what the 2022 security agreement entails now that a former foreign minister is in charge. Asked by the ABC whether his government would keep the deal, Manele said “yes”, then added: If there is a need to review that, it will be a matter for China and Solomon Islands to discuss. However, he may face some pressure from the opposition. Peter Kenilorea junior, the political wing leader of the Solomon Islands United Party (SIUP), has publicly expressed a desire to scrap the security agreement with China. Manele should also maintain a cordial and perhaps more engaged relationship with Australia. When announcing his PM candidacy this week, he reiterated he would continue the long-held Solomon Islands foreign policy stance of “friends to all and enemies to none”. What matters most to Solomon Islanders The broader region must continue to see the plight of ordinary Solomon Islanders as separate from the decisions of its leaders, who at times may not necessarily reflect the wishes of the people. Ask any Solomon Islander in a rural area what he or she thinks of the security agreement with China and the implications for traditional partners like the US, Australia and New Zealand. Chances are he or she might just shrug it off without uttering a response. This is because Solomon Islanders have other pressing issues to worry about, such as how to pay school fees, how to feed their families, how to get their kids to school when the river floods and how to get fuel to take an expecting mother to the nearest health centre. This is what matters most to people’s lives, not diplomatic tussles between global powers.

Defense & Security
Solomon Islands

Russia and China co-ordinate on disinformation in Solomon Islands elections

by Albert Zhang , Adam Ziogas

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Moscow and Beijing likely worked together to sow disinformation globally that was propagated locally by political parties in the lead-up to Solomon Islands’ national and provincial elections on 17 April 2024. Both countries’ propaganda systems accused the United States, without evidence, of using its foreign aid and networks across the country to interfere in voting and of preparing to foment riots and orchestrate regime change in response to an unsatisfactory election result. This campaign adds to a growing body of evidence showing that China’s and Russia’s ‘no limits’ partnership extends to coordinating their disinformation campaigns in the Indo-Pacific. The narratives haven’t gained widespread attention or media coverage in Solomon Islands. Australia, the United States and other Pacific partners should nonetheless be concerned, as Russia and China can be expected to learn from this campaign and will likely use the lessons to further improve their influence operations in the region. Individually, China and Russia are adept and expert at pushing disinformation to disrupt other nations but, by coordinating their efforts, they have a force-multiplier effect. The campaign consisted of an alleged ‘leaked’ letter, articles published on authoritarian state-controlled media outlets and a fringe journal publication, which were then shared and amplified on social media platforms. A fortnight before election day, an unknown author by the name of Richard Anderson published an explosive article in CovertAction Magazine alleging that the US was seeking regime change in Solomon Islands. The US-based magazine was co-founded in 1978 by the late Philip Agee, a former CIA officer who after his retirement became a vocal critic of the agency and of US policy and had reported links with Soviet and Cuban intelligence. The magazine was set up ‘on the initiative of the KGB’, the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, according to a book by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin and British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew. Anderson had no previous history of writing for CovertAction Magazine. A week after that article was published, Russian state-controlled media agency Sputnik further fuelled the allegations, writing that the US was ‘plotting [an] electoral coup’. This article cited an anonymous source who had ‘intimate familiarity’ with the activities of USAID, the main United States foreign aid and international development agency. This mirrored how Anderson is described in his CovertAction Magazine bio, though Sputnik’s article did not explicitly mention him or his article. Sputnik’s claims were amplified four days later by the Chinese state-controlled tabloid newspaper the Global Times, which did directly reference Anderson’s article and has the potential to legitimise these narratives to an audience the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively targeting. During the same period, a poorly fabricated letter from an unconfirmed (and potentially non-existent) IFES project consultant was circulated among Solomon Islanders by an unknown source claiming that the US was seeking a ‘democratic transition by violent means in necessary circumstances.’ The text in this letter mirrored language used by Sputnik’s alleged anonymous source. Figure 1: Paragraph from Sputnik article (top) and a screenshot of the alleged IFES letter (bottom).     To be clear, there is no evidence that the US, or any other country, is supporting violent riots or interfering in Solomon Islands. Ann Marie Yastishock, US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, has strongly refuted these allegations. This is not the first time the CCP-controlled media has spread disinformation in Solomon Islands or accused the US of seeking to instigate riots in the country. Following the 2021 Honiara riots, the CCP falsely accused Australia, the US and Taiwan of organising the riots, fomenting unrest and discrediting the relationship between Solomon Islands and China. In contrast, Russian media outlets also covered the 2021 Honiara riots but didn’t promote any explicit accusations of US or foreign interference. This time, China and Russia have been in lockstep. In the lead-up to the April elections, Russian state media was more direct and damning in its reporting with the release of Sputnik’s original article and in the subsequent coordination and dissemination of false narratives alongside Chinese state media. While Sputnik published only one follow-up article to the initial investigation, China’s Global Times was more prolific and varied, with six articles alleging US meddling in Solomon Islands. Of these six articles, four explicitly referenced Sputnik’s claims and two referenced US influence operations in more general terms. The indications of Russia-China propaganda coordination in this campaign were further supported by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) post on 19 April 2024 titled ‘The Hypocrisy and Facts of the United States Foreign Aid’. The post on their website claims the US is giving aid to Solomon Islands, among other countries, only because it sees it as a political threat. This was the first article ever published by the MFA to smear USAID. Moscow, however, has consistently campaigned against USAID since it ejected the US agency from Russia in 2012 for ‘meddling in politics’. Russian media has pushed a consistent narrative that the organisation is a US imperialist tool of regime change, accusing it of fomenting civil unrest and coup attempts as far afield as Belarus, Cuba, Georgia and Mexico. However, this latest attack against USAID appears to be the first where Russia’s narratives are working to the benefit of CCP interests. It’s been clear since at least 2018 that Russian and Chinese state media are converging on media narratives that serve their governments’ strategic and political interests. According to leaked documents from Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian and Chinese propaganda entities also signed an agreement to ‘further cooperate in the field of information exchange, promoting objective, comprehensive and accurate coverage of the most important world events’. While previous ASPI research has demonstrated Russian and Chinese state-coordinated narratives on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the repeated re-airing of Sputnik’s conspiratorial claims of interference in Solomon Islands’ elections in Global Times articles indicates this propaganda cooperation is now a global initiative. There was also some evidence of amplification by inauthentic accounts on social media of these narratives, but they were limited and it is unclear whether they were state linked. For example, one X account with the handle @jv79628 shared the original Sputnik investigation. The account posts links almost exclusively from Sputnik, Global Times, Australian website Pearls and Irritations and videos with artificial intelligence-generated voices from the pro-CCP YouTube channel Chinese Revival, which may be linked to the Shadow Play network previously uncovered by ASPI. Other accounts sharing the original Sputnik report, such as @de22580171, pose as pro-Russian US citizens. They share articles mostly from Sputnik or Russia Today. At the time of publication of this report, Russia’s and China’s state media articles, and the accusations contained in them, have had minimal reach into online Pacific communities. In the public Solomon Islands Facebook groups ASPI viewed, online discourse remains more focussed on the emergence of new coalitions and the election of a new Prime Minister than on discussion of foreign influence or interference. According to Meta’s social monitoring tool, CrowdTangle, none of the articles from the Global Times have been shared in open and public Solomon Islands Facebook groups. However, Sputnik’s first article may have been more successful in reinforcing anti-Western sentiments in outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s O.U.R. Party, who are strong contenders to be part of the coalition that forms the next government. That article was posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which is run by the party, on 10 April. It was reshared to several public Facebook groups in Solomon Islands, including news aggregation sites and local island forum pages. This is significant because it is the first time a news article has been posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which typically shares positive images of the party’s activities and political campaigns. As of 1 May 2024, the post (below) has had over 180 interactions, which is higher than the average number of interactions a typical post has on this page. Figure 2: Screenshot of Sputnik article posted in O.U.R Party Solomon Islands Facebook page.     Sogavare, a founding member of the O.U.R. Party, has made similar remarks about ‘foreign forces’ previously. According to an article published in the Solomon Star, when US Ambassador Yastishock visited Solomon Islands in late March to present her letter of credentials to Governor-General John Oti, Sogavare claimed foreign forces were ‘intervening in the national general election’ and ‘may fund some political parties and plan to stage another riot during the election to disrupt the electoral process and undermine social stability’. Despite the low online interaction so far, the barrage of US regime change allegations lays the foundation for future narratives that may resurface if Solomon Islands experiences future unrest. Beijing and Moscow can be expected to learn from these disinformation efforts, leaving the US, Australia and their Pacific partners no room for complacency about the threat the regimes pose, nor the need for effective strategic communication. The Russian and Chinese governments are seeking to destabilise the Pacific’s information environment by using disinformation campaigns and influence operations to undermine traditional partnerships. In this digital age, leaders of governments and civil society across the region need to consistently confront and counter baseless lies pushed by authoritarian state media, such as accusations that the governments of Australia and the US are instigating riots. If they fail to do so, partnerships with, and trust in, democratic countries are at risk of deteriorating, which can reduce the development benefits provided to Pacific Island Countries by Western partners. Australia, the US, and other close Pacific partners, such as Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, must take a stronger stance against false and misleading information that is starting to circulate in the region as a result of authoritarian state-backed disinformation campaigns. These nations must also better support and encourage local media and governments to take further steps to identify and combat false information online. This includes providing more training packages and opportunities for dialogue on media-government communication procedures to tackle disinformation and misinformation. Countering the effects of disinformation requires ongoing efforts to call out false statements, educate the public, and build country-wide resilience in the information environment. Greater transparency and public awareness campaigns from the region’s partners can also help to ‘prebunk’—or anticipate and delegitimise—disinformation and alleviate concerns about malign activity.

Defense & Security
Australian flag and South Korean flag

Press Conference, Melbourne. Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Foreign And Defence Ministers’ Meeting

by Richard Marles , Cho Tae-Yul , Penny Wong

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Joint transcript with: The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Subjects: Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Foreign And Defence Ministers’ Meeting; AUKUS Pillar Two; Hanwha bid for Austal; foreign interference; Korean peninsula security. 01 May 2024 Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles: Well, welcome everyone. Today, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I have had the pleasure of being able to welcome Minister Cho and Minister Shin, the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister of South Korea to a 2+2 with Australia. In December of 2022, the Republic of Korea released its Indo-Pacific Strategy. And it described an assessment of the region and a response to it, which represented Korea looking to take its place in the region and the world. That is remarkably similar to the assessment that we made a few months later in the Defence Strategic Review. And it speaks to the fact that both Korea and Australia have a close strategic alignment and a shared vision about our place in the region and the world. And what was immediately obvious from that moment was the opportunity to take the relationship between our two countries to the next level. And today's 2+2 is very much an expression of that. We are seeing increased engagement between our two countries across the board. We are certainly seeing that in the realm of defence. Last year, Korea had its largest participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre, which is our major bilateral defence exercise. This year, we will see more Korean engagement in Exercise Pitch Black, Exercise Kakadu, Exercise Southern Jackaroo and we are very appreciative of Korea’s participation in those exercises, as we are in the way in which Korea and Australia are working together to uphold the rules-based order within our region and in fact, within the world. Both countries, as we've discussed today, are playing our part in supporting Ukraine in its resistance of the appalling aggression that is being forced upon it by Russia. We are working very closely together within our region to uphold the global rules-based order here as well, and that's seen in a greater engagement that both of us are doing with the countries of the Pacific and the countries of southeast Asia. We are particularly aware of the efforts that have been put in place for Korea to build its relationship with Japan and we see this as a very, very positive step forward in the strategic landscape of the region, and represents a huge opportunity for Australia to engage with both Korea and Japan. Finally, in respect of defence industry, we are seeing a blossoming of the relationship between our two countries in respect of defence industry. Yesterday, Minister Shin and I visited Hanwha's facility in Geelong, which is building for the Australian Army both the Huntsman and the Redback, which will be very central to our capabilities for the Army. But we're also very hopeful that these platforms represent an opportunity for greater industrial activity there, where we can see export to the world. Across the board, this is a relationship which is going to a new place, a place which is much deeper and much closer and we are very, very grateful for the presence of Minister Cho and Minister Shin in Australia today and we've really enjoyed the meeting that we've had this morning. Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cho Tae-Yul: [spoken in Korean] Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I am Cho Tae-Yul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. I am grateful for the successful organisation of the sixth Republic of Korea-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Minister’s Meeting and I extend my deepest thanks to Mr Richard Marles and Ms Penny Wong for the warm welcome toward our delegations. It is with great pleasure that I make my first visit as Minister of Foreign Affairs to Australia to, our esteemed regional partner. Together with Mr Shin Won-sik, Minister of National Defense. During the first day of our visit on the 29th of April we paid tribute to the enduring legacy of 17,000 Australian veterans at the Australian National Museum Korean War Memorial in Canberra, commemorating their profound sacrifices for peace. The sacrifices of Australian veterans have laid a solid foundation for the prosperity of our relationship and on behalf of the Korean Government and people, I’d like to express heartfelt gratidude to the Australian veterans for their unwavering dedication. Today’s meeting holds significant importance as it is the first gathering of its kind following the installation of our current governments and Korea’s announcement of our Indo-Pacific Strategy. This occasion is further distinguished by its location in Melbourne, a symbol of our robust cooperation in defence industry. The Ministers of the two countries engaged in extensive discussions aimed at deepening strategic cooperation and communication, reinforcing our shared vision at both regional and global levels. Both parties recognise each other as pivotal partners in the realisation of our respective Indo-Pacific strategies, and as likeminded nations agreed to enhance our cooperation at bilateral, unilateral and multilateral levels. We acknowledge the remarkable progress in our bilateral cooperation with national defence and defence industries, highlighted by the signing of a contract for the delivery of Redback IFVs and the participation of Korean military personnel in Exercise Talisman Sabre and we said that we will be strengthening our cooperation into the future. In the realms of cyber and maritime security, we agreed to collaborate in blocking North Korea’s access to funding for illicit nuclear and missile developments, and to thwart illegal activities such as arms trading between Russia and North Korea. Our Australian counterparts have expressed their steadfast support for enhancing the human rights of North Koreans and for our policies aimed at reunification. Furthermore, we resolved to continue our close collaboration with ASEAN and the Pacific regions which hold great significance for both our countries. We will also expand our cooperative efforts for comprehensive security in cyber and maritime security, as well as economic security and climate change. I am confident today’s meeting will mark a significant milestone in strengthening our partnership built on the shared foundations of liberal democracy and mutual trust, and will further our commitment to a rules-based regional and global order. Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong: Thank you very much. Can I first express my deep appreciation to Minister Cho and Defense Minister Shin for their travel to Australia for this Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 meeting. We appreciate you coming to Australia and we have deeply enjoyed the dialogue this morning. This is the first 2+2 for us Ministers. We recognise that this dialogue is a cornerstone of our comprehensive strategic partnership with Korea. Can I start by appreciating the Minister's acknowledgement of the role that Australia and Australian veterans have played in this bilateral relationship. We thank you for honouring those Australians who have served. It is a testament to the historic strength of our relationship. But more importantly, today, what we focus on is the increasing strategic and economic convergence that exists between our two nations. And the focus of our meeting was how to translate that convergence that the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Cho have articulated, how we translate that convergence into tangible and practical actions in southeast Asia, in the Pacific and more broadly in terms of our cooperation in in the Indo-Pacific. We are very interested not only in increasing our cooperation and our engagement in defence industries, but also in increasing our collaboration diplomatically and economically. I make note, as Foreign Minister Cho did, of our collective condemnation of North Korea's continue provocative, destabilising activities and we will continue to work together to ensure that this risk and threat to our collective security continues to be met in solidarity between our countries and other countries of the world. As you will see from the joint statement when it is released, discussed a range of other matters, including the Middle East, where we shared our perspectives. I thank, again, my counterpart, the Foreign Minister for his engagement. We were an early call for him and we appreciate it. And we appreciate the efforts that the Ministers have made in coming to Australia for this very important 2+2. Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense, Shin Won-Sik: [spoken in Korean] Good afternoon, I am Shin Won-sik, Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Korea. First of all, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Mr Richard Marles, Deputy Prime Minister and Ms Penny Wong, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the warm reception of our delegations. We are externally grateful for the noble sacrifices made by the 17,000 Australians during the Korean War who fought for freedom and peace in our country. On behalf of our people, thank you. During the ROK-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting we engaged in extensive discussions on a range of issues concerning the Korean peninsula, Indo-Pacific region and boarder global foreign affairs and defence matters and reaffirmed our commitment to further develop our bilateral future oriented relationships. Firstly, we agreed to continue enhancing our mutual and beneficial partnership in defence industry. It is with great pleasure that I know a Korean company was selected in Australia’s next generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle project, valued at $250 million USD. This follows the successful collaboration on the self-propelled artillery project in 2021. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Marles, and I visited the construction site of a Korean company in Geelong where we witnessed firsthand our flourishing bilateral cooperation in the defence industry. This collaboration is set to not only modernise Australia’s military capabilities, but also stimulate the local economy and strengthen the strategic solidarity between our nations. Secondly, we agreed to enhance our joint military training to improve interoperability and foster conditions for regional peace and stability. Last year, a significant contingent of Korean armed forces participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre, yielding fruitful outcomes. This year, the Australian military took part in Korea’s Freedom Shield exercises, as a member of United Nations command, enhancing its capabilities for joint operations. We are committed to continuing these joint exercises in various forms and further elevating the level of cooperation between our armed forces. Thirdly, recognising the importance of building trust in our national defence and defence industry partnership, we agreed to expand human exchanges among defence related organisations. Republic of Korea and Australia, as key strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, share profound strategic views and interests. We will build on the achievements of today’s meeting and collaborate earnestly for the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, Indo-Pacific region and the international community as a whole. Speaker: Questions? Journalist: South Korean Minister for National Defence, Shin Won-sik, there's been speculation about countries like South Korea joining the AUKUS Defence technology. Did you discuss this today? And does South Korea believe that it could engage in useful cooperation under Pillar Two of AUKUS? And Minister Marles, Hanwha has made a bid for Austal. Was this big discussion discussed in your meetings over recent days? And would such a bid likely be permitted under the new foreign investment framework being unveiled by the government today? Defence Minister Shin: [spoken in Korean] The Korean government, to enhance the regional peace, we support the AUKUS Pillar Two activities, and we do welcome that AUKUS members are considering Korea as the AUKUS Pillar Two partner. Korea's defence science and technology capabilities will contribute to the peace and stability of the development of AUKUS Pillar Two and the regional peace. And during today's meeting, we also discussed the possibility of partnering with AUKUS Pillar Two. Thank you. Deputy Prime Minister Marles: So, perhaps I might address both issues in relation to AUKUS Pillar Two. And we did discuss this both yesterday and today. AUKUS, as you know, is a technology-sharing agreement. It's not a security alliance. And Korea is obviously a country with deeply impressive technology, where we do have shared values, where we have strategic alignment, where we engage closely together. We already engage closely together in relation to technology. So, as AUKUS Pillar Two develops, I think there will be opportunities in the future, and we're seeing that play out in relation to Japan as well and we talked about that. In respect of Austal. Look, ultimately, this is a matter for Austal. They are a private company. From the government's perspective, we don't have any concern about Hanwha moving in this direction. We have identified Austal as a strategic shipbuilder for Australia in WA. Wherever Austal goes, whatever it does, there will obviously need to be security arrangements put in place in respect of sensitive technologies and intellectual property that would have to be managed no matter what the future of Austal. And were there anything that were to transpire in relation to Hanwa that would need to be managed in that context as well. But fundamentally, this is a matter for Austal as a private company. Journalist: And to Foreign Minister Wong. Australian officials have confirmed that India’s government was behind the nest of spies the Director General of Security described in 2021. Should Australians in the diaspora community be concerned about Indian government surveillance? And what message does the Australian government have to the Indian government about the acceptability of these activities and to Foreign Affairs Minister Cho Tae-Yul, the ABC has today reported South Korea is one of the friendly countries with a good relationship with Australia, which nonetheless engages in espionage here. Has there ever been a point of tension between the two countries, or are there clear shared understandings about the operation of intelligence agents in both countries? Foreign Minister Wong: Well, you would be unsurprised to hear me respond that we don't comment on intelligence matters. But at a level of principle about the democracy, I think you would have heard me and other Ministers on many occasions assert the importance of our democratic principles, assert the importance of ensuring that we maintain the resilience of our democracy, including in the face of any suggestion of foreign interference, and we have laws to deal with that. And to continue to say that we deeply value the multicultural fabric of the Australian community. It is a strength and we welcome people's continued engagement in our democracy. Foreign Minister Cho: [spoken in Korean] In regards to your question, I haven't heard anything and I am not sure against which context you are asking this question, so I have nothing to answer to that question. Journalist: Thank you. Minister Cho, you've both spoken today about the tensions across the Korean peninsula. These aren't always discussed when we're talking about issues like defence arrangements in the Pacific and the AUKUS deal as such. Why do you believe that close-knit ties with Australia in defence and these types of engagement is something that does have an impact on that relationship? Foreign Minister Cho: [spoken in Korean] Korea's security focuses on the North Korea's threat, but it's not the only focus. But as you can see, there's huge geopolitical changes taking place and the security in the Indo-Pacific region is closely linked to the security of other regions of the globe. So, we live in such a geopolitical era and Russia and North Korea are cooperating in the Ukraine war. And it shows that the Indo-Pacific region’s security is closely linked to the security of Europe as well. So, Korea's security is closely linked with Australia's security, and that's the world we live in. So, against the context of Indo-Pacific region and from the regional point of view, Australia and Korea share a lot of values and it's very good, not only in terms of economy, but also in security for our two countries to cooperate. So, in that context, we discussed the security partnerships between our two countries. Foreign Minister Wong: I might just add to that, if I may, Richard, that I think history shows us that what happens in the Korean peninsula matters to the security and stability of our region. We have no doubt that North Korea's destabilising, provocative, escalatory actions are contrary, are a threat to international peace and security, as well as to the peace and security of the ROK. We see it as very important that the international community exert and assert as much pressure as possible on the DPRK, including in relation to the regime of sanctions. And as Foreign Minister Cho has said, the actions of Russia in undermining that - those sanctions, in undermining the isolation of the DPRK, in participating in the provision of materiel, in contravention of UN resolutions and sanctions, is destabilising and undermines peace and security for the whole of the globe. And so I think it is important for us to continue not only to express solidarity with the Republic of Korea in the face of this aggression but also to call out Russia's behaviour as irresponsible and destabilising. Journalist: And Minister Wong, you touched on the reports of espionage before - Foreign Minister Wong: No, I was asked about them and I said we don't comment on intelligence matters. Journalist: Sure, I understand that that's the general principle on these matters, but given Australia's close-knit ties with India in the situation of the Quad, as a general principle, could I ask you, do you believe Australia would feel empowered enough to be forthright in raising concerns of these nations with the Indian government if they did it right? Foreign Minister Wong: Well, again, say we don't comment on intelligence matters, but as a matter of general principles, Australia remains consistent to our interests and to our values in all of our engagements. Speaker: Great. Thank you very much.

Penny Wong and Kausea Natano

More than just a climate deal: The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union treaty and the EU’s potential contribution to the Pacific

by Manisha Reuter , Frédéric Grare

The Falepili Union treaty prioritises Tuvalu’s urgent concerns about climate change. As the EU looks to deepen relations with partners in the Indo-Pacific, it should tailor its offers to regional priorities  In early November, on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands, Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese and Kausea Natano, his counterpart from Tuvalu, a Polynesian archipelago, announced that they would elevate their bilateral relationship to a more integrated partnership known as the Falepili Union. Under the Falepili Union treaty, Australia commits to Tuvalu’s safety – including through a special visa arrangement for Tuvalu citizens to migrate to Australia, as well as by uplifting its development assistance and support for Tuvalu’s climate adaptation efforts. In return, Tuvalu will mutually agree with Australia any security and defence partnerships it concludes with other states. Both countries also commit to protecting and promoting each other’s collective security and sovereignty. For Australia, the partnership is a way to help pull Tuvalu away from China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. Security and defence partnerships include those on policing, border protection, cyber security, and critical infrastructure (such as ports, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure). Natano has downplayed the importance of Tuvalu’s obligation to consult Australia on its partnerships, saying that the treaty only requires his country to approach Australia first on military issues, but the clause gives Australia veto power over any security arrangement Tuvalu may be tempted to conclude with other nations. Despite the distance, the Falepili Union treaty did not go unnoticed in Europe. European officials have focused on the significance of the agreement in the context of the climate crisis, arguing that it highlights the need for all countries to drastically reduce carbon emissions. In the media, the treaty has sometimes been referred to as a strategic victory by Australia over China, though little if any attention has been paid to the actual security provisions. But the partnership holds important lessons about how to engage with potential partners in the Indo-Pacific. As an archipelago of nine low lying islands with their highest point just 4.5 metres above sea level, for Tuvalu – much like other South Pacific countries – climate change, not China, constitutes an existential threat. The Falepili Union illustrates the fundamental gap between the threat perceptions of big countries in the Indo-Pacific such as Australia, whose concerns are primarily strategic, and those of smaller and more vulnerable ones such as most South Pacific islands. These countries operate at a sub-strategic level, with their location their only real strategic asset, but one which larger countries cannot ignore. The Falepili Union treaty responds to Tuvalu’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. It is not the first programme facilitating mobility in the Pacific. New Zealand’s “Pacific Access” visa category and Samoa quota resident visa enable 2,400 people to move from the Pacific to New Zealand on a permanent basis every year. The United States offers similar possibilities to eligible citizens of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau to live and work in the US indefinitely. However, the Falepili Union treaty is the first agreement to link mobility explicitly to climate change, allowing migration in anticipation of climate-related disasters. It is also meant to help Australia deepen its ties with other Pacific countries by easing the critique that it should be embracing stronger climate action. The response by Pacific nations has so far been positive. Unsurprisingly, the US, New Zealand, and even Taiwan, have expressed their support for the initiative. But the Falepili Union has also been publicly backed by the prime minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown, and, more surprisingly perhaps, by the foreign minister of the Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele, whose country signed a controversial security partnership with China in 2022. There have also been speculations in diplomatic circles that Kiribati and Nauru might sign similar agreements with Australia in the future, with Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong declaring that the Falepili Union “does signal how we are prepared to approach our membership of the Pacific family”. Taneti Maamau, Kiribati’s president, though, has so far been noncommittal about the possibility of concluding a similar treaty, saying that Kiribati has its “own strategies and [its] own initiatives”. No Pacific island wants to be drawn into a great power rivalry involving China, nor be coerced in any way by Beijing’s opponents. The treaty illustrates that the struggle with China for influence in the Indo-Pacific is not just about military power, but also about the capacity to assuage the anxieties of the Pacific states regarding their own survival and future. The Falepili Union should thus inspire Europeans to tailor their partnerships according to the needs and interests of countries in the region and provide them with attractive offers for cooperation. As Europe looks for ways to deepen partnerships in the region, it will find that many of the smaller island states’ own priorities overlap with Europe’s aims. It would thus make strategic sense for the European Union to prioritise climate adaptation projects, which also have the benefit of enabling knowledge transfers to and from Europe. It can use the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the EU-Pacific Green-Blue Alliance, funded through the Global Gateway to achieve these objectives. In addition to support designed to address the effects of climate change on island nations, the EU can also contribute to capacity building for monitoring, policing, and enforcement. Island nations in the South Pacific have limited capacities in these fields, which are crucial for guaranteeing their maritime security. The EU’s decision to extend CRIMARIO, an EU-funded initiative to help partners better govern their maritime spaces by enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness through information sharing initiatives, capacity building, and training is one example of what the EU can propose. Technical and financial capacities would offer South Pacific island states additional options to choose their partners and alleviate the pressure resulting from being caught in great power rivalry. Such an approach would also allow the EU to promote the “inclusive and effective multilateral partnerships” that are at the heart of its Indo-Pacific strategy. None of these steps bring absolute guarantees against an increased and potentially hostile Chinese presence in the region, but they nevertheless help reduce the strategic and political space in which Beijing can operate. The views and opinions expressed in this article solely belong to the author and do not represent the perspectives or stance of World and New World Journal, nor do they reflect the opinions of any of our employees. World and New World Journal does not endorse or take responsibility for the content, opinions, or information presented in this article. Readers are encouraged to consider multiple sources and viewpoints for a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Thank you for your understanding.

Energy & Economics
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins giving speech at World Food Form

Keynote address the Closing Ceremony of the World Food Forum

by Michael D. Higgins

Director-General, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends, Young and Old, This week, as we have gathered here at the World Food Forum in the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Rome to discuss the necessary transformation of our agri-food systems, we must not only be conscious of targets missed or imperfectly achieved, but of the need for courage, and to generate new capacity to move to new models of better connection between economy, social protection, social justice and ecology. We are confronted with a climate and biodiversity emergency that cannot be handled by the tools that produced it or by the architecture of how we made decisions before. We are called upon to, once and for all, tackle with alternatives and sustained effort and innovation, the vicious circle of global poverty and inequality, global hunger, debt and climate change, our interacting crises. That is the context in which sustainable food systems must be achieved. I ask you all gathered today to respond in the most meaningful way within your capacity, within your generation, in a way that includes all generations, to the challenge set out by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his recent statements: This is how the Secretary-General put it: “The Sustainable Development Goals aren’t just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere. In our world of plenty, hunger is a shocking stain on humanity and an epic human rights violation. It is an indictment of every one of us that millions of people are starving in this day and age.” It can be put right but we must change and there is work involved in upskilling in such a way that we can not only identify and critique assumptions of failing models but be able to put the alternative models in place. We have had so many broken promises. Only 15 percent of some 140 specific targets to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are on track to be achieved. Many targets are going in the wrong direction at the present rate, and not a single one is expected to be achieved in the next seven years. However, we have some reasons to be hopeful. When I look around this room today, I see so many engaged and committed people, including young people who have the enthusiasm, energy and creativity needed to tackle the serious structural causes of food insecurity and global hunger. But it is important to acknowledge that young people are not alone in seeking authenticity of words delivered into actions that have an ethical outcome. There are those who have spent their lives seeking a fairer world, one in which hunger would be eliminated – as it can be. We must recognise their efforts. We must work together to harness this collective energy and creativity into strong movements that will deliver, finally, a food-secure world for all. This will require, I suggest, moving to a new culture of sharing information, experiences, insights. As the cuts have taken effect, we must take the opportunity of developing a view, post-silo culture, of sharing insights, and I see FAO as uniquely positioned for this. As Glenn Denning, Peter Timmer and other food experts have stated, achieving food security is not an easy task given how food hunger is “deeply entwined with the organisation of economic activities and their regulation through public policies”, given, too, how governments and markets must work together, how the private, public and third sectors must work together. All of our efforts must have the character of inclusivity. Each of us as global citizens has a responsibility to respond. To ignore it would be a dereliction of our duty of care to our shared planet and its life-forms including our fellow humans and future generations. The Secretary-General’s pleas in relation to the consequences of climate change are given a further terrible reality in the increased and spreading threat of hunger, a food insecurity which is directly affected by the impact of climate change. For example, figures published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that 26.2 percent of Africa’s population experienced severe food insecurity in 2021, with 9.8 percent of the total global population suffering from undernourishment the same year. It is time for us all, as leaders and global citizens, to take stock of how words are leading to actions, to increase the urgency of our response to what is a grave existential threat and to achieve change. It is clear, as the Secretary-General’s powerful statement shows, that we need to begin the work of reform in our international institutional architecture, such as UN reform at the highest level, including the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions, if we are to achieve what the Secretary-General has suggested is the challenge to “turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition”. Let us commit then to sharing purposes, projects, resources, seeking a new culture for sustenance solutions. Those of us who have spent much of our lives advocating UN reform believe that its best prospects are in the growing acknowledgement of the importance of the vulnerabilities and frustrated capacity of the largest and growing populations of the world being represented, not only nominally but effectively, through a reform that includes reform of the Bretton-Woods Institutions. As Secretary-General Guterres has said on a number of occasions, it is time to reform what are 1945 institutions, including the Security Council and Bretton Woods, in order to align with the “realities of today’s world”. We have to acknowledge too that the development models of the 1950s and 1960s were part of the assumptions that brought us to the crises through which we are living. New models are needed and the good news is that a new epistemology, our way of looking at the world, of sufficiency and sustainability, is emerging. We are seeing good work already occurring. Good development scholarship is available to us. I reference, for example Pádraig Carmody’s recent book, Development Theory and Practice in a Changing World. Such work builds important bridges from the intellectual work that is so badly needed and is welcome at the centre of our discourse on all aspects of interacting crises, including global hunger, and the need to link economy, ecology and a global ethics. What we must launch now is a globalisation from below. Replacing the globalisation from above that has given us a burning planet and threatened democracy itself, with a globalisation from below of the fullest participation, we can establish and indeed extend democracy, offering accountability and transparency of our work together. Writers such as Pádraig Carmody are not alone in suggesting that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals provides the opportunity for moving past the worst contradictions of failed models and dangerous undeclared assumptions. The demise of hegemonic development theory and practice may be a result of several factors, such as the rise of ultra-nationalism around the world, the increasing importance of securitisation where the most powerful insulate their lives from the actions of the excluded, and the existential threat posed by the climate crisis. Such research adds to the growing body of development literature that argues for a pro-active, structural-focused, tailored approach to development. The Hand-in-Hand Initiative of the FAO, details of which were discussed at this week’s parallel session, is a most welcome initiative, one that aims to raise incomes, improve the nutritional status and well-being of poor and vulnerable populations, and strengthen resilience to climate change. It heralds a belated recognition too of the insufficiency of a reactive emergency response to famine and hunger crises. It suggests a move towards one that tackles the underlying structural causes of hunger. Young people will need patience and to dig sufficiently deep to achieve these necessary changes. They are right in seeking to be partners, so much more than being allowed as attendees. Hand-in-Hand recognises the importance of tailor-made interventions to food security, using the best available evidence in the form of spatial data, validated on the ground through local diagnostics and policy processes, to target the most food insecure, the most hungry, the poorest. It recognises that context-specific employment and labour market policies are part of the sustainability challenge. I believe that evidence from below is crucial to achieving globalisation from below and that it can be achieved by a reintroduction of new re-casted anthropology guided by, among others, the new African scholars now available, whose work is empirical and peer-tested, can be invaluable in giving transparency on projects and investments – a strategy for fact-gathering for empowerment of rural people so like the 1955 fact-gathering with rural people of the FAO – first published in 1955 and used by me in 1969! Young people must be about upskilling to be able to critique all of the assumptions guiding the policies on to their lives. A key objective for us now must be to strengthen institutional capacity on the ground, not only at the strategic level, but also fundamentally, so that the public, farmers, and other stakeholders’ institutions are enabled to participate in territories-based agri-food systems. Such a move is fundamental to a successful food security strategy. Our institutional architecture and the multilateral bodies within it, must be made fit for purpose if we are to tackle effectively and meaningfully our contemporary food insecurity crisis which is worsening according to the 2023 Global Report on Food Crises, with 258 million people across 58 countries suffering acute food insecurity. Perhaps most crucially, we must acknowledge, as United Nations Programmes such as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative does, the critical importance of partnership and collaboration in addressing global hunger. We must do everything we can to ensure cross-sectoral co-ordination, foster coherent development actions, under a common, shared vision. We must end all wasteful competitive silo behaviours, create a culture of openness and co-operation. The FAO is well positioned to lead on this with its new invigorated partnerships with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Co-operation in the development and implementation of new models will be key to the achieving of any targets that seek to be sustainable and inclusive. For example, I suggest it will achieve best results if funders, such as the African Development Bank, are enabled and funded to work closely with research institutes, both at the national and international level, but particularly take account of field studies conducted over time at local level in the new anthropology so as to ensure that findings from the latest research feed into the design and implementation of any financial supports and investments. By providing a platform, a shared interactive transparent space for national authorities and producers, national and global businesses, multilateral development banks and donors to discuss and advance ways and means to finance the supported national food programmes, initiatives such as Hand-in-Hand are proving to be an effective flagship programme of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Co-operation must work both ways. For example, the parts of the so-called ‘developed’ world suffering from problems of high levels of obesity and food wastage must learn from the deep knowledge and wisdom existing in the most populated continents, as well as the science, which points to a new ecological revolution, one in which agroecology – the bringing of ecological principles to develop new management approaches in agroecosystems – can play a fundamental role, especially for the poorest of our global citizens. We have seen the destructive impact of colonial models of agronomy promoting an over-reliance on a small number of commodity crops, herders incentivised to become less mobile and store less grain in order to maximise commodity crop production, and increasing imports in conditions of near monopoly of seeds, pesticides and fertilisers. This had the deadly effect of opening up farmers not only to the full force of extended droughts, the ravages of variable climate conditions, and a reliance on non-indigenous inputs, but also to global spaces where they have insufficient influence. We must retreat from these dysfunctional food systems model, with their related dependencies, with urgency and embrace models of sufficiency and effective local markets and see the value of making our way too that includes agro-ecological models that promote food security and development opportunities for the poorest people on our fragile planet. Adaptation and responding to the already changing climate is crucial for all of us, and especially in the most food-insecure nations. We must restore degraded ecosystems, introduce drought-resistant crops, ensure accessible digital services for smallholder farms, while creating new, sustainable green jobs for young people so that we may forge a smart, sustainable, climate-resilient development path for the continent. This week we have to acknowledge the many challenges we face including, inter alia, the energy, climate and biodiversity crises, war and conflict which exacerbate food insecurity, ensuring enabling policy environments, and reaching the long-term goal of sustainable food system transformation. Any agri-food initiative, be it for Africa, the Middle-East, Central or South America, or other food-insecure regions, must place inclusivity at its core. Specifically, more vulnerable, smallholder farmers must be targeted for inclusion as programme beneficiaries, not just large-scale, industrial level farmers and ever-expanding commercial plantations. Research has shown that irresponsible agri-business deals are sometimes falsely legitimated by the promotion of alleged achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Number 2 at any cost, without care as to consequence, ignoring the reality that smallholders need enabling policies to enhance their role in food production; that food insecurity is linked to rights, processes, and unequal access to land resources; and that dispossession disproportionately affects women farmers. On this latter issue of gender, achieving zero hunger requires gender-inclusive land and labour policies. Actions must prioritise the inclusion of women and girls who are more food insecure than men in every region of the world. Women must have a right to land recognised and enshrined. The gender gap in food security has grown exponentially in recent years, and will only deteriorate further in the absence of targeted intervention. Women are obviously the most impacted victims of the food crisis, thus they must be a part of the solution. Women produce up to 80 percent of foodstuffs. Empowering women farmers can thus serve as a transformative tool for food security. However, female farmers have, research tell us, limited access to physical inputs, such as seeds and fertiliser, to markets, to storage facilities and this must be addressed. Climate change, and our response to it, addressing global hunger and global poverty, exposing and breaking dependency is a core theme of my Presidency. It is the most pressing existential crisis that our vulnerable planet and its global citizens face. Throughout the world, young people and the youth sector have been at the vanguard of efforts to tackle climate change. Young people have demonstrated, time and again, how well-informed and acutely aware they are of the threat that climate change poses, as well as its uneven and unequal impacts. May I suggest to all of you that, as young innovators and future leaders in your respective fields, you will be at your best, achieve the greatest fulfilment for yourself and others, when you locate your contribution within a commitment to be concerned and contributing global citizens. Take time to ask how is my energy in the tasks of hand and brain being delivered and for whose benefit. May I suggest, too, that you will be remembered and appreciated all the more if you work to ensure that the results of science, technology are shared and that all human endeavours are allowed to flow across borders for the human benefit of all and with a commitment to ecological responsibility and inclusivity. Offer your efforts where they can have the best effect for all. Locate yourselves in the heart of the populated world, as Nobel Laureate William Campbell did with his research on river blindness. Changing our food systems is, however, let us not forget, an intergenerational challenge that requires an inter-generational approach. We must now empower youth to be in the driver’s seat to build a new, better, transparent model of food security in a variety of different settings. Let us endeavour, together, in our diverse world, to seek to build a co-operative, caring and non-exploitative global civilisation free from hunger, a shared planet, a global family at peace with nature and neighbours, resilient to the climate change that is already occurring, one based on foundations of respect for each nation’s own institutions, traditions, experiences and wisdoms, founded on a recognition of the transcendent solidarity that might bind us together as humans, and reveal a recognition of the responsibility we share for our vulnerable planet and the fundamental dignity of all those who dwell on it. Thank you. Beir beannacht.