US Pacific Territories Campaign for Upgraded Forum Membership

Two US Pacific territories are moving closer to securing upgraded status at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the main political decision-making body in the region.

PIF representatives recently visited Guam and American Samoa as part of the territories’ Forum membership bid, according to confirmation from the Forum to RNZ Pacific. Guam’s acting governor, Lt Joshua Tenorio, has urged for both territories to be given a seat at the table.

Esala Nayasi, PIF deputy secretary general, stated that these applications are on the agenda for the 53rd Forum Leaders Meeting set for next month. In June, the US government modified an old policy to allow its Pacific territories to join the PIF as non-voting associate members.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that while the political status of these territories prevents full voting membership, he supports their application for non-voting associate membership.

“We have received the applications for both Guam and American Samoa. The Secretariat has conducted its assessments with the guidance of members, which will be presented through Forum processes. Leaders will have the opportunity to deliberate in Tonga,” stated Nayasi.

Founded in 1971, the PIF is the region’s leading political and economic policy organization, comprising 18 members including Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and others. New Caledonia and French Polynesia are currently the only non-self-governing members.

Lt Tenorio emphasized that without Guam and American Samoa, the Forum is incomplete. “The Pacific Islands Forum should include the Mariana Islands and American Samoa to become a truly comprehensive regional political organization,” he told RNZ Pacific.

Guam seeks to address gaps by participating in the Forum. “Excluding the Mariana Islands from the Strategy for Blue Pacific Continent is hard to comprehend,” said Tenorio. Guam has been campaigning for support at various events, including the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture in Hawai’i.

Lt Tenorio highlighted the importance of unity on climate change. He also noted Guam’s strategic roles in transportation, high-speed internet, and its strengthened infrastructure due to the US military presence.

“I believe we can contribute significant aid and improve the quality of life for Pacific peoples, which is a key responsibility of our leaders,” he added.

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