[WEBCAST] COVID-19 and the Pacific Islands: Weathering Two CrisesVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd speaks with Dame Meg Taylor, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, and Ralph Regenvanu, leader of the opposition in Vanuatu, about the effect of the coronavirus on the countries and territories in the Pacific Islands. (1 hr., 2 min.)
This program is part of the Asia Society Policy Institute's (ASPI) series entitled “Coronavirus, Asia, and the World.” ASPI presents web-only programs twice weekly to analyze the scope of the ramifications from the novel coronavirus across the Asia-Pacific region and the world. All events will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook. For information about future events in this series and for ASPI’s additional coronavirus content see here.
The Pacific Islands have largely avoided widespread transmission of COVID-19 to date, with the number of new cases across the region now appearing to steadily decrease. However, the region remains on high-alert and there is still a major risk of serious levels of community transmission in some places. With fragile healthcare systems and only a handful of ventilators, the prospect of a major outbreak in the region is shuddering.
Notwithstanding this, the Pacific Islands region has already acutely felt the economic impacts of COVID-19. With tourism and export-reliant economies, they have been hit particularly hard. And as this crisis continues, many of the region’s island nations have also struggled to maintain critical supply routes – in some instances being cut off from supplies of additional Personal Protective Equipment. To help alleviate that pressure, the region’s leaders agreed in early April to trigger the Biketawa Security Declaration to establish a humanitarian pathway and many countries have now stepped up with additional supplies, including China, Taiwan, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia – raising questions about the long-term geopolitical implications of this crisis for the region’s relationships.
At the same time, the climate crisis has also not abated. In early April, Cyclone Harold – the strongest tropical cyclone so far this year – hit the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and then Tonga, causing more than thirty deaths across the region. The relief effort continues to be hampered by the risks posed by COVID-19.
Asia Society Policy Institute President, The Honorable Kevin Rudd AC, will be joined by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, and the Leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu, Ralph Regenvanu MP, to discuss the current situation in the Pacific, the support the region requires going forward, and the possible long-term geopolitical implications of the crisis.
Dame Meg Taylor is the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, a political grouping of 16 independent and self- governing states. She is the first woman to hold this post. Dame Meg is also currently the Pacific Ocean Commissioner. A national of Papua New Guinea, she began her professional life as Private Secretary to Chief Minister Michael Somare during self-government of Papua New Guinea, and then during his tenure as Prime Minister of an independent Papua New Guinea. She was Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the United States, Mexico and Canada in Washington, DC from 1989-1994 before becoming the Vice President and Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the World Bank Group from 1999-2014.
Ralph Regenvanu MP is the Leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu having recently stood down as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Elected to the Parliament in 2008, Ralph has also served in several other ministerial roles, including as Minister of Land and Natural Resources during which he initiated a major overhaul of the land laws of Vanuatu aimed at enshrining the jurisdiction of customary law to determine rights to customary land and the ‘free, prior and informed consent’ of traditional owners to dealings in their customary land. From 2013 also, Ralph was Co-chair of the National Sustainable Development Plan Core Group which was responsible for developing Vanuatu’s ‘National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2030’ which was launched in early 2017. Ralph is an inaugural Committee member of The Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty which was founded in 2010. Before entering parliament, Ralph was the Director of the National Museum and Director of the National Cultural Council.
The Hon. Kevin Rudd is inaugural President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He served as 26th Prime Minister of Australia (2007 to 2010, 2013) and as Foreign Minister (2010 to 2012). He is Chair of the Board of the International Peace Institute in New York, and Chair of Sanitation and Water for All, a global partnership of government and non-government organizations dedicated to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6. He is a Distinguished Fellow at Chatham House and the Paulson Institute, and a Distinguished Statesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is also a member of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization’s Group of Eminent Persons.