Pacific Region Security Leaders Join Virtual Strategic Discussion

November 6, 2020 Updated: November 7, 2020

Delegates from the security agencies of a raft of Pacific nations, territories, and regional bodies came together with Australian security officials for the second Joint Heads of Pacific Security event on Nov. 5.

The strategic-level discussion, part of Australia’s Pacific Step-up policy, was held virtually and was attended by 24 Pacific nations and territories—including Japan and the United States for the first time—as well as 5 regional bodies. The discussion focused on security challenges and cooperation efforts to build resilience for the future.

Representatives from the Oceania Customs Organisation, Pacific Immigration Development Community, Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, Forum Fisheries Agency, and Pacific Island Forum also attended.

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Lieutenant Commander Andrew Nicholls, RAN; Commissioner of Police Mr George Lanwi; Director Mercyba Balos, Minister for Justice, Immigration and Labour the Hon. Mr Kesai Note at Republic of Marshall Island, (Galoto Filolita via ADF).

The delegates focussed their discussion on the regional response to the security challenges that have emerged around COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus).

They examined how the CCP virus has challenged the region on border security, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). They also looked at “how to become better than the sum of our parts,” the Australian Defence Force stated in a media release.

“The impacts of the pandemic were not made any easier by the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Harold and the Australian Defence Force was proud to work with Fiji and Vanuatu in their humanitarian and disaster relief responses,” ADF chief General Angus Campbell said.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the AFP remains closely engaged with Pacific policing and security partners during this challenging time.

“Police across the Pacific are part of our policing family. Our strong and enduring partnership will ensure our region’s national security interests are safeguarded today and well into the future,” Kershaw said.

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Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw took part in the Joint Heads of Pacific Security event 2020 engaging with Pacific-Island Nation counterparts (Jay Cronan via ADF).

Australian Border Force (ABF) Commissioner Michael Outram said that the ABF was pleased to work closely with law enforcement agencies across the Pacific.

“Now more than ever, our ability to work collaboratively will be vital as we strive towards common goals such as regional security maintenance. From the ABF’s perspective, we are all only as good as our collective efforts,” Outram said. “For example, the ABF is committed to delivering improved intelligence sharing between our Pacific nation families. As we move into recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, our borders remain critical national assets to protect and manage well.”

Australia delivered 30 virtual conferencing systems to its partner security agencies across the Pacific to enable the regional security leaders to participate in the virtual Joint Heads of Pacific Security (JHoPS) event, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Pacific Minister Alex Hawke announced jointly in July.

Defence Minister Reynolds said the initiative demonstrated how closely Australia was working with its Pacific neighbours during the CCP virus pandemic.

“Defence has been closely engaged with our partners in the Southwest Pacific region throughout the COVID-19 response,” Minister Reynolds said at the time.

Pacific Minister Alex Hawke said, “JHoPS is a great example of regional security leaders working together for peace and prosperity in the Pacific and this investment further enables that work.”

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