U.S. Engagement in the Pacific

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 7, 2011

The United States is a Pacific nation with deep, enduring, and historic ties to the countries of the Pacific region. As the region adapts to face the challenges of the 21st century, the United States is committed to engaging closely with friends and partners in all areas - diplomatic, defense, and development – to meet those challenges. To underscore this, Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides is leading the largest and highest-level U.S. delegation ever to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Auckland, New Zealand from September 8-10. The size and scope of the delegation - which includes senior officials from the White House, Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Coast Guard, and the Peace Corps - demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and economic prosperity of the Pacific.

  • Enhanced U.S. Engagement: Deputy Secretary Nides’ delegation is the latest step in U.S. efforts to enhance engagement in the Pacific. It follows the June visit to eight Pacific island countries by Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick Walsh, USAID Assistant Administrator Nisha Biswal, and Brigadier General Richard Simcock. That trip, the first of its kind, represented a whole of government approach encompassing diplomacy, defense, and development. It also coincided with Pacific Partnership 2011, the latest in a series of Pacific Partnership deployments that collectively have provided medical, dental, and educational services to more than 250,000 people and completed more than 150 engineering projects in 15 countries. This year, Pacific Partnership included ships and personnel from five countries, treated over 50,000 patients and worked with Pacific Islanders to construct or improve community centers, schools, healthcare facilities, and water systems.
  • Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change: USAID will open a Pacific Office in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea before the end of 2011. The office will administer a $21 million grant to support climate change adaptation in the Pacific Small Island Developing States and strengthen the region’s capacity to improve food and water security, protect ecosystems, and access global climate change information and resources.
  • Improving the Environment: The United States supports programs across the Pacific on weather services and disaster preparedness, coral reef and marine conservation, invasive species, pollution and waste, and forests. USAID is partnering with the New Zealand Aid Program on a cooperative waste management project in Kiribati that will help the Government of Kiribati tackle municipal waste management issues, including collection, segregation, and proper long-term disposal.
  • Removing the Explosive Remnants of War: Many of the United States’ strongest bonds to the Pacific were forged in the battles of World War II yet many Pacific Island countries continue to deal with the legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other remnants of war. Since 1993, the U.S. Department of State has spent over $1 billion on humanitarian mine and UXO action, in over eighty countries around the world. During the same period, other U.S. agencies including the Department of Defense, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control have spent an additional $800 million on related humanitarian mine/UXO efforts. State Department projects in the Pacific region have been conducted in Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. The United States is exploring with friends and partners new initiatives to address this challenge including the launch of a new regional project to remove UXO from Tarawa, Kiribati.
  • Maritime Security: Enhancing maritime security and maritime domain awareness is critical to combating piracy, illegal fishing, and transnational crime in the Pacific. The U.S. Coast Guard partners with six Pacific Island countries through Shiprider Agreements which extend the reach and power of partner nation law enforcement officers by hosting them on U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft to patrol national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). At the PIF, the Coast Guard will sign two new Shiprider Agreements with Nauru and Tuvalu. Since 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard has also conducted eight joint operations with Australia, France, and New Zealand, part of an ongoing effort to increase maritime domain awareness and surveillance. We are working with these and other partners to develop new multilateral approaches in the western and central pacific.
  • Women’s Empowerment: In November 2010, the State Department launched a “Women’s Empowerment Initiative in the Pacific Region” in collaboration with the governments of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, and the World Bank Group. This year the Initiative will sponsor three policy dialogues, the third of which will be hosted by the United States and Australia in November. This dialogue will bring together government officials, NGOs, and academics from 14 countries to focus on effective means to prevent and address gender-based violence in the Pacific region.
  • Food Security: The U.S. Department of State, USAID and the New Zealand Aid Program have begun work on a collaborative assessment of agricultural policy constraints in Papua New Guinea affecting food security. The resulting analysis and recommendations will be used by PNG and its development partners to pursue reforms benefitting the agriculture and agribusiness sectors.
  • Peace Corps: Since 1966, more than 12,500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served throughout the Pacific Islands providing capacity building and training in areas such as business development, environment, health, and education. Peace Corps currently operates in Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu though in the past also had programs in the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Niue.

PRN: 2011/1425