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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Insular Affairs
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Pacific Islands Granted First-Time Observer Status at Pacific Islands Forum



Date: August 15, 2011
For more information please contact:
Rebecca Zepeda (202) 208-2534
Rebecca_Zepeda@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. - This September, representatives of the U.S. insular areas from American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands will be designated as observers when joining member states at the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum being held in Auckland, New Zealand.  The observer designation follows notification from the U.S. Department of State which made the request to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

“I am truly pleased that our insular areas will be afforded the opportunity to participate as observers in this very important regional meeting.  Their participation underscores a deeper level of respect and signifies the importance of the partnerships which need to be made from all political entities throughout the Pacific,” said Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta.
The decision was made in response to years of pressure from various island governors, legislators, and leaders of varying political status organizations seeking inclusion and raising the issue at annual Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA) meetings.  The IGIA was reestablished by President Obama in April 2010, re-designating the White House as co-chair, alongside the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“Insular area participation is a testament to our continued interagency collaboration with the State Department and our commitment to moving issues forward through the interagency effort.  I am optimistic that a similar determination will be made with respect to the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), where the U.S. Virgin Islands would benefit tremendously from participating in a similar manner.”

The PIF is composed of 16 Pacific Island members including Australia and New Zealand.  Founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum, they changed their name in 2000 to the Pacific Islands Forum to be inclusive of newer member Pacific Island nations to the north such as Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.  This year marks the PIF’s 40th anniversary.