Current Issues

Current Issues

The United States deeply values our relationship with the countries of the Pacific region, with which we share common history, values, and goals. The Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are close partners of the United States on many global issues.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. government agency that works to end global poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.  USAID assistance to Pacific Island countries focuses on helping communities to better manage the negative effects of extreme variations in climate across the region and HIV/AIDS prevention, control and treatment in Papua New Guinea. USAID works with Pacific Island governments, bilateral and multilateral donors and the private sector to ensure that USAID programs have the greatest possible impact.

USAID assistance in the Pacific Island region covers 12 nations that are U.S. allies in a strategically important region: Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. USAID helps the Pacific Island countries reduce vulnerability to natural disasters and environmental degradation; supports disaster risk reduction and recovery; and assists the government and civil society in Papua New Guinea to expand HIV prevention, care and treatment.

Defense Attaché Office

The United States Defense Attaché Office (USDAO) Suva represents the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to the Governments of Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.  DAO Suva maintains defense relationships with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga, and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.  As the diplomatic representative for the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Military Service Secretaries and the Service Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Attaché acts as the sole liaison on matters of mutual interest with defense and security officials of the Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

As a member of the U.S. Embassy Country Team, the Defense Attaché advises the U.S. Ambassador on defense matters.

Office of Defense Cooperation

The Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) is a joint service organization that facilitates security cooperation between the United States and Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  ODC Suva serves as a conduit between host nation governments and US Government agencies on security matters.  Successfully accomplishing our mission will help us meet national objectives of:

  • Strengthening the security relationships in the Pacific Islands
  • Enhancing interoperability
  • Improving the security capabilities of Pacific Island nations

Specifically, we promote a robust security cooperation program through the following areas of focus:

  • Military education and training
  • Foreign Military Sales (FMS)
  • Foreign Military Financing (FMF)
  • Equipment and logistical support
  • Direct Commercial Sales (DCS)

Oceans

The ocean is a vital part of the Pacific economy and society, but today, the ocean is under tremendous pressure from human activity. Enhancing maritime security and maritime domain awareness is critical to combating piracy, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, IUU fishing activities result in an estimated $400 million revenue loss for the Pacific region each year—a figure that is greater than the GDP of a number of the countries in the region—and the inability of PICs to adequately patrol their waters leaves puts their fisheries at risk.  The United States has been a strong partner with PICs in our shared effort to sustainably manage Pacific fisheries resources and combat IUU fishing. The U.S. “shiprider” agreements with nine PICs provide a critical mechanism to cooperate on reducing IUU fishing and enhance maritime law enforcement.  In addition, over the past several years, the United States has worked closely with the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia on maritime surveillance through the use of pilot surveillance projects and developing Maritime Domain Awareness strategies.

We also launched the Safe Ocean Network, which seeks to build a global community to strengthen all aspects of the fight against illegal fishing including detection, enforcement, and prosecution. This initiative has focused on increasing collaboration between countries and organizations combatting IUU fishing around the world, and includes several partners and projects in the Pacific Islands.

The United States has been a strong proponent of creating large Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific in order to further protect marine biodiversity.  The United States announced in 2016 the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea, exceeding 1.5M square kilometers, one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world.  Through the United States’ series of “Our Ocean” conferences, we have encouraged our partners to set aside portions of their waters for conservation as well, and we have proudly partnered with nations such as Cook Islands, Kiribati, and Palau through the provision of grant funding and the exchange of expertise as they have established their own areas for marine conservation.

Ocean acidification may have profound implication for coral reefs in particular and marine ecosystems in general.  United States has lent critical support to international initiatives – through the International Atomic Energy Association and others – to advance our understanding of this problem and develop solutions.  Here in the South Pacific, we have partnered with the University of the South Pacific, the Secretariat of the Regional Environmental Programme, and the Ocean Foundation to train local scientists in techniques and equipment used to study ocean acidification.

Peace and Security

The U.S. Department of State has provided assistance for the removal of World War II-era unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other legacies of war through conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in the Pacific since 2009. In 2012 at the PIF PFD, then-Secretary Clinton announced an additional $3.5 million commitment to UXO clearance in the Pacific over the coming years. Since that time, we have funded over $5 million in unexploded ordnance removal in the Pacific Islands, and we hope to push this contribution to more than $6.5 million.

This funding supports ongoing programs in the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, and Republic of Palau and allows us to respond effectively and quickly when new needs arise. When UXO was uncovered in Tuvalu in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam, the United States deployed Golden West Humanitarian Foundation’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to assist. Similarly, when the QRF was deployed to the Federated States of Micronesia, they performed an assessment of the UXO issue in Kolonia, Ulithi, and Yap. Using the QRF’s assessment, the United States is exploring plans to fund a capacity building program to provide the FSM with skills to perform a follow-on clearance mission to mitigate risks of leftover ordnance from World War II.

Health

The United States supports the PIF’s decision to make cervical cancer—a very preventable but common cancer for women—a focus of its discussion. The United States is taking action to support crucial cervical cancer screening in the Pacific. Our Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides funding and technical assistance to the U.S. Pacific territories and the Freely Associated States, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau, to support their cervical cancer screening programs. HHS supports access to the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine which could prevent much of the burden of cervical cancer as well as head and neck cancers caused by HPV.

The United States is proud to collaborate with our Pacific partners in combatting communicable diseases.  We have dedicated great resources throughout the region to improving vector control.  For example, the United States’ Navy Environmental Preventative Medicine Unit Six (NEPMU-6) has worked with Fiji’s National Vector Control Unit (NVCU) to exchange best practices and build capacity in pesticide application, mosquito identification and vector mapping.  The Center for Disease Control has provided regional representatives exhaustive training in the identification and treatment of the Zika Virus.  Embassy Suva currently manages a grant program in partnership with the Nadi Muslim College to incorporate the Global Learning and Observations for the Benefit of the Environment’s (GLOBE) mosquito larvae protocol into secondary school curricula, thus advancing scientific understanding and social awareness of mosquito-born diseases in the islands.  Most recently, the United States’ Mission to New Zealand hosted in January of 2018 a technology camp in Auckland for regional experts dedicated to the reporting and monitoring of mosquito borne diseases such as zika, dengue, and chikungunya in which participants developed projects to leverage mobile applications and technology for public health benefits.  The United States also applauds the focus that the Pacific Islands have placed on combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of all types. The United States was pleased to have high level representation from HHS at the Pacific Community (SPC) Summit on NCDs in the Kingdom of Tonga last June. Later this year, the United States will sponsor ten health experts from across the Pacific to come to the United States to learn more about how we tackle problems relating to obesity and NCDs.

People-to-People Ties

The Embassy’s Public Affairs Section is in charge of promoting people-to-people ties through media, education, sports, culture, health, climate, oceans, and environmental programs, which allow the United States to reach out to the people of the Pacific Islands in direct, personal and lasting ways.   In 2018, Embassy Suva will continue to implement programs that showcase the United States’ commitment to the Pacific region, promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region, free and fair trade and investment policies.

The United States recognizes the importance of creating networks of young Pacific leaders, in particular women, to be better prepared to address future challenges.  The Young Pacific Leaders conference held at the East-West Center campus in Hawaii from January 16 – 18, 2018 gathered 34 outstanding young people from almost all Pacific countries and the United States including two Fijians, four Kiribati, and one from each Tonga and Tuvalu.  There are plans to make such events annual.

The U.S.-South Pacific Scholarship Program (USSP) was established by the United States Congress in 1994 to provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate degree study in the United States to students from Pacific Island Countries in fields important for the region’s future development such as agriculture, business, communication, education, environmental studies, gender studies, journalism, NGO management, political science, public administration, public health, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), and other related fields.  Through an open competition, the East-West Center, which receives U.S. government support, has administered the USSP program since its inception.  Six Pacific heads of state have participated in East-West Center and other U.S. government-supported exchange programs.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Embassy Suva regularly recruits candidates from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu for graduate studies in the United States under the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, and several U.S. students annually conduct research in the region under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  These countries are also eligible for the Humphrey Fellowship Program, which provides a year of professional development in the United States.  In addition, through Fulbright Specialist program, one or two U.S. specialists spend up to two months at one of the universities in one of our countries lecturing and helping to improve curriculum or build the administrative capacity.

The Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship launched in partnership with the National Geographic Society in 2013, is also part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It grants nine month fellowships to travel to one, two, or three countries to publish stories, with the support of National Geographic’s editorial staff, on National Geographic’s blog.  A National Geographic Fulbright Fellow worked in Kiribati from September 2015 to June 2016, following two stories of displaced Kiribati nationals in Fiji.

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.  In FY17, nine emerging leaders from Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu participated in projects focused on non-communicable diseases, journalism, youth leadership and civic participation, human rights, disaster management, government accountability and entrepreneurship.

The United States’ Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation has awarded more than $800,000 in grants since 2001 to support 24 cultural preservation projects in the Pacific Islands, including a $65,000 grant in 2015 for the documentation of Samoan cultural sites and associated oral traditions, and in 2016 the Fund continued support for the Conservation of the 12th-Century Royal Tombs of Tonga.  More than half the projects involved the preservation of traditional music, crafts, or other form of intangible cultural heritage.

Through its existing American Spaces in Fiji (Suva and Lautoka) and Tonga and the newly created American Resource Centers (Shelves) in Kiribati (opened in 2016) and Tuvalu (officially opened in January 2018), the Embassy maintains its presence and outreach to the people of these countries.  These spaces offer the young people the resources to research, study, improve their English and plan their education.  Should they choose to pursue it in the United States, our Educational Advisers based in Suva stand by to assist.

The story of our work on developing people-to-people ties would be incomplete without mentioning of cultural and speakers programs.  In 2017, the Embassy supported performances and workshops by the U.S. musicians and filmmakers in Fiji, Kiribati and Tonga, reached out to the schools in remote villages and orphanages, organized a tech camp on digital media and workshops on political reporting.   Plans for 2018 include an exciting spectrum of programs on media freedom, technology, performing arts, film and entrepreneurship.  Please follow us on our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/usembassysuva/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/usembassysuva.