Washington, DC - The United States has long been committed to Pacific friends and neighbors in promoting a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific region.  The United States is committed to the Pacific Islands’ future security and prosperity.

On the occasion of the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, the United States is increasing contributions to the partnerships with the Pacific Islands with a pledge of $36.5 million in new foreign assistance.  This is in addition to the approximately $350 million annually that U.S. agencies invest in projects, assistance, and operations to build a more prosperous future for the people of the region.  The United States partners with the Pacific Islands to tackle global and regional challenges, including promoting regional security and stability, advancing sustainable growth, addressing environmental challenges, responding to natural disasters, and strengthening our people-to-people ties.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s leadership of an interagency U.S. delegation to the 31stPacific Islands Forum’s Forum Dialogue Partners meeting reflects the importance that the United States places on the Pacific Islands as a key part of the Indo-Pacific region.

Under the Trump Administration, the United States has increased engagement with Pacific Island nations to unprecedented levels, including Vice President Pence’s visit to Papua New Guinea for APEC last November and President Trump’s historic Oval Office meeting with the three Presidents of the Freely Associated States on May 21, 2019.  In July, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie attended the inauguration of Micronesian President Paneulo.  Earlier this month, Secretary Pompeo became the first Secretary of State to ever visit the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.  While in Micronesia, he announced that the United States intends to begin negotiations on amendments to certain provisions of the Compacts of Free Association.

Today, the U.S. Government announces that under the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the U.S. is committing $36.5 million in new U.S. assistance to the region.  This reinforces the steadfast commitment to the region and the deepening collaboration with Pacific Island countries to strengthen their security and resilience, foster economic growth, and increase good governance.  In addition, USAID will expand its staff presence in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

Enhancing Resilience to Environmental Challenges: The United States recognizes that addressing environmental degradation and climate change is a priority in the Pacific due to the threat posed by sea level rise and the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters.  The Department of State will work with interagency partners to support resilience work with the Pacific Islands to improve drinking water quality and wastewater management, to support water and weather forecasting infrastructure, and improve early warning and disaster resilience capability.

Monitoring nuclear sites: The Department of Interior and Department of Energy will devote $1.7 million in new funds to monitor ground water near the Runit Dome nuclear containment facility.  The program will be completed in conjunction with the Marshallese government and will include drilling new holes so representative water samples can be collected and analyzed.

Supporting Conservation of Coral Reefs: NOAA will expand coral reef conservation efforts within the region.  Coral reefs provide robust protection to coastal communities and property and reduce flood risk through wave breaking and wave energy attenuation.  NOAA will also expand the Coral Reef Watch program to additional Pacific Island countries; this program uses satellite data to predict coral bleaching.

Preparing for Extreme Weather: The United States supports disaster risk reduction programs aimed at saving lives and reducing the impact of disasters.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), USAID, and NOAA support early warning systems for earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, and volcanos.  USGS is working to install new equipment in Papua New Guinea to assist with volcano monitoring.  NOAA has trained more than 200 weather forecasters and emergency managers from Pacific Island countries, including several graduates who have become Directors of National Meteorological Services in their home countries.  NOAA will also increase efforts to train Pacific officials to locate earthquakes and assess potential for destructive tsunamis.  NOAA will expand the distribution of emergency communication devices throughout the region, connecting islands where emergency communication is extremely limited or non-existent.

Responding to Disasters: The United States works to raise the capacity of Pacific Island communities, civil society, governments, and regional institutions to mitigate and prepare for natural disasters.  USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Coast Guard all engage in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises with Pacific governments. When disaster strikes, the United States is ready to assist.  In 2019, USAID provided $17 million in disaster assistance to Micronesia following Typhoon Wutip in March.

Building Resilient Infrastructure and Expanding Connectivity: The United States is committed to improve access to electricity and open, secure, and reliable internet access to help drive economic growth in the Pacific.  Under the Indo-Pacific Strategy, The United States is following through on Vice President Pence’s commitment to electrify Papua New Guinea.  The United States is working with donor partners Australia, Japan, and New Zealand to reach 70% electrification by 2030.  In the Freely Associated States, the Department of the Interior has provided over $6.3 billion in assistance to capitalize trust funds, improve infrastructure at utilities and schools, and help deliver basic health and education services.  Compact funding has supported many infrastructure projects including the ring road on Babeldaob, the main road on Weno Island, and new hospitals in Majuro, Kosrae, and Chuuk.

Enhancing Good Governance: The Pacific Islands and the United States share a strong commitment to democracy, rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes, and transparency.  The Pacific Islands Good Governance Initiative will promote sound, just, and responsive governance within the region to empower citizens, help combat corruption, and strengthen nations’ autonomy.  The United States will contribute $3 million to boost citizen participation and promote transparency and accountability in elections and government.

Enhancing Maritime Security: Enhancing maritime security is critical to combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  During the last year, the U.S. Coast Guard increased its presence in Oceania, deploying major cutters to the region, conducting fisheries enforcement, and supporting Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency operations.  U.S. “shiprider” agreements allow local law enforcement officers to embark on U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) vessels, including to board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations.  The United States has 11 shiprider agreements, with the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  In the past year, the Coast Guard exercised six of the 11 agreements, most recently with Fiji in Dec 2018.  The Coast Guard intends to increase operations in Oceania to advance maritime safety and security through cooperation and combined operations.

Building Capacity to Combat Illegal Fishing: In April, the U.S. Coast Guard brought together officials from 10 Pacific Island countries with shiprider agreements for the first-ever U.S. and Pacific Islands Multilateral Fisheries Law Enforcement Symposium.  Next, the Department of State and NOAA will host a regional workshop to expand Pacific prosecutors’ ability to enforce actions against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) violators.  NOAA also will expand fisheries law enforcement capacity building efforts for Pacific Island countries and increase technical assistance to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to help monitor and detect IUU fishing.

Enhancing Security Cooperation: Under the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the Department of Defense is increasing security assistance in the region with an additional $24.5 million in funding to enhance capabilities in the Freely Associated States to safeguard territorial waters, conduct maritime and border security operations, and counter drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, and support airport logistics.

Fostering People-to-People Ties

Preserving Pacific Cultural Heritage: U.S. support for the Historic Preservation Fund protects natural and cultural resources in the U.S. insular areas, and most recently provided $2.6 million in 2018. The Department of the Interior will host a conference and training in December for current and potential World Heritage sites.

Nurturing Future Young Pacific Leaders: This Department of State program gathers emerging leaders from Pacific Island nations to discuss education, environment, civic leadership, and economic and social development.  Program participants and alumni compete for $10,000 grants to transform ideas into action. The full list of 2019 grant winners can be found here: https://fm.usembassy.gov/u-s-state-department-announces-2019-young-pacific-leaders-grant-recipients/.

Supporting Youth Ocean Diplomacy: In June 2019, the Department of State brought together 22 emerging Micronesian, Marshallese, and Palauan leaders in civic education, rule of law, entrepreneurship and youth leadership. The program empowered participants to use technology to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  Participants will implement community projects after returning to their respective countries.  For more on this program visit:https://www.worldoregon.org/empowering_changemakers_in_the_pacific_islands