Next Wednesday, 3 February, leaders from 18 Pacific states and territories will convene online for a Pacific Islands Forum “Special” Leaders Retreat. The agenda is a brief one – to appoint a new Secretary General of the Forum to replace the formidable Dame Meg Taylor, whose six-year tenure expired in January.
The role is one of the most coveted and important positions in the Pacific. The Secretary General is both the chief bureaucrat and diplomat, with oversight spanning across all Pacific regional organisations as Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific. The Secretary General has responsibility for both enhancing Pacific regionalism and advocating for the Pacific on a global stage, reporting directly to the leaders of Forum members, and is also entitled to a seat at the table during regional negotiations.
What should make for a quick meeting has been complicated by a number of issues that have the potential to open schisms in the region that may take years to repair.