32nd Meeting of the Committee of Representatives of Government and Administrations (CRGA) Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) November 4 - 7, 2002 Noumea, New Caledonia

Presented by: Leiataua Birdsall V. Ala’ilima, American Samoa

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to speak before the CRGA on the important matter of regional security. I would like to state here that the issue of regional security was raised during an SPC in-country visit seeking input into the development of the corporate plan earlier this year with a follow-up to the Secretariat in a letter on October 31, 2002. To approach the subject of security, I have jotted down a few terms, themes, and goals of SPC programs that I have heard repeated several times throughout the various SPC presentations, which I would like to share with my colleagues.

advocacy, law reform, regional collaboration, information dissemination, improve food security, certification on bio-security, advisory/information services, sustainable management of crops, quarantine programs, decrease impact of natural disasters, sustainability, regulations and standards covering trade, collaboration and networking, germ plasma backup facility, redundancy, integrated management, reduced reliance on imports, comprehensive coverage for the Pacific, unified approach, strategies and alliances, common interests and goals, flexibility, commitment, transportation security, port and cargo inspections, dangerous goods, convention for port and ship security, target mobile populations, progressive development, designed for sustainability, strategic partnerships, survival, maximum impact benefit, impact assessment, proactive challenge, economic cost, partnership of government, NGO and CBO, crosscut, risk related behavior, public health surveillance network, virtual multi-disciplinary outbreak response teams, national borders, compliment, management and implementation systems, communications.

The list of development terms goes on. However, these terms in whatever context they are couched in brings home the point that SPC is already working in the arena of security at the regional level. Keep in mind that security crosscuts all sectors of development – be it agriculture, information technology, transportation, health, education, etc. All development areas have a security component. If we learned anything about security in the post September 11 period it is that security is not just a law enforcement or intelligence gathering activity. It is also domestic preparedness and consequence management, which deals with the capacity of a community to respond to and recover from a catastrophic event, mitigate damages and as quickly as possible, return to normal.

In its truest sense, terrorism is an action seeking to instill fear into a community with the objective of disrupting the economy and undermining public confidence in governing institutions. Terrorism has a multitude of targets along with multiple methods of attack. If one acknowledges this basic description for terrorism, one must also look at countering terrorism by minimizing collateral damage, ensuring government continuity and addressing economic recovery. Suffice it to say "Security" is an elusive term, however, you will find it to be a component that crosscuts all development sectors. For example, in the wake of Sept. 11, the US federal government placed a focus on following key areas when dealing with response to terrorism: mechanical, biological, chemical, radiological, cyber-terrorism and agro-terrorism. They are currently making a substantial investment to ensure US communities are prepared to immediately respond to incidences within these six categories and minimize collateral damage.

In American Samoa, I am pleased to say we recently purchased $1,000,000 of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and detection devices to deal with nuclear, chemical, radiological and biological outbreaks as well a fire. We conduct federal certification training of first responders for this equipment both in the US and American Samoa. We have also submitted our plan to inoculate the entire population within two days of a smallpox outbreak. We are currently building our local pharmaceutical stockpile and have access to the US national stockpile landed in American Samoa at our request within 12 hours. In the last major biological outbreak in Samoa, the influenza that swept through the country in the early 1900s killed one of every five Samoans. Truly, it was a horrible time of suffering in our history when one hears the tales of the survivors. In the neighboring islands of American Samoa, however, not one life was lost to the outbreak as a result of the quick and strict quarantine regulations placed into effect by the naval governor of the time.

The recent statements from the leadership of APEC calling for regional security collaboration encourages us and we feel security should include consequence management designed to deliver effective first response services and to contain and mitigate the effects of an event within Pacific countries. There is no "one plan fits all" model for security. It is a process that needs to be developed by all stakeholders and account for the unique characteristics of the Pacific community. SPC is a dynamic development organization with wide Pacific membership, proven development processes and procedures as well as established networks into Pacific island countries and territories. Furthermore, it can draw upon the counter terrorism experiences and first response lessons learned from the larger member countries of France, Great Britain, United States, Australia and New Zealand. Their expertise would be of immense benefit in conducting risk and vulnerability surveys for the region and in the formulation of strategies and approaches to best protect the people of the Pacific, their property and their livelihood. The recent Bali incident once again clearly demonstrates that terrorism has no bounds and together with the recent rash of attacks in the Philippines brings such senseless destruction right to our doorstep.

At a dinner for the 2002 graduating class of West Point that I recently attended, former New York Mayor Rudolf Gulianni stated that the events of September 11 made America stronger. It lifted the veil of complacency that shrouded America’s outlook on the world and forced the United States to confront the hatred that is directed towards the free world. In doing so, America has and will be better prepared. It should be noted that to be complacent is to be reactive which is a costly burden most Pacific countries can ill afford to bear. A pro-active approach to regional and national security is definitely the better option. Keep in mind that as borders harden and new security measures are put in place in developed countries, terrorists will seek soft targets to make their statements. I certainly don’t want to come across as conjuring up doomsday scenarios to seek action. However, I think the simple questions that we need to ask ourselves is:

  1. Are we able to detect and deter potential threats?
  2. Are we prepared to manage and mitigate a terrorist incident?

As government officials, we all have the responsibility to our country and the wider community to answer these questions honestly. In his letter of October 31, 2002 to the Director General, American Samoa’s Governor Tauese Sunia looks to the SPC as the only regional outlet for US Pacific territories to express security concerns and to seek collaboration with neighboring countries to explore security activities relevant to the region. We request that the vision and mission of the new SPC corporate plan for the region be responsive to this need and include a reference to security. We suggest the vision read as follows:

"Our vision for the region is a secure and prosperous Pacific Community, whose people are healthy and manage their resources in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable way."

From this vision, security related terms could be incorporated in various areas of the mission and guiding principles and expanded or incorporated into the many SPC program areas.

It is our hope that we will be able to dialogue with fellow SPC member countries to broaden the discussion on this important issue and identify the most appropriate vehicle(s) and effective approaches to ensure security in our region. In closing, Governor Sunia extends his warmest wishes to all the participants of the 32nd CRGA and hopes for a fruitful meeting.



@ 2002