Pacific security forum to discuss COVID-19

Delegates from Pacific-island nations’ security agencies connected from across the region for the second Joint Heads of Pacific Security event on Thursday.

CAPTION: Security leaders from 24 nations and territories and five regional bodies attended the Joint Heads of Pacific Security event 2020 – a pandemic-forced virtual meeting to discuss the security affects of COVID-19. Photo by Jay Cronan.

Chief of the Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw and Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram joined security leaders from 24 nations and territories, and five regional bodies for the strategic-level dialogue.

Themes for the event focused on responding to the collective challenge of COVID-19 in the areas of border security, maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), and how to become better than the sum of our parts.

General Campbell reflected on the common security challenges faced in the COVID-19 environment.

“COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges to maritime and border security efforts, which have affected nations in various ways,” General Campbell said.

“The impacts of the pandemic were not made any easier by the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Harold and the Australian Defence Force was proud to work with Fiji and Vanuatu in their humanitarian- and disaster-relief responses.”

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the Australian Federal Police remained closely engaged with Pacific policing and security partners during this challenging time.

“Police across the Pacific are part of our policing family,” Commissioner Kershaw said.

“Our strong and enduring partnership will ensure our region’s national security interests are safeguarded today and well into the future.”

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said that the Australian Border Force was pleased to work closely with law-enforcement agencies across the Pacific.

“Now more than ever, our ability to work collaboratively will be vital as we strive towards common goals such as regional security maintenance,” Commissioner Outram said.

“From the ABF’s perspective, we are all only as good as our collective efforts.

“For example, the ABF is committed to delivering improved intelligence sharing between our Pacific nation families.

“As we move into recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, our borders remain critical national assets to protect and manage well.”

Japan and the United States joined the Joint Heads of Pacific Security event for the first time – along with representatives from the Oceania Customs Organisation, Pacific Immigration Development Community, Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, Forum Fisheries Agency and Pacific Island Forum.

The event is part of the Australian government’s Pacific Step-up and brings together the leaders of Pacific security agencies to facilitate discussion of security challenges and collectively build resilience for the future.

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Brian Hartigan

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