Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape, MP recently had a virtual meeting with the Rt. Hon. Lord (Zac) Goldsmith, the United Kingdom (UK) Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.
Their discussions focussed on COVID-19, Climate Change, Forestry, Trade and the UK’s candidacy for the position of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and briefly on the Commonwealth.
COVID-19 which has almost brought the world to its knees was the major focus of the discussions where they both expressed sympathies to the families of those who have lost loved ones in both the UK and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Minister Goldsmith expressed support for PNG’s COVID-19 response, including announcing a UK package worth over K4.3 million, mainly through the WHO and UNICEF.
The UK’s contribution to PNG’s COVID-19 Response is a mix of finance and expertise. The package, some of which the elements are still being finalised is worth about K4.3 million. About K3 million is being channelled through WHO Papua New Guinea for medical training and equipment in support of the country plan (part of UK announcement at the start of the visit of £1.8m for WHO in the Pacific, including PNG); K1 million to UNICEF to fund Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects in 40 schools in Goroka and Mt Hagen (benefitting 8,000 children); K110,000 on COVID-19 awareness – for booklets in Tok Pisin, Motu and Bahasa and – via UNICEF – a song “Wok Bung Wantaim” for TV and radio. Other forms of support are yet to be confirmed.
On behalf of the Government of PNG, Prime Minister Marape expressed PNG’s most profound gratitude to the UK for their kind and generous assistance to the people of PNG which will go a long way in addressing the challenges PNG has been confronted with since the pandemic began. The mixed bag of support is essential for awareness and in areas where PNG lacks capacity as well as to provide support to vulnerable members of our communities, including children.
As host of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021, the UK is keen to assist PNG develop an ambitious climate plan, especially to protect its rich biodiversity. Minister Goldsmith informed of UK’s support to PNG on sustainable forestry governance and he further acknowledged a key element of PNG’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), noting that PNG was the first country to submit its NDC after the Paris COP in 2015.
Prime Minister Marape was grateful for the UK’s keen interest to work with PNG to protect its rich biodiversity which has the 3rd largest rainforest in the world. He expressed PNG’s keen interest to collaborate with the UK on sustainable forestry and tackling illegal logging. He highlighted the importance of health and education services to affected communities and for support in providing alternative sources of income through reforestation programs, agriculture and eco-tourism.
Prime Minister Marape noted the recent establishment of the Blue Planet Global Fund under which 500 billion Pounds have been earmarked to assist climate change affected countries, which PNG can benefit from.
Prime Minister Marape reiterated PNG’s commitment to join the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (co-chaired by UK and Vanuatu), which tackles plastic pollution. The Prime Minister committed as well to advocate for other Pacific Island countries who have yet to join to do so given that we are all maritime and coastal states. He added that PNG also launched its Oceans Policy in July 2020 in its efforts to protect and conserve sustainably PNG’s ocean and marine life including its shoreline of about 5,000km2.
Prime Minister Marape highlighted the UK’s leading role in multilateral fora at the UN, World Bank, IMF, ADB and the Commonwealth where they can help support PNG. Their bilateral support is guided by PNG government priorities and focused on capacity building in the areas of health, trade and the environment.
The UK is the largest contributor to the UNDP, World Bank’s International Development Association, WHO, Global Climate Fund, UN Peace-building Fund (including Bougainville); largest European funder of Asian Development Bank; and the second largest funder of UNICEF. In the Health sector, through a K35 million project under the Fleming Fund, the UK is helping PNG tackle drug resistant diseases (laboratory refurbishment and training PNG staff in country).
Prime Minister Marape expressed PNG’s appreciation to the UK as an international partner that has recently supported PNG in the IMF as a member of the Executive with the disbursement of emergency financing under the Rapid Credit Facility to help PNG address the urgent balance of payments needs created by COVID-19.
On trade, Prime Minister Marape reiterated PNG’s commitment to ratify the UK-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (UK/PNG/Fiji) in Parliament by the end of 2020. This is to ensure continuation of post-EU tariff free trade and export promotion support. Further to this, the Commonwealth Standards Network project will also help PNG set/use internationally recognised standards and so promote exports. He added that this will also enable more organic food to be exported to the UK as well as market access opportunities for fisheries and timber products.
Minister Goldsmith sought PNG’s support to their candidate, former Cabinet Minister, Mr Liam Fox to head the WTO to which Prime Minister Marape committed PNG’s support given our deep historical and long standing trade ties with the UK.
On Commonwealth issues, Prime Minister Marape acknowledged the UK’s leadership as the current Chair of the Commonwealth and the values which PNG upholds and subscribes to. He also noted that the next Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting will be in Rawanda in 2021.
Prime Minister Marape also mentioned UK’s hosting of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 as an opportune time for both countries to reaffirm people-to-people linkage through sports.
The Rt. Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park was appointed as Minister of State in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 13 February 2020. His responsibilities include Oceania/Pacific; climate change, environment and conservation, biodiversity; oceans. This was his first virtual visit to the Pacific which commenced 24 August and will end 3 September. He is holding meetings with political leaders in PNG, Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu and Palau, as well as roundtables with regional organisations, e.g. Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), South Pacific Community (SPC) Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).