Micronesian countries break away from the Pacific Island Forum as promised. Today, Presidents of the 5 independent Micronesian countries in the north Pacific declared their decision to leave the Forum as a group in a joint communique. The decision comes as a result of the majority of PIF members refusing to honor the gentlemen’s agreement and allow for the rotation of leadership role to the Micronesian group.
The Presidents of the five nations said that they remain united and in solidarity in their position expressed in the Mekreos Communique of 2020. “There is no value in participating in an organization that does not respect established agreements, including the gentlemen’s agreement on sub-regional process” states the MPS Leaders February 2021 Communique.
The MPS Leaders February 2021 Communique further states that the five nations will initiate the formal process of withdrawing from the Pacific Islands Forum under the Article XII of the Agreement Establishing the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and that each country will undertake the process according to their own internal legal requirements.
Palau took the first step last week by informing Fiji through a diplomatic note that it was closing its Embassy there. It said there was no longer a need for an embassy as Palau was leaving the Forum.
Palau’s entire national leadership has been supportive of the position agreed to by the five Presidents of the north pacific countries. Olbiil era Kelulau had reaffirmed their support with President Surangel Whipps Jr. prior to the February virtual meeting of Micronesian Presidents.
High Chief Reklai Bao Ngirmang, one of Palau’s paramount chiefs supported the move saying that “we are a sovereign nation and must stand up for ourselves.”
Many Palauans on social media voiced their support of Palau and Micronesia leaving the Forum although a few had called for more deliberation.
The historic move by the 5 independent north Pacific countries, the first to break away from Pacific Island Forum in its 50 year history, says a lot about how these countries perceive their treatment within the regional organization. Some of the countries such as Nauru has been in the Forum since its inception in 1971. Kiribati has been in there for 44 years and FSM and RMI for 34 years.
According to press release from the Government of Nauru, President Lionel Aingimea “believes the Forum has lost its original intent to be a regional body.”
The rift comes after the selection of Henry Puna, former prime minister of Cook Islands as the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. The five Micronesian countries expressed prior that the election that their candidate, Gerald Zackious of the Marshall Islands, currently Marshall Islands Ambassador to the United States should be selected based on the tradition of rotating the leadership of the regional body among the sub-regions. Both Polynesian group and Melanesian group have both had their representatives hold the office and that it was Micronesia’s turn.
Micronesia felt further slighted saying that they followed the process, submitting their nominee early in 2019 and nominations should have closed then. Not only did they follow the process, their candidate was most qualified, a seasoned diplomat, having been an ambassador to United Nations and active proponent of climate change on the international arena among other qualities that meet the current needs and priorities of PIF at regional and international areas.
Since the inception of the Forum in 1971, this is the first time any member had voluntarily break away. For 50 years, the organization has been adding on new members with total of 18 members as of 2021. Of the 18 members, 14 are independent countries and 4 are territories.

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