As it turned out I had to moderate a session marking an important celebration that went almost unnoticed to the public. It was the celebration of solidarity, consolidation as a brotherhood or sisterhood of nations, and an ethnically distinct group of people living across different geo-political boundaries.
The event was the Silver Jubilee of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The Melanesian Spearhead Group or the MSG is a sub-regional organization that began in 1986, comprising Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia.
The MSG has its Secretariat in Vanuatu. Through the MSG a number of significant activities and joint participation among the Melanesian countries have brought the people together.
Yet a lot of people outside of the official circles or the political high circles do not know what the MSG is or what it does and stands for. At this time of celebrating the Silver Jubilee I think it is important to make everyone in the Melanesian countries know about the importance of MSG.
It is in that spirit of things that I would like to highlight some of the important features of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
The MSG was founded to promote trade, preserve Melanesian cultures, traditions and values, including sovereign equality and to develop economic and technical cooperation amongst member countries. The MSG as clearly stipulated in the Agreement Establishing the MSG, focused on areas where MSG cooperation should be working towards achieving the goals set at the national level that are expected to benefit from advancement in the MSG focal areas of cooperation as in Article 2 of the Agreement.
Article 2 says: “to promote and strengthen inter-membership trade, exchange of Melanesian cultures, traditions and values, sovereign equality, economic and technical cooperation between states and the alignment of policies in order to further MSG members’ shared goals of economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.”
The informal beginning of 1986 in Goroka the leaders of the MSG countries had no doubt what they wanted. Now 25 years later the MSG has progressed significantly in terms of promoting Trade and Investments amongst member countries, Security, Climate Change and Energy, Promoting the Political Aspirations of the Kanaky people of New Caledonia, Cultural Identity, and technical cooperation amongst members.
The Agreed Principles of Cooperation among the MSG countries were signed in 1988 in Port VIla. A number of key milestones have been achieved within this period.
In 1989 the MSG admitted FLNKS (Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak at Sociliste of New Caledonia) into the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) membership.
The only working trade arrangement in the Pacific that is actually working in terms of actually trading goods across borders is the MSG Trade Agreement that was signed in 1983. This agreement had enabled trade and investments among the Melanesian countries increased significantly.
By 1996 Fiji was admitted into the Melanesian Spearhead Group membership. This has proven to be a very important decision for Fiji and for the MSG as a group.
The MSG is not just focused on promoting political and economic development in each countries, but is also set on promoting the unique cultural similarities and differences. The first Melanesian Arts Festival was hosted by the Solomon Islands in 1998. This event takes place every four years in different MSG countries. The next Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture will take place in Papua New Guinea in 2014.
A revision to the 1993 Trade Agreement among the MSG countries was made and implemented right away in each country.
The official opening of the new MSG Headquarters took place in Port Vila, Vanuatu in 2007.
In 2010 the MSG countries saw the depositing of the Agreement Establishing the MSG in the Treaties Division of the United Nations. This provides the legal basis for the MSG as an entity under international law.
New Caledonia hosted the fourth Melanesian Arts Festival by the FLNKS to great success in 2010.
Some of the highlights of the year 2011 include: the first Mission by the MSG Foreign Ministers to New Caledonia to assess the implementation of the Noumea Accord, the MSG Foreign Ministers Report to New Caledonia acknowledged and recognized by the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (UNC24) at it meeting in June 2011 and mentioned in the UN Resolution on New Caledonia for the first time, and approval by the leaders of the MSG Trade in Service (TIS) agreement and MSG Labour Mobility Scheme to be pursued on a two-track approach with the Labour Mobility on fast track and TIS on the slow track.
The signing of the Framework Treaty on the protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture is another highlight. The leaders also signed the Leaders of a Declaration on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The 18th MSG Summit in Suva, Fiji in 2011 saw for the first time the admittance of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and Republic of Indonesia given observer status.
The MSG countries also engineered the establishment of the Regional Police Academy as well as agreeing in principle for the setting up of an MSG Formed Police Unit (FPU).
In 2012 the first MSG Environment and Climate Change Ministers Meeting (ECCMM) took place. In the same year MSG leaders signed Principles for Enhancing Fiscal Management in Melanesia and the Declaration on Environment and Climate Change that commits to a Melanesian Green Growth Framework, Melanesian Terrestrial Commitment, Blue Carbon Initiative Green Climate Fund and the establishment of an Environment and Climate Change unit within the Secretariat.
An agreement was also signed for the inauguration of the Melanesian Games in 2014 in New Caledonia to promote MSG people to people relations and youth engagements in sports.
In the 25 years that MSG existed it has done more for its people and has become a regional power block to be reckoned with, Real development and recognition of common values of Melanesians hold them together.
In the discussions I was part of the consensus was for more integration and further discussions on further politico-economic improvements.