A specialist college designed to help tackle security threats to the Pacific region has been launched at the Australian National University.
Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and designed in consultation with Pacific Island nations, the Australia Pacific Security College (APSC) aims to strengthen regional security through collaborative learning. It will unite experts, policymakers, and security practitioners from around the region to identify opportunities to address national and regional security priorities and work through the challenges. Courses will also be developed in consultation with Pacific governments.
The APSC will be led by ANU Associate Professor Meg Keen, while an advisory board of senior leaders from across the region will oversee the college. Former chief of the Australian Defence Force, retired Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, will chair the board.
The college’s leaders will work with the region to respond to the increasing complexity of regional security, according to Keen.
“The APSC will focus on regional cooperation in tackling the Pacific’s broad-based security challenges, including climate change, human security, environmental management, and traditional security issues,” she said.
“Our end objective is to be an asset that Pacific countries can call on to develop their strengths and pursue their security interests.”
The APSC has met with leaders in Pacific Island countries including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands, to understand the security priorities of the region, and identify gaps in professional education and training, Keen added.
The college was first announced in August, and was created to support the implementation of the Pacific Island Forum Boe Declaration for Regional Security. The declaration recognises that “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.
At the time, ANU Asia and the Pacific college dean, Professor Michael Wesley, said the college would respect the sovereignty of Pacific Island governments and would work with them closely to respond to an array of concerns.
“It is the frontline in climate change which will have major repercussions for the security of whole nations,” he said.
“But Pacific Island nations also want to respond to other security issues that have both regional and national dimensions. These issues include transnational crime, cybersecurity and human security issues — just to name a few.”
Also in August, the prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, described Scott Morrison as “very insulting and condescending” following the Pacific Islands Forum, where he had refused to acknowledge the threat of climate change to Pacific countries.
The former prime minister of Tuvalu also recently commented on the event, expressing that Morrison implied Pacific leaders should “take the money” that Australia had given them and “shut up about climate change”.