As it happened: Pacific Islands Forum

As it happened: Pacific Islands Forum

As it happened: Pacific Islands Forum

Updated 3 September 2012, 13:45 AEST

Look back at the stories and events from the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cook Islands.

Leaders have gathered in Cook Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum, which brings together members states from across the Pacific and observers from throughout the world to discuss issues of regional importance.

Saturday September 1

06:00pm: That wraps up our coverage of the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum from Cook Islands. Next year's forum will be held in Marshall Islands.

03:30pm: The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pledges more aid for the south Pacific and declares the US is in the region "for the long haul".

04:00pm: Speaking at a side function at the Forum titled "Security Partnerships", Ms Clinton says the United States will step up its efforts to get rid of bombs, shells and other unexploded material left behind in the Pacific after World War II.

Friday August 31

05:40pm: Pacific Forum Secretariat releases Forum Communiqué

04.10pm: New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key says it's good that Fiji has committed to elections in 2014 but there is still some way to go.

"We wouldn't say the process is perfect but we would say they're making some progress and it seems more likely to us that Frank Bainimarama will honour his word and actually hold those elections, we've heard it before, haven't necessarily seen delivery, but we're a little more hopeful."

01:27pm: The next Pacific Islands Forum will be held in Marshall Islands.

Meanwhile, leaders have announced they won't be lifting Fiji's suspension from the Forum

12:08pm: Here's a photo from this morning's leader's retreat on One Foot Islands in Aitutaki:

10:10am: Gender equality has been one of the major issues up for discussion, with only five per cent of Pacific politicians are women, compared with the world average of 18 per cent.

07:05am: Leaders have now made the journey to One Foot Island in the lagoon of Aitutaki for final discussions.

Australia Network's Sean Dorney spoke to Radio Australia's Pacific Beat from a boat travelling behind the leaders:

Thursday August 30

5:00pm: Pacific women's groups are delighted with the Australian Government's pledge to help Pacific women, as Sean Dorney reports:

4:35pm: Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will leave the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands a day early, so she can get a full briefing on two incidents in Afghanistan.

1:21pm: The health of the marine ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean is one of the big ticket items up for discussion in Cook Islands.

World Bank marine ecologist, Marea Hatziolos discussed the issue with Sean Dorney on last night's Newsline

12:23pm: Julia Gillard has announced Australia is pledging $320 million over 10 years to improve gender equality in the Pacific.

"Gender equality is the right thing to do. It's also the clever thing to do."

11:00am: Julia Gillard has cancelled a meeting with the Cook Islands Prime Minister to be briefed on an incident involving Australian troops in Afghanistan.

10:41am: One of the most closely watched parts of any international gathering of leaders is the shirt.

Pacific leaders have been out for a photo opportunity this morning, with their Forum shirts on display:

09:05am: Security in the Pacific will be a major talking point at the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Cook Islands today.

The topic has risen to the top of the agenda with both the United States and China courting the Pacific states.

Sean Dorney is in Rarotonga and looks at what's expected in the talks:

7:33am: After yesterday's spectacular opening, it's down to business for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders.

You can find a rundown on the schedule of events here.

Also this morning in Rarotonga, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nauru's President, Sprent Dabwido, over its offshore processing centre for asylum seekers.

Wednesday August 29

2.16pm: Host nation Cook Islands announces creation of the world's largest marine park covering over one million square kilometres.

1.40pm: The Pacific Island Forum's secretary general Tuiloma Neroni Slade delivers opening address, warning of the challenges the pacific faces.

"The demands of humanity are taking their toll putting stress in particular on the ocean."

1:28pm: Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has arrived in Rarotonga for the Forum. She was taken to the open auditorium on a ceremonial chair.

Meanwhile, Cook Islands locals are rolling out the welcome mat for their international guests:

12:25pm: Dan Flitton, senior correspondent with Fairfax, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program the presence of delegations from China and India shows a strong interest in the Pacific Islands Forum from its Asian neighbours.

11:08am: Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, is already in Cook Islands ahead of the start of the Forum. He's told ABC News 24 he's been discussing the region's complex issues:

09:34am: The US State Department has confirmed the itinerary for Hillary Clinton's regional visit, which will take in the post-Forum dialogue in the Cook Islands on August 31:

"Her visit will emphasize the depth and breadth of American engagement across economic, people to people, strategic, environmental, and security interests.

"The visit also represents a concerted effort to strengthen regional multilateral institutions, develop bilateral partnerships, and build on alliances – three core elements of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific.

"She will lead the highest-level U.S. interagency delegation in the 41-year history of the Forum with senior officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Interior."

Mrs Clinton will also visit Indonesia, China, East Timor, Brunei, and Russia.

08:04am: Julia Gillard is flying to Cook Islands to join other Pacific Island leaders for discussions on trade, climate change and ocean protection at the Forum.

Here's where the leaders will be staying at a resort on the western side of Rarotonga:

06:35am: Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, says she will brief Pacific leaders on Australia's Seasonal Work Program at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Eight Forum countries are now eligible to send workers to Australia under the program, which has been made permanent and is offering many more places than before.

East Timor is the only non-Pacific Islands Forum country in the program.

East Timor's Canberra-based Labour and Education Attache, Ismenio Martins da Silva, told Radio Australia East Timor is keen to see its workers playing a bigger role.

"There are about four areas that have recently been announced I think horticulture is one of the biggest potential ones, then you have agriculture and of course with agriculture it's all integrated and sugar and cane and cotton of course that's one of the areas that also we've been looking for, our workers can work in any type of sectors."

Tuesday August 28

05:00pm: PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill tells Australia Network News a deal has been done for Australia to use Manus Island as an asylum seekers processing centre and there's no need for anymore written agreements.

1:28pm: Some analysts are saying Hillary Clinton's visit to the Pacific Islands Forum is a bid to try to limit China's influence in the region.

Annmaree O'Keeffe from the Lowy Institute has told RN Drive Ms Clinton's visit is part of a push to increase US engagement in the Pacific, in response to increased engagement from China.

But she also says the Pacific nations have a lot to gain from increased involvement by the two economic superpowers.

Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, says the US has a lot to offer the region.

"I don't see it as blunt as countering China, but I do see it as America repositioning."

Mr Marles says Australia also welcomes Chinese development assistance in the Pacific.

12:04pm: Local Cook Islands journalist Ulamila Kurai Wragg has been speaking with Radio Australia's Pacific Beat about preparations for the Forum, including the gender initiative being pushed by Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton to get more women in Pacific parliaments.

10:48am: Many of the forum's sub-groups have been holding talks ahead of the official opening of the forum.

The Polynesian sub-group says it is hoping to welcome indigenous people of New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island into the fold.

9:50am: Which countries make up the Pacific Islands Forum? Here's a map of the 15 member states:

9:30am: The big name guest at this year's forum is US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ahead of the forum, Australia Network's Pacific Correspondent Sean Dorney looked at the growing role and rivalry for the United States and China in the Pacific: