Fact Sheet: U.S. Engagement in the Pacific

The Pacific islands are steadfast friends and neighbors of the United States, and positive relations with the Pacific region are an enduring U.S. foreign policy priority. The United States shares the values and aspirations of its Pacific neighbors, and its ties to the Pacific island countries are deep and long-standing. Counselor to the President John Podesta’s attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) demonstrates continued U.S. commitment to the Pacific islands region and to issues that are of utmost importance to the Pacific islands and the United States, including oceans, climate change, renewable energy, economic growth, sustainable development, education, health, and environmental conservation. The U.S. delegation will include senior officials from the National Security Council, United States Pacific Command, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of State, Department of the Interior, U.S. Peace Corps, USAID, and the State of Hawaii. In addition to attending the PFD, Counselor Podesta will conduct consultations on bilateral and regional issues with heads of state of the Pacific Islands Forum members and other senior foreign officials.

The United States remains intently focused on the Pacific region and is increasing and better focusing its foreign assistance. At last year’s Pacific Islands Forum, the United States announced several, multi-year programs, such as the Pacific American Climate Fund and Disaster Preparedness for Effective Response (PREPARE). These programs are now in operation and will continue improving lives around the Pacific in the years to come. In June, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” Conference with considerable participation and support from the Pacific region. During the conference, the United States further committed to the protection of the ocean, a life force for the Pacific community, by announcing its intent to expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and highlighting programs that will address the challenges of ocean acidification and marine pollution. Strong U.S engagement in the Pacific will continue with a delegation to the upcoming UN Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa. The United States is dedicated to its partnerships in the Pacific region, which will continue to grow in years to come.

“Our Ocean” Conference

At the June 16-17 “Our Ocean” Conference, Secretary Kerry outlined an Action Plan of aspirational policy goals and targets aimed at addressing the challenges facing the world’s ocean and maintaining the momentum created by the conference. The Action Plan seeks to end overfishing in the ocean by 2020; prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; reduce nutrient pollution and marine debris; stem the increase in ocean acidification; and develop worldwide capability to monitor ocean acidification, create more marine protected areas, and protect coastal ecosystems.

In the coming months, the Department of State will work to advance the Action Plan through bilateral engagements with foreign governments and participation in key international meetings, including the Pacific Islands Forum (July 29-August 1), the APEC Ocean-related Ministerial (August 27-28), the Small Island Developing States Conference (September 1-4), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme meeting (September 30-October 2), and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Goals process. The Obama Administration will also begin planning to expand protections for ocean habitats under U.S. jurisdiction in the Pacific and to deter illegal fishing through a new national program that will address seafood fraud and prevent illegally caught fish from entering the U.S. marketplace.

Climate Change

Since the 2010 PIF, the U.S. has announced nearly $60 million in multi-year (FY10-18) programs to help Pacific islands adapt to climate change. These programs include:

The Pacific American Climate Fund, announced at last year’s PIF, is a $24 million USAID program focused on providing grants to civil society organizations to support communities in twelve Pacific countries. The program will help achieve sustainable, climate-resilient development at the community level and will reduce long-term vulnerabilities associated with climate change. The grants will support climate resilience projects that also provide “co-benefits” or solutions to other development challenges, such as livelihood enhancement, improved health, food security, water availability, ecosystem conservation and better governance.  The United States is pleased that the first tranche of grantees will be announced in the upcoming months.

The Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP) is a USAID $25 million project that is already building the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities in the Pacific to withstand extreme weather events, such as cyclones and ecosystem degradation in the short-term, and sea level rise in the long-term. The project was announced at the PIF in 2012 and assists communities in adapting infrastructure, building capacity for disaster preparedness, and integrating climate resilient policies into long-term land use plans and building standards.

The U.S. has also provided support to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to strengthen the climate resilience of terrestrial food production systems in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu; and support to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to improve the resilience of water resources in Kiribati, and to promote ecosystem based adaptation in the Solomon Islands.

Support to SIDS

To support the government of Samoa in hosting the SIDS Conference, the U.S. Army Reserves is sending a team of 25 medical personnel from August 23 to September 5 to Samoa through and in coordination with the Samoa Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Health Service (NHS). This team will augment NHS capabilities throughout the SIDS conference. Team members will be paired with local medical personnel at the main hospital and three district hospitals to enable NHS to meet the spike in demand for medical services without sacrificing regular care to the national populace, as well as assist in any complexities that may arise during the conference. The team will also conduct pre-conference trainings with Samoa Red Cross and Subject Matter Expert Exchanges with local medical professionals throughout the mission. The United States has also provided an airport screening X-ray machine to the Samoa Airport Authority that will enhance security for both the SIDS conference and general use in the future.

The United States will provide a $55,000 grant to SPREP to support waste management preparations in Samoa in advance of the SIDS conference. SPREP is working with the Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to conduct waste management audits of SIDS facilities and develop and implement action plans. These funds and efforts are directed toward management of waste that would help prevent marine debris and discharges of wastewater into coastal waters, which also support Secretary Kerry’s policy priority to address marine pollution.

The United States and the Government of New Zealand will co-host a workshop for SIDS participants on Ocean Acidification, August 28-29 in Apia, Samoa. This workshop will examine the challenges SIDS face in monitoring and adapting to ocean acidification, explore options for local, regional and international action, and support Secretary Kerry’s policy priority to address ocean acidification.

Economic Development

The United States will partner with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat to host a trade-related capacity building workshop, which aims to expand trade between the United States and Pacific islands countries (PICs). The workshop will be facilitated by internationally renowned trade experts and U.S. government officials who will share their expertise on U.S. trade policy, law, and regulations. The workshop will stimulate discussion and build capacity among PIC government officials, the private sector, and key Pacific regional organizations to enhance the ability of PIC exporters to take advantage of existing market access opportunities, both in the United States and globally, while highlighting key constraints that may need to be addressed by the United States as well as PIC governments.

Environmental Stewardship

The Pacific islands region is one of the world’s richest geographic regions, with a high degree of ecosystem and species diversity. The United States continues to collaborate with Pacific countries to protect the region’s unique natural resources, and is a key supporter of SPREP, the primary multilateral organization focused on environmental issues in the region.

The U.S. Regional Environmental Office (REO) in Suva provides funding for environmental projects around the Pacific region. This year’s REO funding supports coral reef monitoring and ecosystem-based management in Kosrae, the Federated States of Micronesia; water projects in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Fiji; monitoring of Hawksbill Sea Turtles in Palau; and management of the invasive green iguana in Fiji. The United States will also provide $50,000 to SPREP for an ongoing project aimed at reducing land based sources of marine pollution.

The Department of State is supporting the Belau National Museum in Palau to increase the capacity of each terrestrial Protected Area Network site. The project will hold a series of seminars and workshops that will develop educational materials, conduct on-site and field identification of native and invasive species, and demonstrate monitoring methodologies and fire prevention.


Seventy-five percent of Pacific islanders die from non-communicable diseases, a rate much higher than the global mortality rate of 63 percent. In addition, traditional threats such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and injuries also take a high toll. The United States continues to work with its partners in the Pacific to address health-related issues through a variety of development, outreach, and educational programs.

In Papua New Guinea, where HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest in the Pacific, USAID provides technical assistance to build local capacity in HIV prevention, care, and treatment for most-at-risk populations.

The Department of State is supporting a Fulbright U.S. Student starting in September who will focus on issues related to the environment and health. This graduate student will work with the Centre for Drug Discovery and Conservation at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji to investigate biologically-active, natural products that have potential medicinal uses. The research will involve collecting samples from coral reefs to isolate chemicals to use in fighting diseases that affect the South Pacific island nations.

In addition, a Fulbright Specialist with expertise in mental health and social work will help build mental health capacity in Fiji from July to August. The Specialist will provide a two-week, intensive training course aimed at those working in community mental health. Among many topics, the course will discuss psychosocial rehabilitation, self and individual advocacy, mental health, alcohol and other drug use, and survivor-centered and family inclusive care.

To promote healthy lifestyles for Pacific youth, Embassies Suva and Apia held educational programs with U.S. Olympians and NFL players of Samoan descent. The Sports Envoy Program in Fiji brought two U.S. Olympic athletes to work with student athletes in Suva in April.  The Olympians held coaching clinics for both disabled and able-bodied athletes and coaches, gave presentations at schools, and participated at the largest secondary school track and field event in the Pacific. During the NFL Players Tour 2014, NFL players of Samoan descent spent a week in Samoa in April holding football clinics and promoting non-communicable disease awareness throughout the country. The program directly reached over 1,000 school-aged children.

Embassy Majuro also funds and manages programs that promote health and healthy life-styles. The activities in 2014 included support for the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ first triathlon, school and personal garden programs, a physical fitness track, and sports diplomacy visits from an NBA basketball coach in January, which engaged school-aged children in two urban centers in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Embassy Kolonia funded a program in Chuuk dedicated to youth sports programing. This program brought an Olympic level coach to Chuuk for three months of wrestling workshops and youth programming from February to May.


Foreign Fulbright Student Program – This year the Department of State is supporting five Fulbright graduate students from the South Pacific including one from Samoa who is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

Rise UP Creative Arts – This art entrepreneur program brought Artists Jesse Roberts and Jason Grahame to work with the Fiji Arts Council to conduct creative arts workshops in Fiji, April 22- May 1. Jesse Roberts and Aisea Tamani will next travel to Tuvalu and Tonga in October for similar workshops with students and local arts communities.

Yap Students to Attend College Prep School – The Yap Catholic High School received assistance for two girls from their rising senior class to attend the Summer Scholars Program at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Peace Corps Response Volunteers – Peace Corps Response Volunteers are experienced professionals who bring specific skill sets to provide ground level training and programming assistance in short term, high impact assignments. A new group of Response Volunteers arrived in Pohnpei and Yap in June, with more volunteers scheduled to arrive in August to assist the Department of Education with accreditation issues.

Reader sets – The United States granted 90 Dragonfly Reader sets to the Samoa Ministry of Education Sports and Culture that will be utilized at primary schools.

Social Media Workshops – A program project entitled “Digital Journalism Training in Fiji” brought together mainstream media journalists and journalism students from Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu in June to explore the best ways to engage audiences through digital journalism. Workshop facilitator Mathilde Piard also worked directly with media organizations to provide direct guidance on how to expand their digital outreach.

Fulbright Clinton Fellowship – Two Fulbright Clinton Fellows will serve for ten months with the Samoan government starting in September, one with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the other with the Office of the Ombudsman.

U.S.-South Pacific Scholarship Program – The Department of State sponsors the U.S.-South Pacific Scholarship Program, administered through the East-West Center, which supports degree study in the United States for undergraduate and graduate students from sovereign island nations of the Pacific, in fields that contribute to regional development. Four students from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu, will begin their studies in the United States this fall.

EducationUSA – The Department of State also supports EducationUSAadvising centers, which have provided information on U.S. higher education to students from the Pacific islands – Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa. Since the 1970s, the EducationUSA network has provided equipment, training, and support for outreach travel for advisers to reach prospective students on distant islands.

Peace and Security

The U.S. Department of State has provided assistance for the removal of World War II-era unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other legacies of war through conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in the Pacific since 2009. In 2012 at the PIF PFD, then-Secretary Clinton announced an additional $3.5 million commitment to UXO clearance in the Pacific over the coming years. The Department of State provided $1.3 million in Fiscal Year 2013 funding for CWD programs. Pending the availability of funds, the Department of State will provide $1.89 million in fiscal year 2014 funding. This increase will support existing CWD programs in the Republic of Palau and the Solomon Islands, as well as future UXO removal activities through continued contamination research, clearance, and indigenous capacity-building assistance.

Women’s Empowerment

Smart Economics: Getting Women into Business – The one-year Smart Economics pilot project began in October 2013 as a public-private partnership between the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby (with a State Department Innovation Fund grant) and ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea.  The project provides basic business skills to survivors of gender-based violence. At the end of the training, participants also receive a mobile phone and 100 PNG Kina worth of cell phone refill cards to start selling and earning money.  The implementing partner, Population Services International, will train 200 women in Port Moresby by the end of the project in September. Thanks to the State Department’s Full Participation Funding, the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby will be able to extend the project beyond its pilot phase through September 2015 to train at least 200 more women. Embassy Port Moresby is actively seeking additional funds to double the number of beneficiaries to 400 women, expanding to at least three additional cities, adding three additional days to the training to help women create business plans, holding a quarterly business plan competition with seed money as a prize, assisting women in opening bank accounts, and providing longer-term technical support and monitoring of their progress.

Young Women Start Businesses, Save the Planet – This project encourages “green” entrepreneurship among young women in Papua New Guinea. Ten female university students will take an online entrepreneurship course facilitated by a U.S. government exchange program alumnus, develop business ideas that address marine pollution, and compete in a business plan contest to receive one week of one-on-one coaching from a U.S. startup expert at the American Corner in Port Moresby.

Social TV: Digital Messages with a Mission to Fight Gender-Based Violence and HIV/AIDS – Central Giants is a new, eight-part television drama series that promises to deliver compelling and entertaining television while exploring some of the most pressing social and health concerns facing Papua New Guinea today. Embassy Koror will use this opportunity to communicate key messages on gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS through a digital messaging campaign launched alongside the television broadcast

The Vanuatu Way — A Local Model to Address Gender-Based Violence – Peace Corps volunteers in Vanuatu teamed up with the local NGO Youth Challenge Vanuatu and the U.S. Embassy to organize an intensive three-day workshop in June to equip local leaders with knowledge and adaptable tools to prevent gender-based violence. Twenty-five participants and facilitators from across Vanuatu gathered in Port Vila to take part in this first-ever training of trainers. Through interactive sessions, participants discovered strategies for addressing gender-based violence and for encouraging healthy relationships within their families and communities. Teams were composed of a young Vanuatu community leader and a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who lives in the same village. Participants learned about the origins and cycle of violence, but most importantly they developed a local plan to foster change in their respective communities. The workshop provided a toolkit to support individual village-level initiatives, including monitoring instruments.

Full Participation Small Grants for Women’s Empowerment – Through funding from the Department of State’s Full Participation Fund, the Small Grants Program for Women’s Empowerment seeks to increase community-based organizations’ capacity to improve the welfare of women and girls in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands. More specifically, the grants program aims to: help women’s organizations build leadership, organizational, and advocacy capacity so that they can increase their participation in building democratic development; provide economic empowerment and support to women entrepreneurs through financial literacy, training, and networking opportunities so that they may play a key role in their communities; improve the health of women and girls through increased awareness and information dissemination; engage men and boys in the prevention of gender-based violence; and increase women’s and girls’ awareness of their rights to promote gender equality in local communities.

Gender and Law: A Global Introduction Course – This grant supported a collaborative three-day Gender and Law program with the University of the South Pacific in June. Former Fulbright Specialist Kristine Herman engaged 25 law students from the Pacific region encouraging them to incorporate gender issues into law and policy development.

Cultural Preservation

This year, the Department of State awarded three new grants for projects to preserve cultural heritage in the Pacific Islands through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).  The grants will support the preservation of traditional maritime navigation in the Marshall Islands, the conservation of the ancient Mangyol Cultural Site in Makiy Village in Micronesia, and the preservation of ethnic Malagan wood carving traditions on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Since 2001, the State Department has awarded more than $600,000 in support of cultural heritage preservation projects in Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and other Pacific Island nations.

Compact Assistance

The Compact of Free Association with the Freely Associated States (FAS) of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, grew out of the United States’ post-WWII UN Trustee relationship. Under this special relationship, the United States is responsible for the defense of the FAS; in return, the United States has extensive rights to operate in FAS territories and deny access by other militaries. FAS citizens may live and work in the United States without a visa and they serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, at rates higher than any single U.S. state. FAS governments consistently vote with the United States on key issues at the United Nations and in other multilateral fora. The FAS receive combined U.S. assistance of over $200 million annually, both direct grants and annual deposits into national trust funds. Compact grants administered and monitored by the Department of the Interior focus on six priority sectors, with an emphasis on education, health and public infrastructure.