It has been a bruising couple of weeks for the Pacific Islands Forum after five Micronesian countries announced they were leaving the region’s key intergovernmental body. But rumours of its demise have been somewhat exaggerated.

We may also look back at February 2021 as a turning point in Pacific regionalism , or the processes that foster cooperation and solidarity among Pacific island countries.

With increased attention on the forum and how it works, this could prompt change for the better.

What is the Pacific Islands Forum?

The Pacific Islands Forum has 18 members, including Australia and New Zealand.

Founded in 1971, it was established by Pacific leaders who were denied a space to talk politics by the colonial powers in what was then the South Pacific Commission (now the Pacific Community).

The forum is where leaders meet as equals to address the biggest issues affecting individual nations and the Pacific as a whole, such as the response to COVID-19 and climate change.

In 2018, the leaders signed the Boe Declaration, which established climate change as the most important threat to the security of the region.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands was conducted with the backing of the forum. The collective political will of its membership also delivered the Treaty of Rarotonga, making the Pacific a nuclear-free zone.

The Pacific Islands Forum is run by a secretariat based in Suva, headed up by a secretary-general. Since 2014, that position has been held by Papua New Guinea’s Dame Meg Taylor.

Determining her successor is the spark that led to the current conflict.

Please click here to read the full ‘With five countries set to quit, is it curtains for the Pacific Islands Forum?’ article originally published at The Conversation, written by the Griffith Asia Institute’s Pacific Hub project lead Dr Tess Newton Cain.