Ms Richelle Turner, Australian Ambassador to Palau Op-ed
Australia: A steadfast partner and friend to Palau
04 MAY 2022
Australia is proud to have opened the doors to our new Embassy in Koror in 2019. Our increased presence builds on decades of cooperation on issues that matter to us both.
It means we can work together on our common values as democratic countries committed to peace and prosperity in the region.
The relationship between Australia and Palau is strong. Underpinned by our understanding the Blue Pacific is a shared home and common region.
Through joint membership of multilateral fora, we are working closely to advance the interests of the Pacific and Small Island, Large Ocean States through efforts to combat climate change, advance human rights and promote international security.
Australia is a steadfast and committed development partner for Palau. We understand that social and economic challenges are not solved by transactional or short-term support in the Pacific, and that COVID-19 has only enhanced barriers.
Recognising the unique COVID-19 context, and at Palau’s request, Australia led advocacy to defer Palau’s graduation from official development assistance (ODA) in 2020. As a result, Palau continued to receive grant funding from development partners during a difficult economic period until 1 January this year.
Working in partnership with Palau, Japan and the United States, Australia is providing funding for Palau’s second fibre optic cable. The Palau Cable 2 spur project provides redundancy and resilience in support of Palau’s economic development aspirations and online options for virtual health, education and other government services into the future. This can be transformational in so many areas.
Indeed, Australia is collaborating with Palau’s Ministry of Health and Human Services to transition to a digital health system which will provide real time visibility to disease surveillance, commodity tracking and support clinical and administrative decision making.
Australia is also working closely with the Pacific on issues of key concern, including climate change. In Palau, Australia is providing financial support through a private public partnership with Solar Pacific for one of Palau’s landmark renewable energy projects. The Palau Solar project will comprise a solar voltaic facility and battery energy storage system in Ngatpang. The project is a central component of Palau’s efforts to replace diesel energy generation with renewables and will supply up to 20 per cent of Palau’s energy needs.
We share strong interests in protecting our oceans and deepening cooperation under Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. Palauan authorities continue to benefit from technical advice and training provided by Australia. The new Australian-built Guardian-class Patrol Boat PSS Remeliik II started patrolling Palau’s EEZ from December 2020, building on over 24 years of Australian supported maritime surveillance efforts and enhancing Palau’s capacity to secure its maritime boundaries. Australia’s AUD2 billion commitment to the Pacific over 30 years has already seen enhanced aerial surveillance of fishing operations within Palau’s maritime borders.
Most recently, Australia enabled participation of 60 representatives from ten Pacific Island countries and eight Pacific regional organisations to participate in Our Ocean Conference in Koror. The Australian-sponsored charter flight from Brisbane, Australia to Koror enabled Pacific participants to attend and advocate in-person for important outcomes and initiatives for the region. Australia congratulates Palau on a successful, highly representative conference, with important outcomes from both Pacific regional and oceans and climate perspectives. It was great to be able to support so many from the Pacific family coming together to address our shared challenges.
We will continue our bilateral and regional work and cooperation in priority sectors for Palau, including in health, security, renewable energy, tax reform, emergency response, and scholarships. Australia’s support will also ensure Palau continues to benefit from regional initiatives, such as Pacific Women Lead, and regional support for maritime security and fisheries.
We are a steadfast partner for Palau. We share a commitment to the region and to each other.
For further information, please call the Australian Embassy, Palau on 488-4628 or send an email to [email protected].