1. The 50th Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP) Annual Conference, hosted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), was held in Queensland, Australia. Police Chiefs, Commissioners, and delegated representatives (herein after referred to as ‘the PICP’ or ‘the Chiefs’) from 19 out of 22 member countries were in attendance.
2. The conference commenced with an opening ceremony led by Shannon Ruska of Tribal Experiences, representing the Kombumerri People, the traditional owners of the land of the Gold Coast where the Conference was held.
3. Approximately 80 observers were in attendance representing a broad range of bilateral, regional, and international partners, including keynote speaker Mr Guillermo Galarza, Vice President of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC). ICMEC is a Non-Governmental Organisation that fights against child sexual exploitation and abuse, and searches for missing children in the world.
4. The conference theme “Cybercrime: Countering Child Exploitation” provided the PICP with the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, hear from partners regarding their experiences, tools, and approaches for combatting cybercrime and child exploitation, and deliberate on how to further strengthen current efforts to ensure a safer, and more secure, Blue Pacific.
5. The Chiefs noted a presentation delivered by PICP Womens Advisory Network (WAN) Chair, Chief Inspector Sokopeti Faletau of Tonga Police. The Chiefs reconfirmed their support for the WAN, and the importance of providing an environment that supports and promotes women in policing. Chiefs acknowledged the support received from the AFP and the Pacific Community (SPC) to deliver WAN activities, including the upcoming review of the WAN Strategic Direction, the development of an Action Plan to reflect future activities, and the importance of data collection to support the work of the WAN. The Chiefs further committed to maximising the ability of the WAN, and women in policing, to influence change.
6. Opening remarks by keynote speaker Mr Galarza emphasised that the escalating prevalence of online child exploitation is an issue of grave concern on a global scale. The PICP reinforced the need to bolster Pacific capabilities to address and combat these crimes as a priority. Mr Galarza also commended the PICP Secretariat’s intent to engage industry and that this type of offending requires a wholistic approach.
7. The PICP endorsed collaboration with ICMEC to combat cyber enabled child exploitation in the Pacific. As part of this, the PICP endorsed ICMEC, subject to funding, to undertake a Multisectoral Response and Capacity Assessment (MRCA) on Child Exploitation to enable the PICP to assess and augment individual, and collective response efforts. Moreover, the PICP and ICMEC committed to collaborate on developing a tailored training regimen to meet those identified needs.
8. The PICP commended its partners for assisting the PICP as it embarks on this vital mission, and thanked guest presenters - the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, AFP, Pacific Island Law Officers Network (PILON), United States Federal Bureau of Investigations and Department of Homeland Security, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and United Kingdom National Crime Agency - for sharing information and approaches for combating cybercrime and child exploitation.
9. In conjunction with the MRCA, the PICP encouraged partners to assist with specialised training focused on conducting comprehensive child abuse investigations, spanning both the digital and physical domains.
10. Noting that gaps in legislation may hamper the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of child exploitation, the PICP endorsed the requirement for model legislation throughout the Pacific to combat child exploitation and is committed to working in partnership with PILON to achieve this.
11. The PICP reconfirmed cybercrime as a key priority and demonstrated their commitment to a regional response through the signing of the renewed Declaration of Partnership for Cyber Safety Pasifika (CSP). CSP is the PICP mandated and preferred regional provider for cybercrime investigations training and awareness and education. CSP initiatives are tailored to be fit for purpose and contextualised for each Pacific country, and activities are delivered through partnerships with subject matter experts across law enforcement, government, NGOs, and industry.
12. The PICP welcomed the launch of the virtual CSP Online Training Library, with training modules available for participants to complement existing face-to-face training.
13. The PICP reaffirmed the importance of United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission deployments and expressed a desire for regional solutions to be progressed to overcome challenges to participation in UN Mission deployments.
14. The PICP welcomed INTERPOL’s commitment to supporting the Pacific region, and noted the update provided on Project Blue Pacific, which will seek to strengthen current engagement, capacity, and capabilities in PICP’s INTERPOL member countries through training and cooperation. The Project is scheduled to commence delivery by late 2023.
15. The PICP endorsed the United States Department of Defence Joint Interagency Task Force West to work with the Pacific Transnational Crime Network to develop an enhanced software solution to strengthen the Network’s ability to counter transnational organised crime.
16. The PICP noted support for the AFP Pacific Police Partnership Program (AP4), noting the new Law Enforcement Cooperation Program (LECP). The LECP, and its associated capability fund aims to strengthen the capability of Pacific police through the provision of specialist policing training and equipment and will provide enhanced support through the Pacific Community for Law Enforcement Cooperation (PLCEC), the PICP’s central coordination point and primary delivery mechanism for capability development initiatives.
17. The conference reinforced the strength of regionalism in responding to multifaceted policing challenges.
18. A closed Chief’s Retreat was held prior to the conference, providing the PICP an opportunity to reflect on current and emerging priorities. Key outcomes included:
a. The PICP confirmed that the 2024 Annual Conference, to be hosted by Chair of PICP, Tonga Police, will focus on “Our Blue Pacific on the Global Stage”. The 2025 Annual Conference will be hosted by current Deputy Chair, the Vanuatu Police Force.
b. The PICP noted the development of the Regional Transnational Organised Crime Strategy, a key implementation strategy of the Peace and Security thematic area, for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Chiefs emphasised the importance of law enforcement agencies being included in the development of regional strategies, frameworks, and implementation plans associated with peace and security at the national level. The PICP agreed to provide feedback, including aspirational statements, to guide the finalisation of the strategy.
c. The PICP welcomed an independent review of the PICP will be commencing in September 2023, to determine the future status of PICP, thereby ensuring it remains fit for purpose and well positioned in the current environment to support its members. The review will consider the structure, governance, resourcing, and activities of PICP, with a final report due by February 2024 to the PICP Executive Leadership Team.
d. The PICP supported the proposal raised to develop a membership structure that allows PICP to work closely with partners (bilateral, regional, and international) who have significant cooperation, engagement, and interest in the PICP.
19. The PICP thanked the AFP and PICP Secretariat for organising and hosting the 50th Annual Conference and associated meetings.
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