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Schatz, Murkowski, Bera, Young Introduce Bill To Elevate All Of Oceania In U.S. Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Bill Would Provide Robust Diplomatic and Development Commitment to Strengthen Economic Growth and Resilience of the Entire Region

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Representatives Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced the Honoring Our Commitment to Elevate America’s Neighbor Islands and Allies Act, or Honoring OCEANIA Act. The bipartisan bill would elevate all of Oceania in U.S. foreign policymaking to help deliver a robust diplomatic and development commitment to support the long-term growth, governance, and resilience needs of the region. 

“We have deep cultural, historical, and familial ties to Oceania grounded in our shared commitment to democratic progress, protecting marine resources, and combating the global climate crisis,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Our bill firms up our foreign policy commitment to Oceania by ensuring that we are aligning all the tools of U.S. diplomacy to strengthen people-to-people ties and support the economic needs and long-term resilience goals of our allies and partners in the region.” 

“During my time as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee I was fortunate to travel throughout Oceania where I developed a greater understanding of the U.S.-Oceania relationship—one that we often overlook and take for granted. Rather than being a reliable ally and devoting resources to promote sustainability in the region, the United States has counted on other nations to fill the gaps. My experience working in the Arctic has taught me that it takes a commitment and dedication to account for people and places far from the U.S. mainland,” said Senator Murkowski. “America’s current policies are not robust enough to support the complex and increasing security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. We know the Chinese are eager to assert influence in this region, making it imperative for us to give this the attention it deserves. Among many provisions, the Honoring OCEANIA Act calls for a broader diplomatic and development commitment to Oceania and strengthens traditional maritime security programs developed by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. The bill also provides significant targeted assistance in areas such as disaster risk reduction, maritime security, and other sustainable development goals.”

“The Indo-Pacific is the most consequential region for U.S. security and prosperity in the 21st century. That means we must look to expand our engagement in the region beyond our core presence, to include all possible allies and partners. The United States shares deep cultural, historical, and people-to-people ties with countries of the Oceania region that are rooted in our shared interests and values,” said Representative Bera. “I am proud to reinforce those strategically significant partnerships by joining Senators Schatz, Murkowski, and Rep. Young in introducing the bicameral and bipartisan Honoring OCEANIA Act. This legislation will help strengthen U.S. national security and economic engagement in the Oceania region, including working with our allies and partners on areas such as maritime security, environmental protection, and disaster preparedness. It is a national security imperative that we build out robust partnerships with our partners in the region.”

“In more ways than one would expect, Alaska and Oceania share many important ties,” said Representative Young, Co-Chair of the Pacific Islands Caucus. “As our culture and economy become more intertwined, we must work together to maintain peace and stability. I am proud to help introduce this legislation, which will elevate Oceania in foreign policymaking to the level our allies in the region deserve. In the years ahead, I will continue working to strengthen our bonds with Oceania, in addition to further supporting our shared economic, environmental, and national security goals.”

The Honoring OCEANIA Act would:

  • Elevate all of Oceania in U.S. national security and economic policy decisions to ensure the United States is working with allies to address region issues, such as maritime security, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, environmental protection, and disaster preparedness;
  • Require the secretary of State and the USAID administrator to include all independent least developed and developing countries of Oceania in existing strategic planning and multi-sector program evaluation processes so that the United States aligns its foreign assistance mission in Oceania to advance the needs of the region;
  • Require the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to produce a strategy for increasing development finance assistance to Oceania countries wherever there is appropriate capacity to absorb private financing;
  • Require the secretary of State to establish a program to strengthen the disaster risk reduction and resilience of Oceania countries that would build national first responder  capacity and develop early-warning systems that can reach all communities vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters;
  • Require the secretary of State, in collaboration with other agencies, to develop a program to inform the needs assessments and planning of Oceania countries to protect critical infrastructure against climate threats and other hazards;
  • Require the secretaries of State and Health and Human Services to establish a program to provide funding and other expertise that will help build public health capacity and improve access to care and local health outcomes;
  • Establish an Oceania Restoration and Hazards Removal Program at the Department of State that would support the surveying, isolation, and clearing of buried, abandoned, and unexploded ordinances from WWII and submerged vessels that pose a risk to the marine environment;
  • Establish a program to provide technical and financial assistance to civil society organizations and governments to address corruption in Oceania; and
  • Direct the secretaries of State, with other agency heads, to work together to use the Global Magnitsky Act to identify and sanction foreign individuals engaged in corrupt practices in Oceania that threaten economic and democratic progress.