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Over the past year and a half, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) faced the greatest crisis of its 50-year history. In February 2021, five members of the Micronesian President’s Summit (MPS) — Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Nauru, Marshall Islands and Kiribati — indicated their intention to withdraw from PIF.

However, this exit was deferred, after the MPS states announced they would considering retaining their membership of the Forum following their dialogue with the PIF chair and key PIF leaders.

While much of the negotiations and debate have occurred behind closed doors, it’s important to consider how events have developed since the initial split, and what they imply about the future of PIF.

The withdrawal of the MPS states occurred after their candidate was unsuccessful in securing the position of PIF secretary general. For Micronesia, the loss confirmed their suspicion that their sub-region is being sidelined by PIF.

Australia was blamed for the loss, and it was speculated at the time that such a defeat would not have happened if the United States had been a member of the organisation. In response, Palau became the first to withdraw from PIF and closed its embassy in Fiji in protest. FSM followed suit in withdrawing from the organisation, but stopped short of closing its embassy in Fiji.

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