Author: Anna Naemon, Senior Research Officer – Pacific Institute of Public Policy,Vanuatu
For decades the world has been arranging itself into regional blocs, but the Pacific remains one of the last regions to establish its own bloc.
Despite numerous regional organisations and agreements we seem to be no closer to a common understanding of what the big picture is for our Pacific future. Who can explain what the region will look like in 20, 50 or 100 years from now? Are we moving towards a Pacific Union with a single currency and open borders? What is the role of sub-regional groupings in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia?
These questions are becoming more urgent as the region sees the growing influence of sub-regional groupings, like the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and emerging Asian powers ending the status quo that has typified relations between island countries and their traditional ANZUS allies. There are questions over whether the Pacific Islands Forum, traditionally seen as the primary body for regional coordination, remains relevant.
Ben Bohane, Communications Director at the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, suggests, “without reform the Forum faces an existential crisis. It has been politically paralysed on the main challenges confronting the region: trade, climate change and the military takeover in Fiji”.
For years there’s been muted criticism of the Forum for its failure to engage with civil society and defend the interests of Pacific peoples. Why has it remained silent on a number of ongoing struggles in West Papua, Tahiti and Rapa Nui? For all the talk of regional integration, the movement of people between Forum countries remains restricted and intra-island trade limited. That the military regime in Fiji was able to convene a rival gathering of Pacific leaders, attracting representatives of the emerging Asian powers, on the eve of this year’s Forum meeting further challenged the political clout of the regional body.
The Pacific Institute of Public Policy has released its latest briefing paper – Island Dreaming – focusing on the regional integration debate. It also includes a useful Pacific regional architecture timeline from 1947 until now. The briefing paper can be found on the institutes website – pacificpolicy.org.
We have had decades of ‘big man’ politics – now we need to refine the big ideas and have island leaders articulate their vision and timeline for the Pacific community.
CLICK ON THIS LINK TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL DISCUSSION PAPER