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Research Report


Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2006
Pages: 32

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
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  4. (pp. i-ii)
  5. (pp. 1-3)

    The Pacific Island region (also known as Oceania) is an area of extraordinary cultural, social, and political diversity. Its 28 island states and territories, comprising thousands of individual islands, reach over 30 million square kilometers, of which 98% is ocean. National populations range from over 5 million (for Papua New Guinea) to around 1,000 (for Niue) with a very approximate total of 8 million for the region, or 10 million if West Papua (or Irian Jaya, a province of Indonesia) is included.¹

    The region’s geography varies from tiny coral atolls to mountainous land masses. Together, the ocean and the extremely...

  6. (pp. 3-6)

    As a recent analysis of security and peace-building in the Asia-Pacific noted,⁶ violent conflict is not the norm for Pacific Island states. Nevertheless, there have been a number of serious internal crises in the region over the past 25 years, reflecting the fact that the region’s security challenges are internal rather than interstate. Regional security challenges are not purely endogenous but occur within and flow from a context of international exchange: the Pacific Island states and economies are small developing entities grappling with the demands and structural inequities of globalization, and working with the very mixed effects of decolonization, which...

  7. (pp. 6-13)

    One of the characteristics of emerging states is the unstable relationship between the institutions of the state and society. While the transfer of liberal institutions has met with varying degrees of success across the region, these institutions often lack roots in the patterns of legitimacy and authority that have weight in grassroots communities. As in some other postcolonial regions, many small, localized and highly diverse communities with their own semi-traditional governance mechanisms organised around clan or language based patterns of loyalty, now sit within the structures and institutions of the contemporary state and the dynamics of globalized markets. The institutions...

  8. (pp. 13-18)

    Economic strength or vulnerability is linked to security at many levels. Questions of economic fragility, the basic sustainability of small island economies, financial mismanagement, and poor economic growth rates coupled with high population growth have fuelled concerns about regional security in donor governments. With some exceptions, since the late 1980s the region has experienced a lengthy downturn in economic growth, although there are signs that this may be changing for PNG, one of the shakiest performers over the past decade and the biggest economy among the independent states.

    In discussions of Oceania’s economic health and its implications for security, however,...

  9. (pp. 18-22)

    'Bad neighbourhoods’ – regions where embedded violence can spill out or generate conflict in neighbouring states – are one of the factors associated with patterns of conflict becoming regionally entrenched and widespread. Reference to Melanesia as forming part of an ‘arc of instability’ could suggest that the region falls into that category. Weakness in the formal economic sector, crises of governance, inter-communal conflict and severe law and order problems in some areas, even government failure and what appears to be a persistent leadership crisis as in the Solomons, are serious problems in themselves, but have not come together as transnational....

  10. (pp. 22-25)

    Pacific Island states face serious challenges and dilemmas, as a series of crises in the region indicate. This study suggests, however, that discussions of crises and problems in the region need to be framed by three fundamental points.

    The first point, noted by all contributors to the study, is that the region is characterized by high levels of social resilience, grounded largely in community life. Resilience and its sources are too often overlooked; yet if the focus is only on problems, there is a danger of overlooking potential sources of creative response or capacities for endurance. When situations are misread...

  11. (pp. 26-26)