Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will

49th Pacific Islands Forum Logo

49th Pacific Islands Forum Logo

The future of the Pacific will be determined by its people. Greater Pacific regionalism provides Pacific Island countries with the opportunity to chart their own path to sustainable development. This sentiment is captured in the theme of the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, “Building a Strong Pacific: Our People, Our Islands, Our Will.”

It is widely recognized that the people living in Pacific Island countries face a unique set of challenges in their pursuit of a better life. Some are inherent in the geophysical nature of the islands they inhabit, such as small land mass, limited natural resources, geographic isolation, and vulnerability to natural disasters. Others challenges are a product of the global economic system, which was not designed with Pacific Island Countries in mind. Our small populations and production base do not yield the economies of scale sought by private investors. Volatility in commodity markets can have outsized impacts on our fiscal planning. And the negative externalities of consumption-based economic growth are undermining the health of our oceans and the safety of our climate.

These factors have profound impacts on the safety and well-being of the people living in Pacific Islands Countries. This is reflected in the weak performance across the region with regard to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Only two countries achieved all of the eight MDGs, and the majority of Pacific Islands countries achieved less than half.

To respond to these challenges, Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to deepening Pacific regionalism in their 2014 Forum Leaders’ Statement, which became the foundation for a new Framework for Pacific Regionalism. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat recently released their 2017 report on the State of Pacific Regionalism, which highlights a number of current trends, issues, and opportunities that may have important implications for the region:

  • Shifts in global power and globalisation,
  • Rising inequality,
  • Changing multilateral relations,
  • An increasingly crowded and complex region,
  • Depletion of natural resources,
  • Regional and global conflict, and
  • Ongoing advances in technology.

The report opined that, “The context of growing political, economic and environmental uncertainty created by these trends is likely to further exacerbate the vulnerabilities and dependencies the region currently experiences.”

Conventional development strategies borrowed from other parts of the world have not delivered for the people of the Pacific. In the words of the Pacific Plan Review 2013, building a strong, sustainable, and secure Pacific will require ‘transformational adjustments’ that leverage the benefits of greater regionalism to navigate a challenging and changing world.

The 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting (3-6 September 2018) will advance the project of building a strong Pacific through enhanced regionalism in areas such as regional peace and security, public health and safety, economic security, and environmental security.

by the Government of Nauru.

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