Time to bring Fiji in from the cold

LAST month a new regional organisation was born. It arrived with little fanfare, but it may very well reshape the architecture of co-operation in the South Pacific.

In early November a Fijian government press release quietly announced the creation of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. It replaces the Engaging with the Pacific process that was set up following Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum to maintain close co-operation between island states.

What’s in a name? The one word difference between the PIDF and PIF is extremely significant. It signals that the agenda of the new organisation will be firmly on Pacific island development issues, including the impact of climate change. This sharply distinguishes it from the PIF, which many regional states argue has increasingly taken on a security-dominated agenda focussed on the interests of the metropolitan powers, Australia and New Zealand.

The Pacific is deeply concerned with security, but the lens through which they look at these issues is more likely a human security than national security perspective. This is how an issue such as climate change is viewed, and the fact that the PIF has been singularly incapable of living up to regional expectations in this regard is telling. Furthermore, the most significant challenges are economic. They relate to sustainable growth and development in areas such as fisheries, agriculture, forestry and mining.

The proposed membership of the PIDF highlights the shifting Pacific seascape. The island states of the Pacific and the dependent territories of external powers are invited to attend.

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Article written by Michael O’Keefe for The Australian.

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