Policy Papers - September 14, 2006
Development and Security in the Pacific Island Region
M. Anne Brown
Pacific Island states face serious challenges and dilemmas, as a series of crises in the region indicate. Across the region, countries struggle with significant problems of state capacity, including poor leadership, poor governance and weak links between state institutions and community life and values.
From the Executive Summary: However, the region is also characterized by high levels of social resilience; although this is often overlooked. State-centric responses that ignore social resilience may in fact damage it, worsening the situations states confront.
Pacific Island states could be better described as “emerging states,” rather than “failing states.” Violent conflict has not been widespread and social collapse is both rare and geographically confined.
Community life is the basis of the social cohesion and resilience in the region. The health of communities is thus central to states working well in the Pacific. To meet the challenges of rapid socio-economic change, and of still developing state-society relations, citizenship and accountability, it is of fundamental importance to engage positively with communities.
Economic development activities should be better targeted at rural economies, and focus more on small enterprises compatible with community structures and that bridge the informal exchange economy and the formal cash economy.
Regionalism is growing and could play an important role in development and security initiatives. Taking the time to talk across various levels of society about the intense changes underway across the region is important, as is the growing role of the sixteen member, intergovernmental Pacific Islands Forum in pooling regional strengths.
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