Pacific Islands Policy

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Pacific Islands Policy examines critical issues, problems, and opportunities that are relevant to the Pacific Islands region. The series is intended to influence the policy process, affect how people understand a range of contemporary Pacific issues, and help fashion solutions. A central aim of the series is to encourage scholarly analysis of economic, political, social, and cultural issues in a manner that will advance common understanding of current challenges and policy responses.

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Now showing 1 - 9 of 9
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    Micronesians on the move : eastward and upward bound
    (Honolulu, HI: East-West Center, 2013) Hezel, Francis X.
    Is rising emigration proof of a Pacific Island nation’s failure to fulfill its economic promise and provide the jobs that its citizens seek in a modernized society? Or is it a legitimate alternative development strategy that depends on the export of surplus labor in lieu of the more conventional methods recommended by donor nations and international financial institutions? In this report, Francis X. Hezel, SJ, sheds light on these questions by reviewing the 30-year history of migration from one Pacific Island nation, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and examining the current status of its migrants. Hezel reports that although out-migration from the FSM began in small numbers in 1980, the outflow intensified when the Compact of Free Association went into effect in 1986. In return for exclusive strategic access by the United States, the Compact granted FSM citizens free entry into the United States and its territories to establish residence and work. This report traces the growth of the early Micronesian communities on Guam and Saipan, and the subsequent migration eastward to Hawai‘i and the continental United States. Today, one-third of all people born in the FSM live outside their island nation. Hezel presents the results of a groundbreaking 2012 survey of Micronesian migrants, showing that an ever-increasing segment of the migrant population is putting down roots in the US mainland. There, despite difficulties they encounter, these individuals and families are able to find more plentiful jobs, a reduced cost of living, and an environment without some of the negative stereotypes that grip fellow migrants in Guam and Hawai‘i. Hezel tracks the changes in their living conditions and shows that even if Micronesian migration continues at the same pace as in the past, it is clear that the living conditions of these FSM citizens are improving, as are their potential contributions to American society and to their friends and family back home.
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    Education in Pacific island states : reflections on the failure of 'grand remedies'
    (Honolulu, HI: East-West Center, 2013) Levine, Victor
    Victor Levine asks a fundamental question of increasing importance to a globalizing region: How can Pacific Island states provide decent public education to their children? Based on broad international experience, he examines the evidence regarding what does and does not work in public education. While the literature suggests numerous instances of declining quality in Pacific public-education systems, Levine finds some basis for optimism about what is possible. The underlying causes for generally declining standards do not point to a single factor. And additional funding is not necessarily the answer. Island countries generally spend considerably more per pupil on education and attain markedly poorer results, compared to countries in other regions with similar economic conditions. Outside support in terms of grants and personnel has not necessarily brought about the desired results. Rather than proposing a silver bullet or "grand remedy," Levine suggests several more-modest options that policymakers may want to consider for initiating educational reforms. He maintains that the teacher is the single most important factor affecting student outcomes. In the past, many of the grand remedies have not worked because they are remote from the basic problem of ineffective classroom teaching. Based on this assessment, Levine argues for teacher-centered policies, which provide material and nonmaterial incentives to the teaching profession. He urges moving to a system where demonstrating the ability to produce learning gains in children (value added) would be a precondition for continued employment as a teacher. Finally, Levine argues that new teachers probably do not need a formal teaching qualification to do the job that is so crucial for a better future for Pacific Island children.
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    Pacific island nations : how viable are their economies?
    (Honolulu, HI : East-West Center, 2012) Hezel, Francis X.
    In an earlier issue of Pacific Islands Policy, Francis X. Hezel, SJ, examined the economic performance of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands before and after independence. Despite abundant start-up funds from the United States and advice from consultants on how to create future prosperity, self-sustainability for these island nations remains as elusive as ever. This report is an attempt to answer the question: Are FSM and the Marshall Islands unusual in this respect or are all small Pacific Island nations waging a losing battle in their attempts to create more self-supporting economies? Development economists frequently argue that with the right policies in place and necessary reforms implemented, any nation, whatever its limitations, can develop a successful economy. In this report, Hezel looks at the record to find out how the Pacific Island nations have fared in this respect since independence. Having abundant exports doesn't always translate into a strong economy, he finds, since the two most richly endowed countries in the region are among the poorest in quantified per capita income. Most of the nations in the region, though, are resource-poor and so have had to turn to other strategies for economic development. The pathways to economic development for a small island nation, especially one that is remote and enjoys limited resources, are few and steep. Only one of the Pacific Island nations is close to full economic self-reliance at present, while one or two others may be within striking distance. The rest—and they are the majority—seem to have no real prospects for full self-reliance. Hezel asks what this somber but realistic view of the limits of economic growth in the Pacific might mean for larger nations with a stake in the Pacific, such as Australia, Japan, the United States, and China. Foreign aid, he suggests, may not be just a stopgap to achieve economic self-sufficiency, but a permanent requirement for nations that will always come up short of this goal.
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    Confronting environmental treaty implementation challenges in the Pacific Islands
    (Honolulu, HI: East-West Center, 2010) Chasek, Pamela S.
    Popular literature and the entertainment industry commonly portray the Pacific Islands as a homogeneous, tropical, and timeless Eden where life is leisurely and free from care and the problems of the twenty-first century. The region's tourist industry itself does its utmost to promote that very image and first-time visitors to Hawaii today are often unprepared to discover that Honolulu, for example, is a modern metropolis with high-rise buildings and freeways. Located in the world's largest ocean, Pacific nations and territories are among the smallest on earth. The region is also one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse places in the world, as well as one of the most fragile and vulnerable--with Island countries often separated by hundreds of miles of open sea. In this paper, Pamela S. Chasek describes how, as a result of such circumstances, regional cooperation is necessary, albeit difficult. Environmental issues, particularly global warming with attendant sea-level rise, are a major concern, Chasek explains. At the same time, participation in multilateral environmental agreements is particularly demanding and often beyond the capacity of the small-island entities. Not infrequently, Chasek asserts, environmental ministries within local governments are small and lack the trained personnel and sufficient economic resources to effectively accomplish their mission.
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    U.S. territorial policy : trends and current challenges
    (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2009) Stayman, Allen P.
    As a large continental power the United States has embraced a pragmatic and flexible approach to building stable relations with remote Island jurisdictions--each with its own unique history, culture, and economic potential. In light of their distinctive needs, the United States has extended special trade, tax, wage, financial assistance, and other privileges to support the growth of the Islands' less-competitive market economies. In this landmark paper, Allen P. Stayman breaks new ground with his analysis of how, from legal and policy perspectives, the U.S. territorial system evolved. He identifies three distinct phases: incorporated territories, unincorporated territories, and the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The author also analyzes how, since the 1980s, trade globalization and changing U.S. tax, trade, and economic policies have undermined many of the traditional, targeted economic supports for the Islands. As a consequence, he argues, some Islands, particularly American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, are facing dramatic economic declines. Concurrently, with the exception of Guam, the global recession is leading to a general weakening of Islands' market economies, with the United States and Island governments urgently seeking to address major new challenges to economic stability. Will policymakers be successful at revitalizing those Island communities that have historic ties to the United States, or will the economies continue to weaken and Islanders seek better opportunities by increasingly migrating to Hawaii and the continental United States?
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    China in Oceania : new forces in Pacific politics
    (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2007) Wesley-Smith, Terence
    In this policy paper, Terence Wesley-Smith explores strategic, political, and economic dimensions of Beijing's heightened interest in Oceania. He challenges the disingenuous threat discourse pervading the existing literature, and argues that China's rise offers island states opportunities not available under established structures of power. Wesley-Smith notes that China's primary objective is to gain the support of island states, particularly to isolate Taiwan, and that it has a growing interest in the natural resources of the region. China and the Western powers previously shared an interest in excluding the Soviet Union from Oceania. But today tensions associated with China's presence increasingly influence the strategic environment. China is not setting itself up to assume a leadership or military role in Oceania, Wesley-Smith maintains. He disputes the notion that Beijing has exploited regional vulnerabilities, and that its activities have encouraged corruption and instability. He also argues that U.S. neglect is not a significant factor in the rise of China in Oceania. Instead, Western aid-leveraged efforts to impose neo-liberal reforms have made island leaders more receptive to peaceful coexistence, equality, respect for sovereignty, and the promise of untied aid. Wesley-Smith argues that China's rise in Oceania largely parallels developments in the Caribbean, and disturbs a situation where a small number of allied powers exercise enormous regional influence. But he notes that all of these regional actors have growing economic entanglements with China—and compelling reasons to avoid confrontation. He suggests that the Western powers have to accept that China is in Oceania to stay. They can do little but urge Beijing to play by the rules they have established and enforced, yet it may be the allied powers that have to compromise. Wesley-Smith concludes that China's rise broadens the options for island states, whose leaders are accustomed to operating in a world controlled by great powers.
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    Is that the best you can do? : a tale of two Micronesian economies
    (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2006) Hezel, Francis X.
    Francis X. Hezel has long been concerned with economic development in the Micronesian Islands that are in association with the United States. In particular, his analysis focuses on the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Both countries were part of the U.S. Trust Territory that was established under the United Nations trusteeship system after World War II. In this report, Hezel reviews the history of development initiatives in the FSM and RMI. In early territorial days, funds were limited and little in the way of development was accomplished. Later, funding was dramatically increased, and conventional approaches were implemented. Investment in human resources was followed by a large push in infrastructure improvements. The overall results were disappointing, and the islands became heavily dependent on the United States. In 1986, the FSM and RMI became self-governing nations that simultaneously established Compacts of Free Association with the United States. The island governments were provided substantial U.S. financial support for a period of 15 years with the hope that the Micronesians would chart their own course to achieve some measure of self-sustainability. At the end of the time frame, that goal proved as elusive as ever. Interim U.S. funding was provided until the second Compacts were implemented in 2004 for a period of twenty years. Direct assistance will end in 2024. In the likely event that self-sufficiency is not achieved by that date, the United States is establishing trust funds that hopefully will generate income sufficient to replace American subsidies. Hezel is skeptical about the advice offered by development economists and other outside experts. The track record of conventional approaches to development has not been impressive. Recommendations offered by experts today are often in conflict with traditional cultures that emphasize communal values in the conduct of human relations and the inalienable quality of ancestral land. Drawing upon the work of other researchers in the Pacific, Hezel offers suggestions for alternative courses to development. Is That the Best You Can Do? A Tale of Two Micronesian Economies is the inaugural issue in Pacific Islands Policy, a new East-West Center series. Pacific Islands Policy examines critical issues, problems, and opportunities that are relevant to the Pacific Islands region. The series is intended to influence the policy process, affect how people understand a range of contemporary Pacific issues, and help fashion solutions. A central aim of the series is to encourage scholarly analysis of economic, political, social, and cultural issues in a manner that will advance common understanding of current challenges and policy responses.
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    Guarding the Guardians: Accountability and Anticorruption in Fiji's Cleanup Campaign
    (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2008) Larmour, Peter
    In this paper Peter Larmour analyzes the vices and virtues of anti-corruption campaigns, and in particular how Fiji's military government under Commander Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama approached the issue of corruption during its first year in power. Larmour first considers how much corruption there may have been in Fiji before the December 2006 coup. Second, he analyzes the 2007 cleanup campaign: the purges, complaints, and investigations that culminated in the establishment of a Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC). Third, the paper explores who watches over authoritarian institutions in Fiji: the police, the FICAC, the president, and other entities. The essay concludes by offering comparisons with anti-corruption efforts in other countries, particularly in the Pacific Islands region. Based on publicly available sources, corruption in Fiji is examined at both the conceptual and operational levels. Larmour notes a striking difference between reports of public perception of corruption and personal experience with corruption. He underscores that public perception of widespread corruption is not tantamount to legally actionable evidence of corruption, a significant challenge that confronted Fiji's military. During 2007 the cleanup campaign instigated by the Bainimarama government adopted several methods: purges of senior officials and board members; gathering of public complaints; and investigations by police, soldiers, auditors, and ad hoc committees. While it remains to be seen what the outcomes of these cascading and open-ended investigations will be, concerns have been raised about due process. Moreover, in the face of a compromised judiciary and the absence of a functioning parliament, there is little oversight. To the extent that Fiji's authoritarian institutions such as the military have attempted to restrain the media, Larmour suggests that this too has weakened public trust. Without a system of checks and balances, an increasingly critical question for the anti-corruption campaign becomes "Who will guard the guardians?" ABOUT THE AUTHORPeter Larmour is a political scientist in the Crawford School at the Australian National University. For more than a decade he has taught and written extensively about issues of corruption. In addition, he has published about the process of policy transfer, land issues, and leadership in the Pacific. He has served as a consultant on governance issues in numerous parts of Oceania and is currently completing a book on corruption in the Pacific Islands.
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    Safety, security, and accessible justice : participatory approaches to law and justice reform in Papua New Guinea
    (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2008) MacDonald, Rosita
    Rosita MacDonald examines the challenges facing the law and justice reform partnership between Australia and its former colony Papua New Guinea (PNG). Serious safety and security issues confront PNG, with the incidence of violent crime increasing and the capacity of the law enforcement, court, and prison systems to deal with offenders deteriorating. MacDonald acknowledges the challenge of implementing institutional reforms appropriate to the PNG cultural and political context, and highlights the fact that measurable and sustainable reforms within the law and justice sector have failed to occur despite a substantial investment of resources from both governments. Law and justice policy in PNG should shift, she says, from the official rhetoric supporting traditional and community-led approaches to a greater investment by the PNG and Australian leadership to restorative justice approaches, the village court system, and under-utilized community organizations.
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