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.

The East-West Center ScholarSpace community contains digital versions of just some of the several thousand books, periodicals, and unpublished papers generated by the Center over the past 50 years. Find a complete list of recent East-West Center publications and learn how to obtain them at . Search for recent and older works from 1960 - present using the Center's library catalog at


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 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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