Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Regionalism and changing regional order in the Pacific Islands

By SANDRA TARTE

Institutional developments in Pacific Islands regionalism have been dramatic in recent years. These include the changing role of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, a grouping of eight ‘tuna-rich’ Pacific Island states that is transforming the dynamics of regional fisheries; the emergence of a more activist Melanesian Spearhead Group, which comprises the four largest economies of the Pacific Islands and is leading the process of regional economic integration; and the establishment of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, which promises a more inclusive ‘regionalism through partnerships’ approach in addressing climate change and sustainable development issues. This new dynamism is driven by the discontent of a growing number of island states with the established regional order, defined by prevailing institutions, power and ideas, and by a desire to assert greater control over their own futures. Against the backdrop of an increasingly dynamic geopolitical and geo-economic landscape, Pacific Island states are using alternative regional frameworks to develop new approaches to the challenges facing them.

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