Pacific ‘smart’ thinking grows creative tension between policy and research

ANALYSIS: By Professor Derrick Armstrong

A traditional view of the tension between research and policy suggests that researchers are poor at communicating their research findings to policy-makers in clear and unambiguous ways.

I am arguing that this is an outdated view of the relationship between research and policy. Science, including social science, and policy come together in many interesting and creative ways.

This does not mean that tensions between the two are dissolved but the conversation between research and policy centre as much on ideological and pragmatic issues as it does upon the strength of the scientific evidence itself.

READ MORE: The DevNet 2018 conference

Researchers are increasingly “smart” in the ways that they seek to influence public debate while policy-makers genuinely value the insights that research can provide in supporting political and policy agendas that goes beyond simply legitimating pre-existing policy choices.

For example, in climate change debates science cannot be seen simply as an arbiter of “truth” that informs policy and political decision-making. Science also plays an advocacy role in alliance with some social interests against others.

-Partners-

Likewise, policy can draw on science but it can also reject the evidence of science where scientific evidence is weighed against the interests of other powerful voices in the policy-process.

Oceans research and policy provides a good example of this more sophisticated relationship between science and policy and suggests some of the significant disconnects and tensions that challenge the relationship as well as how creative tensions between the two operate in practice. Three areas of disconnect can be identified.

Practical disconnection
The first of these is practical disconnection of regulation with regard to the Oceans. An integrated legal framework for the ocean might be considered critical for progress towards meeting the objectives of SDG 14 (Life under the Sea) but complexity and fragmentation present many challenges which are both sectorial and geographical.

National laws lack coordination across different ocean-related productive sectors, conservation, and areas of human wellbeing. In addition, these laws are disconnected from the regulation of land-based activities that negatively impact upon the ocean – agriculture, industrial production and waste management (including ocean plastic).

“These disconnections are compounded by limited understanding of the role of international human rights and economic law, as well as the norms of indigenous peoples, development partners and private companies.” Image: David Robie/PMC

These disconnections are compounded by limited understanding of the role of international human rights and economic law, as well as the norms of indigenous peoples, development partners and private companies.

Disconnected science is itself a problem in this area. Ocean science is still weak in most countries due to limited holistic approaches for understanding cumulative impacts of various threats to ocean health such as climate change, pollution, coastal erosion and overfishing.

Equally, scientific understanding of the effectiveness of conservation and management responses is poor, so that the productivity limits and recovery time of ecosystems cannot be easily predicted.

Even when science is making progress, effective science-policy interfaces are often poorly articulated at all levels. As a result, there are significant barriers to effectively measuring progress in reaching SDG14.

Oceans research policies rare
National oceans research policies to support sustainable development are rare. This is compounded by limited understanding of the role of different knowledge systems, notably the traditional knowledge of indigenous people.

Third, there is a disconnected dialogue. Key stakeholders, most notably the communities most dependent on ocean health, are not sufficiently involved in developing and implementing ocean management; yet, they are most disproportionately affected by their negative consequences.

More positively, there are some good examples of effective science-policy diplomacy collaborations and networks. For example, in the Pacific my own university (University of the South Pacific) has worked very effectively to support Pacific island countries, especially Fiji, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, to successfully lead arguments at the International Maritime Organisation for international commitments to reduced carbon emission targets for shipping.

Technical, scientific support has been critical to support the advocacy of Pacific leaders and their ability to mobilise wider political support.

Building the capacity to achieve such outcomes within the regions of the world that confront these problems most sharply is a significant challenge. Aid policy can play an Important role in this respect – for example, by supporting capacity building through investment in local institutions such as universities rather than funnelling aid money back into donor countries through consultancies.

The scientific dominance of the global north is every bit as disempowering and threatening as post-colonial political domination.

For countries in the developing world, capacity building in research is critical to supporting their own countries. Another good example of this is found in the High Ambition Pacific coalition led by the Marshall Islands which secured significant support from European countries and elsewhere, in their campaign for a 1.5 degrees emissions target at the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015.

Science-policy-advocacy alliance
This coalition was a good example of a science-policy-advocacy alliance which did not come from the global north.

Scientific as well as policy collaborations between the global south and the global north are certainly possible but it also the case that scientific research and intervention in the countries of the south from the outside can very easily reinforce the political domination that politicians and policy-makers from the south so often experience in international forums and through the aid policies bestowed upon them from outside.

The aggressive assertion of the privileges of Western science to do research in developing countries at the expense of building local capacity demonstrates another side of this post-colonial experience. It is impossible to credibly talk of “giving voice to the ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘vulnerable’” where the research practices of outside researchers and their institutions cripple the ability of local researchers to speak.

Yet, researchers in the Pacific are more effectively operating at the cutting-edge of the science-policy interface than many outside the region may understand or recognise.

In our own case at USP, genuine collaboration across the boundaries of south and north have been possible but just as our leaders and our communities have had to fight against patronising notions of “vulnerability” our scientific need is to build our own capacity to effectively engage with the priorities of our own region and its people. We aim to build a scientific and research capacity that is neither dominated by or exploited from outside.

So, in summary, the tensions that have traditionally been used to characterise the science-policy interface greatly oversimplify the reality. They oversimplify it at an abstract level by whether by characterising science as disinterested or by characterising the aim of policy-makers to rational and evidence-based.

They also oversimplify the relationships within and between scientific communities, ignoring the social interests and power structures that serve the continuation, whether intentionally or not, of post-colonial domination, restricting opportunities to build scientific capacity which enables the achievement of locally determined priorities.

Professor Derrick Armstrong is deputy vice-chancellor (research, innovation and international) at the Suva-based University of the South Pacific. This was a presentation made at the concluding “creative tension” panel at the DevNet 2018 “Disruption and Renewal” conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week.

Professor Derrick Armstrong speaking with other members of the final “creative tension” panel at the DevNet 2018 development studies conference. Image: David Robie/PMC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific aid mapping tool aimed at improving transparency in region

By Sri Krishnamurthi

A new Pacific aid mapping tool developed by the Lowy Institute think tank is set to immeasurably improve transparency in aid in the region.

In an Auckland first, the aid mapping tool was put on show last night by the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as a curtainraiser to the two-day inaugural Oceans and Islands conference which opened at Auckland University’s Fale Pasifika today.

The guest demonstrator and speaker at Auckland University’s Owen Glenn Business School last night was Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Programme.

READ MORE: The Oceans and Islands conference

He was introduced by senior lecturer in Pacific Studies at Auckland University Dr Lisa Uperesa.

“This is a part of the seminar series that has been part of the mandate for the NZIPR which is about growing capacity and disseminating research,” Dr Uperesa said.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Programme, introducing the Pacific Aid Map at Auckland University last night. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC

-Partners-

Jonathan Pryke traced the beginnings of the mapping tool to Dr Penelope Brant and her PhD project which was charting every aid project that Papua New Guinea was engaged in, in the Pacific, subsequently the project turned into the Chinese aid in the Pacific map that the Lowy Institute released in 2015.

“This map made quite a splash, first because it was in interactive form that they haven’t seen before in the Pacific, Pryke said.

China’s spread
“It also made a splash because people hadn’t fully come to grips with just how far China had spread into the Asia-Pacific Island countries that support the one-China policy.”

“We had two major pieces of feedback from this tool. The first was from the Chinese government saying, ‘thanks guys, we had no idea how much we were doing’ and second piece of feedback was this is fantastic but why don’t we do this for every donor because it is very hard to find out what Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all these guys are doing?”

Transparency leads to good governance and that was needed around the world, he said.

“There is one good reason to enhance transparency around aid, not just in the Pacific but globally, there is global mandate to improve transparency which was agreed upon by all traditional donors in 2005 in the Paris accord,” said Pryke.

“It revolves around three main reasons why transparency in aid is important.

“In theory the first is, it should improve and make it easier for donors to co-ordinate with one another in the aid space,” he outlined.

“In the Pacific Island region there is more than 62 donors operating, that is countries or multinational agencies operating in the Pacific at any given time.

“So it’s really critical in all contexts that donors are able to co-ordinate with one another to prevent overlap, to reduce the drag on recipient governments and just to be more efficient,” he said.

‘Enhancing transparency’
“The second reason for enhancing transparency is to help align what donors are doing with receiving government priorities,” Pryke said.

Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa speaking at the opening of the NZIPR Islands and Oceans conference at the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland today. Image: David Robie/PMC

“We spent a lot of time on this project talking to Pacific Island governments about how they go about keeping track what donors are doing in the Pacific and pretty much all of them told us they couldn’t help us because they didn’t have sophisticated data telling them what the donors were doing

“It is a very messy thing to get hold of, and so having a tool like this just helps them to see what is happening in their own countries.

“So, they can better steer what donors are doing with their own development priorities.

“Having more information, and easier access to it should help Pacific countries better align aid to the priorities,” Pryke said.

The third reason for enhanced transparency was that it improves accountability of aid in the region for the media, civil society for academics, he pointed out.

“There is a lot of money going into the Pacific every year with very little oversight on how it is done outside of those giving it and those receiving it and so it is pretty more out there in the public domain.

‘Improving accountability’
“It should improve accountability and put the pressure on both sides of the equation, sender and receiver to improve the way that aid is delivered,” he summed up the third reason.

“We really were keen to do this project and so we started conversations with the Australian government to fund it.

“How we did it, from 2011 until today we requested data on 13,000 aid projects from 62 donors. We have a data from most donors be it an NGO or private sector contractor so there is a huge wealth of information.

“We had to take this huge database and put into a user-friendly, publicly available, interactive, visually-appealing interface that anyone that anyone in the world can access and actually make sense of, and so we put together this tool,” he said.

The Oceans and Islands conference was opened this morning by the Minister for Social Development and Disabilities Carmel Sepuloni and founding NZIPR director Associate-Professor Damon Salesa, who is now pro vice-chancellor (Pacific) of Auckland University.

Keynote speakers today were Dr David Welchman Gegeo of the Solomon Islands and  Professor Kapua Sproat of Hawai’i.

Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, acting director of NZIPR, will close the conference tomorrow afternoon. About 120 people are taking part in the showcase of Pacific research.

Sri Krishnamurthi and Blessen Tom of the Pacific Media Centre are working as part of a PMC partnership with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research.

The Pacific Media Centre’s team at the NZ Institute for Pacific Research conference … Sri Krishnamurthi (left) and Blessen Tom. Image: David Robie/PMC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

NZ aid workers’ open letter condemns broadcaster for Pacific ‘leeches’ attack

By RNZ Pacific

OPINION: An open letter to broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan on behalf of New Zealanders who have worked, and those are who are still working, in development in Solomon Islands:

Heather du Plessis-Allan’s recent comments on [Newstalk ZB] that the Pacific are leeches on New Zealand is dangerously ignorant, insulting to Pacific Islanders working hard for their countries, and undermines New Zealand itself.

This open letter is supported by a group of New Zealanders who have worked and those are who are still working in development in the Solomon Islands and condemns Ms du Plessis-Allan’s remarks on Newstalk ZB as well as Newstalk ZB’s implicit support.

History has shown that the dehumanisation of a group of people by referring to them as a class of non-human animals liberates aggression and has far-reaching consequences in enabling one group of people to hurt the other group. Well-known examples of this have been shown in the calling of Tutsi people as “cockroaches”, Bosniaks and Croatians as “aliens”, and Jews as “rats and parasites”.

READ MORE: Tongan scholars lodge protests over broadcaster’s ‘leeches’ jibe

Journalism and broadcasting plays a crucial role in all countries as voices and opinions are distributed nationwide, and so the spread of hatred should have no place in this process. National broadcasters should know better.

-Partners-

Here in the Solomon Islands, we work alongside many hardworking people. We work across a range of sectors, including governance, justice, climate change, health, education, youth, tourism, infrastructure, and journalism.

We work with people from the country leader level down to the staff out on the field. While of course no country is without bad people here and there, they are always outnumbered by the many good people who are dedicated to the development of the country.

It would not be surprising to find that Solomon Islanders are vastly dedicated to their own development, equally if not more so, than those in New Zealand. We have no doubt that the Solomon Islands are not unique in the Pacific in this aspect.

‘Hellholes’ insult
To paint entire countries and regions as hellholes and leeches is an insult to the good people working hard to make a change.

Finally, as there are many exemplary New Zealanders who have dedicated many years working across the Pacific Islands to help build capacity and strengthen institutions, it follows that the remarks belittle our efforts. To say that Pacific Islanders are leeching off us is a gross misunderstanding of the situation and undermines the credibility of the work of New Zealanders in the field.

Heather du Plessis-Allan … the open letter writers in Solomon Islands say “the fraction of money that the NZ government spends here is well worth the returns we receive.” Image: RNZ Pacific

Foreign aid exists not simply as a charity, but it is well understood that helping our neighbours helps us in return. In turn, we have more trade partners, better prevention of epidemics, better regional and national security, improved international relations, and of course a better reputation for New Zealand. To say that the Pacific Islands don’t matter shows a lack of understanding. The fraction of money that the New Zealand government spends here is well worth the returns we receive.

We understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We simply hope that the opinions are well-formed, evidence-based, and do not spread hatred due to gross generalisations and misinformation.

However, while her comments have certainly not gone unnoticed here in the Solomon Islands, the general reaction from Solomon Islanders indicates an understanding that the unfortunate actions of a few individuals do not represent an entire nation, let alone an entire region.

Solomon Islanders continue to hold New Zealand and New Zealanders in high regard and we New Zealanders working here are confident that this remains the case.

On behalf of:

Nid Satjipanon
Howard Lawry
Rosalind Lawry
Kate Haughey
Anna O’Keefe
Sophie Lewis-Smith
Elisabeth Degremont
Jack Thompson
Craig Hooper
Pip Stevenson
Catherine Hanson-Friend
Patrick Rose
Nicole Herron
Jackie Cronin

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

NZ and Pacific countries contest Asian influence for WHO regional director

Hundreds of millions of health dollars are at stake as the Pacific region grapples with a number of crises including diabetes and even the re-emergence of polio. Image: TVNZ

By Barbara Dreaver

Battlelines are being drawn as New Zealand and Pacific countries lobby for an important appointment at the World Health Organisation.

The region’s health ministers had all agreed to support a Pasifika candidate, but offers of aid and influence from Asian countries have left that in doubt.

Hundreds of millions of health dollars are at stake as the region grapples with a number of crises including diabetes and even the re-emergence of polio.

The regional director nominee, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, says the small island communities do not get a fair deal from the World Health Organisation.

“People complain about resource limitations, there is never enough money. The voice of the islands is often drowned out by the voices of the bigger Asian countries,” he said.

It is why New Zealand has nominated Dr Tukuitonga as the WHO regional director.

-Partners-

At a recent meeting, Pacific health ministers unanimously agreed to support that nomination.

Sudden change
But things suddenly changed. Both the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have gone back on their agreement, publicly expressing commitment to Japan.

“This is an opportunity to remain united and influence a particularly important position for the health of the people of the region. And clearly we have two members who haven’t honoured their commitment to regionalism,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the government hopes that the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea “will this time sign up for their own neighbourhood rather than bargain their vote off somewhere else for alternative reasons”.

Coincidentally, Japan has made aid offers to island countries, including a major international airport extension and rebuild for the Solomon Islands.

“A free airport does not improve the health of the Pacific people,” Peters said.

Dr Tukuitonga said: “Some of our island members are very vulnerable, very susceptible to these offers. And that’s the unfortunate thing I think.”

Nonetheless there’s been solid support for Dr Tukuitonga who’s pledging to fight for a region he’s already dedicated to.

Projected decline
“WHO budget is projected to decline. There’s a lot to be said about getting a fair share for our region because if you do that then you have a better chance of allocating a decent level of resource to our island members,” he said.

Peters said: “We start with a huge asset on our side. We have got the right candidate.”

It would be an historic win for the Pacific as the role has always been held by Asia.

Thirty countries will decide if the time is right for change in October.

Barbara Dreaver is the Pacific affairs correspondent of Television New Zealand. This article is republished with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Short-wave radio saves lives and foreign aid dollars, says McGarry

A recent photo of the current rumbling of Mt Lombenden volcano on Ambae Island, Vanuatu. Image: lechaudrondevulcain.com

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Vanuatu has appealed to Australia to restore short-wave radio services to the Pacific region, after they were switched off by the ABC in 2017, reports Radio Australia.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said other forms of communication usually failed during natural disasters.

He added his voice on the final day yesterday for submissions to an Australian government review of broadcasting to the region, Linda Mottram reported on a segment of the PM programme.

LISTEN: Linda Mottram’s current affairs report on ABC PM

As if to make the point, his statement came as a major operation is underway to evacuate more than 8000 residents from the island of Ambae, which has been made uninhabitable by an erupting volcano.

Featured:
Nikita Taiwia, Vanuatu coordinator, Red Cross
Dan McGarry, media director, Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Chinese president meets PNG’s O’Neill, pledging ‘deepening cooperation’

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in Beijing. Image: CCTV+

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Chinese President Xi Jinping has met Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in Beijing, pledging to work with the country to push the bilateral relations to a new level.

Xi said Papua New Guinea is a country with significant influence in the Pacific island region, reports CCTV+ News.

Since the two countries established diplomatic ties 42 years ago, the bilateral relations have achieved historic development, Xi said.

READ MORE: Chinese Pacific presence improves Australian aid

The development of bilateral relations had entered a fast track, and political mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation had both reached a new level in history since the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries in 2014, he said.

-Partners-

China appreciated Papua New Guinea’s resolute adherence to the one-China policy, Xi said.

China was willing to work with Papua New Guinea to strengthen communication and deepen cooperation, expand exchanges and push bilateral relations to a new level.

O’Neill also met with the Premier Li Keqiang when they discussed issues of mutual interest between the two countries, including shared development interests, infrastructure delivery and the hosting of Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) 2018 due in Port Moresby in November.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (centre left) meets Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing , China. Image: EMTVNews

‘Strong friendship’
“There is a strong friendship between our governments, both through our officials and high-level interaction,” O’Neill said, reports EMTV News.

“We intend to keep taking this friendship to an even higher level, and there are many outcomes we look to achieve on this visit.

“My last state visit to China was in 2016, and this resulted in seven major agreements in development projects, investment and trade.

“A number of other infrastructure projects have been identified since then are in the process of being delivered.

“These include the rehabilitation of the Poreporena Freeway, the construction of the Boulevard to Parliament, and the upgrade of the International Convention Centre.

“Each of these projects is a gift of the people of China, and are demonstrations of warm relationship between our countries.

“The International Convention Centre has already hosted many APEC meetings, and now it has been upgraded for the APEC Leaders’ Week.

Buses for APEC
China is also providing a number of vehicles, including buses, that will be used in APEC motorcades.

APEC is based on enhancing partnerships, and the partnership we have with China in the delivery of APEC is most appreciated.”

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with EMTV News.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Dan McGarry: Want to lead in the Pacific? Try listening first

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Dan McGarry: Want to lead in the Pacific? Try listening first

Cathy Wilcox’s Sydney Morning Herald cartoon is a showcase for everything that’s wrong with Australian foreign policy. Cartoon: Cathy Wilcox/SMH/VDP

By Dan McGarry in Port Vila

The average Australian’s conception of Pacific island nations is so limited it makes some of us wonder if they even want to understand. Our voices—and our reality—have been pointedly and repeatedly ignored in the media, and in the corridors of power.

An Australian news service breathlessly proclaims Chinese plans to build a military base only a short flight away from Brisbane, and the Canberra commentariat has kittens.

Vanuatu insiders say “it was never on the cards”.

“Yes, but it was discussed!” insist defence analysts.

“A base was never discussed and it would never happen,” says Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister.

“Yes, but a Chinese military presence is in the works!” insist the same analysts.

-Partners-

“Vanuatu would never agree to this and anyone who says otherwise is indulging in malicious speculation,” says Vanuatu’s Prime Minister.

“Cold warriors”
“Here’s the wharf where it’s going to happen!” announce Australian media, and a chorus of “cold warriors” claim that Australia is forsaking its God-given leadership role in the Pacific.

“We, uh, have our own leaders,” say Pacific islanders.

“Yes, but they’re drowning your countries in debt!” cry the politicos.

“Well, we’re not perfect, but there’s no crisis,” say our analysts. “Our debt to GDP ratio is less than half of Australia’s.”

“China is slyly using debt/equity swaps to take over your infrastructure!” Canberra cries.

“No, actually. Our loans don’t contain language that would allow that,” reply the islanders, who by this time are wondering why they even bother saying anything.

The Chinese Bases folderol is just the latest chorus in a litany of Australian indifference to Pacific voices. Every time some tendentious prat opens their mouth and starts telling the Pacific that what’s good for Australia is obviously good for us, the entire region sighs.

Collective eye roll
That jolt you just felt was a collective eye roll that nearly tipped the island.

Can we get something clear? If you want us to listen to you, you’ve got to listen to us.

It may have escaped your attention, but there was an earthquake in Papua New Guinea recently.

It affected over half a million people, killing 150 outright and leaving 270,000 in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation remains desperate, and the breakdown of law and order in some areas has made it impossible for aid organisations to work.

You can be forgiven for not knowing this. There were no Chinese warships involved.

As you read this, massive ash falls from an active volcano are forcing 11,000 Ni-Vanuatu to relocate for the second time in six months. Thousands may never return home. No Chinese warships were involved, so again, you might not have heard.

Make no mistake: When the Pacific is in need, Australia helps. It helps more than any other nation. But the overwhelming majority of Australians don’t seem to know or care that it does.

They don’t know
If they knew, they’d probably care. But they don’t know, so they have no reason to care.

This is the fault of the media. Specifically, it’s an editorial failure. Reporters are champing at the bit to share our stories, but producers and editors constantly baulk at the time and expense of reporting from and about the Pacific islands.

On the morning Vanuatu announced the evacuation of 11,000 people from the volcanic island of Ambae, the journos who broke the Chinese base story were still in Vanuatu. When told the news, they doubted that Fairfax would pay for them to go to Ambae to report on the exodus.

This is the same company that gladly paid a team to spend a week reporting on a defence analyst’s fever dreams, someone whom the team members themselves admitted might be paranoid.

The main difference between Beijing and Canberra is that Beijing listens. For better or for worse, Chinese diplomats listen to what Pacific leaders want. Often enough, they give it to them.

And more often than not, Australian pollies wait patiently for Pacific Islanders to finish speaking, then tell them what they need. There is a pervasive and deeply pernicious perception in the foreign policy establishment that Pacific voices don’t count.

Political cartoon
A recent political cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald distils the attitude prettily.

An island with nothing but a grass shack and a few benighted dark people is deserted by its erstwhile benefactors, and left to the tender mercies of a shipload of Asian hucksters.

Without Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull and the gang, we’re left helplessly clutching our cowrie shells.

The image is so absurdly parochial it borders on outright racism.

Who benefits from these Chinese wharves? We do! The people of Vanuatu. You might have heard of us. We live here.

Beginning this week, that wharf will be the landing point for thousands of people displaced by natural disaster. Australian relief ships will no doubt be welcomed, too.

Let’s see how many headlines our devastated lives derive.

My guess is zero—unless we invite the Chinese navy to help.

Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post group. This article is republished with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

NZ Foreign Minister questions China’s influence in the Pacific

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: NZ Foreign Minister questions China’s influence in the Pacific

Foreign Minister Winston Peters flags a stronger NZ Pacific aid policy and prime ministers Jacinda Ardern and Malcolm Turnbull discuss New Zealand and Australia friendship and differences in policies. Video: Qldaah/ABC

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters has again hinted the Ardern government may exit China’s One Belt One Road initiative as Wellington “resets” its strategic focus to the Pacific.

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern beginning her first trip across the region today, Peters told Television New Zealand’s Q & A show the Pacific was where New Zealand mattered and could do most.

But, alluding to China’s influence, he said a number of countries had been intervening in the Pacific in ways that were “not helpful”.

“Our job is to ensure that the engagement of other countries in the Pacific is for the interests of the Pacific and the security and prosperity of the neighbourhood,” he said.

Peters said the previous government had been too hasty to sign up to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, with the implications for New Zealand unclear.

His coalition government would instead move slower in relation to the deal.

‘Shifting the dial’
“It’s a case of shifting the dial, it’s a case of having our eyes wide open, it’s a Pacific reset in circumstances where we must do far better,” he said.

“Our aid, for example, is on the decline, to go down to 0.21 (per cent of gross domestic product) from 0.30 (per cent) just eight years ago.”

He said low aid levels from New Zealand would not “stack up against countries with a big cheque book”, who were not always acting in the Pacific’s interest.

Fresh from a diplomatic trip across the Tasman, Ardern departs for Samoa today on the first leg of her first annual Pacific Mission.

She and a team of politicians, representatives from charities and Pasifika community leaders will then travel to Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands during the week, engaging in diplomacy and taking in the local hospitality.

Ardern on Friday said there was a range of issues facing the Pacific, including climate change, resource use and globalisation.

New Zealand and Australia’s role was to “amplify the voice of our Pacific neighbours and do so in partnership with them”, she said.

This year’s Pacific Mission will also take particular note of the recovery of Tonga and Samoa after Cyclone Gita in February.

Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Ardern mission for post-Gita visit to Tonga, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand government’s Pacific Mission will take place early next month and travel to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

“It will be an honour to have the Pacific Mission led by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and is a further sign of the importance New Zealand attaches to our Pacific neighbours,” Peters said, confirming the dates as March 4-9.

“The government carefully considered whether the Pacific Mission would impose a burden on Tonga and Samoa in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gita.”

“However the government decided to proceed to allow the delegation to see first-hand the ongoing response. We will also discuss with the governments of Tonga and Samoa, as much as able to be learned at this point, what support is required for long-term recovery,” he said.

The Pacific Mission delegation is made up of MPs, Pasifika community leaders, and NGO representatives.

The delegation size is smaller this year with the mission changing focus because of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“New Zealand’s close ties with Samoa and Tonga are built on a deep bilateral partnership, and a shared commitment to Pacific regionalism. Niue and Cook Islands are constitutional partners for New Zealand and we share citizenship as well as a set of mutual obligations and responsibilities,” Peters said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz