Speeches | 14 August 2009

The Pacific Islands and the World Conference

The countries of the Pacific region, once remote from the global centres of economic power, are now in the most dynamic economic region in the world. But are they using this position to their own advantage? Are they taking the right approach to realise their potential? These were the key questions put to the Lowy Institute’s conference, The Pacific Islands and the World: Realising the Pacific’s Potential, convened in Auckland on 5 September 2011.Jenny Hayward-Jones

  • Jenny Hayward-Jones

The countries of the Pacific region, once remote from the global centres of economic power, are now in the most dynamic economic region in the world. But are they using this position to their own advantage? Are they taking the right approach to realise their potential? These were the key questions put to the Lowy Institute’s conference, The Pacific Islands and the World: Realising the Pacific’s Potential, convened in Auckland on 5 September 2011.Jenny Hayward-Jones

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Key Findings

  • ‘As the economies of neighbouring Asia grow exponentially, and as Australia and New Zealand look to enlarge their proven labour schemes, the people of the Pacific Islands have a significant opportunity to convert economic potential into higher living standards.’
  • The shift in the centre of global economic gravity to the Asia-Pacific offers significant new opportunities to the Pacific Islands region.
  • Government, the private sector and civil society need to interact on a more regular basis to build better futures for Pacific societies.
  • Investment in vital infrastructure and in education is vital.

Executive Summary

This outcomes report from the Lowy Institute’s conference, Pacific Islands and the World: Realising the Pacific’s Potential, focused on the initiatives and policies required to help Pacific Islands take advantage of the new opportunities offered by increasing engagement with Asia.  The tyranny of distance which has long determined much of the Pacific’s international engagement is diminishing as the centre of global economic activity moved to the Asia-Pacific.

The conference made recommendations for governments, private sector and civil society to invest in public-private partnerships, renewable energy, vital infrastructures and a greater understanding of global and emerging market trends to enhance social connectivity, economic ties and greater interaction in the wider Asia-Pacific.

Demand from Asia for the region’s natural resources is increasing and Pacific countries need to focus on expanding revenue returns through sustainable management and increased onshore processing.  Tourism could be used as a catalyst for wider economic development and should be increasingly focused on building markets in Asia.

The revolution in connectivity in the Pacific brought about by increasingly affordable and accessible mobile and broadband networks has had many advantages.  A newer development has been the increasing influence of social media in connecting Pacific Islanders to each other and to the world.

Labour mobility programs with New Zealand and Australia have yielded positive development gains but the schemes need to be expanded to have greater and lasting impact on Pacific societies.

Women remained under-represented in Pacific leadership circles, especially in parliament but also in business.  More proactive policies are required to take advantage of the Pacific’s biggest untapped resource – its women.