Wednesday 19 Sep 2018 | 13:14 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 19 Sep 2018 | 13:14 | SYDNEY

New friends for the Pacific Islands


Jenny Hayward-Jones


10 April 2008 15:55

Australia has become used to competition for influence in the Pacific Islands region. New Zealand, France, Japan, the US, the EU, China and Taiwan all have diplomatic, economic or aid interests in the region. The newest recruit – Turkey – is demonstrating its interest by hosting a three-day meeting in Istanbul of foreign ministers and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat representatives.

Turkey’s new interest in the island states finds its origins in its campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council seat in 2009-10.  Little natural synergy between the interests of Turkey and the Pacific Islands region is otherwise evident. Turkey’s principal interests lie in Europe, the US and its neighbours in the Middle East, Caucasus and Afghanistan. There are very few Turkish diplomats who could readily identify Vanuatu or Samoa on maps of the Büyük Okyanus (Pacific Ocean). The Pacific Island states, for their part, rarely look beyond their traditional development partners when pursuing interests abroad. 

The meeting is due to focus on cooperation on social and economic issues, tourism and joint action in response to global warming and natural disasters. Such a meeting might offer Australia lessons in how to secure votes for a non-permanent UNSC seat, but are there any benefits to be had for the Pacific?

Turkey describes itself as an 'emerging donor', with overseas dvelopment assistance totalling US$750 million in 2006. The Turkish Government committed US$20 million in 2007 for development projects in Least Developed Countries. The Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has a strong commitment to good governance, focuses on capacity development through training, has experience in building sustainable infrastructure and is very interested in increasing aid effectiveness — all qualities needed in donors in the Pacific. Turkey is also an emerging market with vast experience in small enterprise development and wooing tourists, so may have more to offer the Pacific than the colourful souvenirs that will tempt Pacific Island delegates in their tour of the Kapali Çarsi.