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Reviewed by:
  • Pacific Futures
  • Anthony Van Fossen
Pacific Futures, edited by Michael Powles. Canberra: Pandanus Books and Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 2006. ISBN 1-74076-187-1; xiii + 260 pages, tables, appendixes, acronyms and abbreviations, notes, bibliographies, index. A$34.95.

Most of the papers in this edited collection touch on the future of sovereignty and regionalism. In his foreword, the prime minister of Sämoa, the Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Aiono Malielegaoi, forecasts the imminent end of the current postcolonial era. He predicts this will bring a process of globalization that will carry Pacific Islanders a greater distance from the traditional idea of the nation-state, even as their leaders keep defining their essential interests in relation to the nation. The editor, Michael Powles, specifies that a central theme of the book is the degree to which Pacific people can meet increasing challenges by coalescing in a common identity that will produce greater mutual assistance or even integration.

Part One, "Political and Constitutional Challenges," comprises five chapters, making the following predictions: Political instability will continue until Pacific countries develop their own political systems; alarmist forecasts by impatient neoliberal economic "missionaries" and "one-size-fits-all" governance advocates will probably be counterproductive (Henderson). Indigenous systems will be able to adjust well to political and economic challenges (Teaiwa and Koloamatangi)—particularly where, as in Sämoa, indigenous institutions show great durability (So'o). Nevertheless, new forces of economic globalization will continue to cause trepidation among traditionalists (Madraiwiwi). Laws will be most successful when they are based on broad participation rather than on model laws ("insert name of country here") or regional resolutions that are not successfully implemented (Kuemlangan). All these chapters are consistent with one another in viewing indigenous foundations as essential for successful development in the future, but they would be better if they expanded on exactly what this will mean in specific and practical terms.

Part Two, "Social and Economic Challenges," consists of seven chapters, making the following diverse predictions: Pacific languages are extremely vulnerable and parents will play a crucial role in preserving them by speaking the languages with their children at home (Hunkin and Mayer). Current and prospective trade policies will have important consequences (Narsey). If the policies of neoliberal "outsiders" such as Helen Hughes are implemented, these will weaken Pacific state sovereignty, citizenship, and rights to land and other resources (Slatter). Adopting some current Australian proposals for a currency union [End Page 620] will be perilous unless there are much higher levels of economic and political integration in greater Oceania (Jayaraman). Giving Islanders greater access to the labor markets of wealthy metropolitan countries such as Australia will be mutually beneficial (Chand). Aid will probably be shifted toward Melanesia and toward regional programs and away from the smallest Island jurisdictions, where internal markets are so tiny that "neoliberal dogma" is particularly unlikely to succeed; the tiniest microstates may see aid diminished as the result of failing to meet conditions requiring marketization (Naidu). Climate change will have serious consequences (Sem).

The book may reflect the priorities of its supporters (the Pacific Cooperation Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and some readers may not expect the book to survey a full range of issues or types of perspectives on the future. Yet it is surprising that one of the most original and influential scenarios to come out of New Zealand—the mirab (Migration, Remittances, Aid, and Bureaucracy) model of Bertram and Watters—is neglected in this volume, as are important topics such as population growth, health, tourism, and information technology.

Part Three, "A Developing Pacific Community," contains four chapters that consider Pacific Island regionalism (Herr); the need for flexible bilateral, multilateral, subregional, and regional responses to the growing Asianization of the region (Crocombe); three visions of future architecture of regional international relations (Fry); and the generational change of focus among politicians from sovereign nationhood toward greater regional collective action (Aqorau).

The book's most challenging, thought-provoking, and future-oriented chapter is by Crocombe, who poses subtle and complicated questions about how Pacific countries can respond most effectively to future dominance by the major nations of East...


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