- Security and Development in the Pacific Islands: Social Resilience in Emerging States
Security and development are important issues in the contemporary Pacific Islands region. While these problems have long featured in discussions about the region, they have become more prominent in the past two decades, especially in light of the push for economic liberalization and the violent conflicts that have occurred in some Island countries and territories. The coups in Fiji, the violence associated with the demands for self-determination in New Caledonia and West Papua, the Bougainville crisis, the civil unrests in Solomon Islands, and the politically motivated riot in Tonga are some examples of violent conflicts in the region. Poor economic management and indigent social conditions are also matters of concern.
Security and development in the region have also been influenced by global events and trends. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, for example, Pacific Island countries have become important in the war against international terrorism. Furthermore, socioeconomic developments have been influenced by the neoliberalism promoted by international financial and intergovernmental institutions.
This book is, therefore, timely. It brings together an impressive group of authors who, in fourteen chapters, [End Page 194] examine some of the major security and development issues in the region: natural resource development, ethno-nationalism, gender, decolonization, public sector reform, poor economic management, and international intervention. The book covers not only the independent Pacific Island countries, but also the nonindependent territories of New Caledonia and West Papua, for whom self-determination is the most important issue.
The introduction provides general and useful insights into the security and development issues and the experiences of the Pacific Islands region. Editor M Anne Brown notes that development and security are inter-related and "cannot exist without each other" (1), and that development, while desirable, can generate conflicts. This is because development involves significant and sometimes rapid change that "creates new winners and losers, recasts the contexts in which communities give substance to their beliefs, and plays into dynamics of conflict already present, perhaps triggering latent violence" (1). She outlines the major conflicts in the region and notes that "many of these crises have roots in historical patterns of uneven development, disruption of land tenure, or conflict around highly destructive resource extraction" (8).
Brown takes particular issue with the description of Pacific Island countries as "failing states," arguing that Pacific Islands are, rather, "emerging states." Furthermore, the region is relatively peaceful and its people quite resilient—different in many ways from parts of Africa and the Balkans. Brown says that the issues that underlie security in the region are economic pressures, land, self-determination, and gender inequality.
The rest of the chapters examine specific country experiences. Marion Jacka locates Papua New Guinea's development experiences within global development discourses and trends. In recent years, neoliberalism and the push for structural reforms have been promoted as both the answers to and explanations for what is described as the "failure of development" in Papua New Guinea. These initiatives have, however, contributed to new challenges—hence the need for alternative perspectives for explaining Papua New Guinea's development "problems." Jacka says that not only internal factors but also historical and global factors (such as the country's colonial legacy, the imposition of Western values, and the demands and the requirements of international agencies and aid donors) must be considered. She argues that aid has produced "a mixed bag" of results. She also outlines lessons that can be drawn from community development initiatives, arguing that, in a situation where "the state has still to be built, support for such community rebuilding must logically provide the way forward. Rather than trying to engineer change, it is important to consider ways of facilitating the efforts being made by Papua New Guinean communities to tackle their issues at the local level" (59).