Challenges of Political, Economic and Legal Governance in a Changing Pacific

This international conference will bring together economists, political scientists and jurists from Oceania to review economic, political and legal issues in island states and territories and point the way towards good governance in an era of globalisation.

In a world where scale and integration can be important in creating vibrant economies, small states face many challenges in their development and their engagement with globalization. Part of the challenge is to address complex issues of effective governance and innovative development strategies to overcome the handicap of size and isolation.

Contemporary economic conditions in the Pacific islands are affected by a complex mix of cultural, social, geographic, historical and political factors. Large flows of development assistance coupled with disappointing rates of economic growth often prompt expressions of concern about the economic and political futures of Pacific Island states and territories. Yet there are questions about the degree to which island leaders can control the dynamics of the global economy and the structural legacies of the past. Some variables may be more amenable to local management, despite the challenges of engineering reforms where western state institutions are not yet firmly established. The purpose of this conference is to better understand the political economy of development in the Pacific Islands in an era of globalization, and to identify viable options for the future. Some specific issues the papers will address include:

  • past as prologue: history, economic development, and future possibilities; the price of sovereignty;
  • the economics of self-determination, culture, corruption, and the relevance of good governance;
  • the politics of free trade: salvation or race to the bottom?;
  • political reform and the role of the state in economic development;
  • geopolitical shifts: a new era for regional development?;
  • culture, environment, and sustainable futures.

The broad categories are outlined below.

  1. Geopolitical shifts, regional development and security
    How are small Pacific states and territories positioned in Oceania's environment as well as the global context? What is the nature of their relationships with other states, be they metropolitan countries or former colonial powers or bigger Pacific states ? How are they viewed by international organizations, worldwide (UN, WTO, UNESCO, FAO) or regional ones? What roles do they act out in language zones (French-speaking or Commonwealth areas)? How do they fit into global finance (tax havens) or the world of information technology (telecoms, Internet...)? Are we witnessing the dawning of a new era for regional development?
  2. The price of sovereignty
    What about sovereignty in the Pacific these days? What has become of state sovereignty and sovereignty within the state? What are the implications of claims for sovereignty? Can one read language claims or land tenure claims in terms of sovereignty? Is there any middle way between self-rule and independence? What about the economics of self-determination? Is the politics of free trade a salvation or a race to the bottom?
  3. The relevance of good governance
    How can good governance and political reform be implemented? In what way can one better standards in public services as well as the transparency of public choices? What measures can be taken to fight off corruption and avoid conflicts of interest? What should be the duty of independent administrative bodies? How to achieve effective public policies? Does the concept of good governance take history, culture and environment into account? What may be the role of the state in economic development?

Participants in this symposium will address all those issues and consider all potential and viable remedies, based on both theoretical approaches and experiences built up in various parts of the world.

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