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From 25 – 27 June 2019, the Australian National University Department of Pacific Affairs and the University of New Caledonia LARJE Centre co-convened the PIPSA (Pacific Islands Political Studies Association) under the theme of ‘Democracy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination in the Pacific Islands’. The PIPSA conference is the premier Pacific-focused political science conference. With funding from the Pacific Research Program, DPA supports the PIPSA conference as a part of its efforts to foster and facilitate a strong and vibrant Pacific-Australia-New Zealand-wide network of research on the Pacific.
Following the New Caledonian referendum, the relisting of French Polynesia on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the forthcoming referendum in Bougainville, violence in West Papua, as well as the existential threats to the Pacific region posed by climate change and rising sea levels, this year’s theme was particularly resonant. Conference sessions were held simultaneously and were both, in English and in French and fostered debates and discussions on topics including evolving forms of sovereignty in the Pacific; climate change; security; decolonisation; international relations; land rights and natural resources; and gender and politics.
A recurring theme from the 3-day conference was the call for Pacific voices to be nurtured and heard when it comes to agenda setting and cooperation in the region.
In a keynote address, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Pacific Community Director-General, focused on the need for more Pacific agency in development efforts. He argued that although the Pacific is a crowded development space, Pacific Islands countries and regional organisations do not always drive the regional development agenda, as global development actors have their own agendas. This also means that actors from outside the region who want to help the Pacific often do so in an uncoordinated way. For Dr Tukuitonga, some of the key development challenges facing the Pacific include climate change and natural disasters, violence against women and children, sanitation, clean water, the growth in non-communicable diseases, over-fishing, and youth unemployment.
The two-day conference was followed by a writers’ workshop, facilitated by Dr Roannie Ng Shiu (from DPA), involving participation of 20 postgraduate students and early career researchers. After a well-attended and successful conference, a number of participants are now making plans to publish papers from the conference.
You can find some of the panel recordings from PIPSA 2019 here.