South Pacific Security and Global Change: The New Agenda

Author/s (editor/s):

Greg Fry

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1999/1 (PDF, 3.77MB)

Greg Fry, 'South Pacific Security and Global Change: The New Agenda', IR Working Paper 1999/1, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, January 1999.

In the South Pacific, the end of the Cold War has not been the dramatic turning point in security terms assumed for other regions. It has not created new states or new conflicts or the prospect of new military threats; nor has it meant a 'falling off the map' in the way often assumed in conventional accounts of the post-Cold War South Pacific. The global change associated with the end of East-West rivalry has nevertheless been an important influence on the dynamics affecting societal and human security in the region, however we might define 'security'.

The end of the Cold War removed the nuclear weapons issue as a security question and it has seen the end or reduction of the diplomatic interest of Russia, the United States and Britain, thereby confirming a long term shift away from a colonial order to one in which Asian interests now play a greater part. The most important impact was on the lens through which the international community, and particularly Australia, viewed the region. The new agenda of security issues, around questions of governance, identity and development, was not created by the end of the Cold War; but these longstanding post-colonial processes could be seen for the first time in their own light rather than as part of East-West rivalry.

There is now general agreement on this 'new' agenda providing the main dynamic that affects security in the South Pacific but there are different views about what constitutes threat and solution in relation to it, and whose security is affected. Whatever view is adopted, the social, economic and political organisation of Pacific island countries, is central to security outcomes, and the main decisions will be made by people within the region. The global structures and influences both material and ideational will remain powerful but - as seen during the Cold War - there will be a great deal of scope for local agency.

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