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Pacific Islands cities have experienced rapid urbanisation for decades, attracting migrants in search of a better life. Within these cities significant political and social transformations are occurring. How well these transformationalprocesses are handled will determine whether these urban centres become drivers of economic growth anddevelopment, or sources of social unrest. Many attempts to put urbanisation on the South Pacific development agendahave failed to get traction. This reflects sensitivities about urban land settlement and development, rural-urban migration,foreign workers, service shortfalls and cultural change. But urbanisation will continue to accelerate; it’s a permanentregional dynamic. Making urbanisation work, managing the risks of disorderly urban development and capitalising on theopportunities are regional imperatives that require governments, communities, donors and researchers to put it squarelyon the agenda. This session will revisit urbanisation in the Pacific, with a particular focus on the following questions:What are some of the challenges and difficulties for Pacific governments and donors in terms of engaging with urbanisation issues? What are the drivers of urbanisation and what are the implications for policy-makers? Are there valuable lessons from other countries facing similar pressures and how can regional governments and donors apply them?
Pacific Labour Mobility to Australia: Future Potential and Challenges.
On 18 June 2015, the Australian Government announced an expansion of the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP),including removing the annual limit on the number of seasonal workers who can participate in the program, andexpanding the program in the agriculture industry and the accommodation industry in selected locations.
This panel discusses the ‘elusive triple win’ associated with labour mobility. Circular labour mobility programs areoften promoted as benefiting governments, employers and workers. This session will examine potential developmentoutcomes and key aspects of demand and supply relationships between key participating Pacific nations in Australia’s SWP. Some of the major themes that will be highlighted are: recruitment capacity and practices; pastoral care andneeds of Pacific workers; impacts of labour mobility on local development; future demand for labour mobility in Australia;and potential contributions SWP can make to industry productivity.
Pacific regional arrangements remain a contested space, with Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama declining to resume full participation in the Pacific Islands Forum without permanently altering the nature of Australia and New Zealand’s roles in the grouping. Meanwhile, the future of the Fiji-sponsored Pacific Islands Development Forum is up in the air. Within the Pacific Islands Forum, a new Secretary General, Papua New Guinean Dame Meg Taylor, has been appointed, tasked with implementing the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism, designed to declutter the Leaders’ agenda and to givebetter voice to Pacific island interests and priorities within the Forum. With Taylor in place as Secretary General and PNGtaking over as Pacific Islands Forum Chair for 2015-16, how much of a personal stamp will Prime Minister Peter O’Neillmake on the regional agenda? Moreover, within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the West Papua issue hasloomed large during the year. Indonesia seems to have successfully headed off a play by West Papuan separatists formembership of the MSG: but what does this mean for the future of the MSG?
The Pacific region was relatively slow in embracing the global ICT revolution. Constrained by its geography, remotenessand lack of ICT infrastructure, the Pacific was one of the last regions to experience internet and mobile phone accessand uptake. However, recent ICT developments are spurring rapid ICT growth in the region and this could have farreachingimplications. These ICT developments have the potential to bring about profound change in the Pacific andeven assist Pacific Island Countries achieve development objectives (Logan, 2012). One such objective is facilitatingthe democratic process through the utilisation of ICT to promote and encourage democracy. ICT provides new waysfor governments to engage with citizens. Examples of this include the growth of social media pages with the objectiveof empowering citizens by providing an alternative platform for expression and group mobilization. These pages, whichinclude Sharp Talk in PNG, Yumi TokTok Stret in Vanuatu, Forum Solomon Islands International in Solomon Islands andLetters to the Editor Uncensored in Fiji, have also given greater voice to marginalized groups and some are even holdinggovernments to account. Social media has also been used to highlight the human rights atrocities in West Papua. Anew and emerging phenomenon, ICT’s role in Pacific politics is an exciting but relatively unknown field. The papers inthis panel will explore the extent to which ICT is changing the way Pacific Island democracies function and how ICT cansupport political institutions.
The latest budgets in both PNG and Solomon Islands have seen constituency development funds (CDFs) rise to historicallynew levels. In Solomon Islands, for instance, CDFs now comprise around 10 per cent of total budget outlays (bothrecurrent and development) and fully one third of the development budget. Perhaps anomalously, Vanuatu, which isfrequently seen to have a very similar political culture to both PNG and Solomon Islands, has so far resisted going downthe path of very large CDFs. But Members of Parliament in both PNG and Solomon Islands are now more involved thanever in delivering services to their local communities through CDFs. Bit by bit CDFs are, in effect, changing by stealth theway these countries are administered. Regulatory frameworks governing how CDFs are managed are weak, as is publicscrutiny over their effectiveness. Civil society organisations have concerns about transparency and accountability butneed to take into account the fact that grassroots communities don’t want CDFs to go away. Donors have long arguedagainst CDFs in principle, and for better management of CDFs in practice, but this has had no impact on the size of theCDF envelope. A range of gaps exist in our knowledge of how CDFs work in practice; their developmental and economicimpacts; their impact on central line agencies and on provincial governments; and their influence on politics andelections. Is there a better way?
The extractives industry continues to represent a vital component of private sector development across the region, withnumerous large-scale extractive projects currently in operation, or under negotiation. Significant examples include there-opening (and subsequent closure) of the Gold Ridge Mine in the Solomon Islands, ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG Project,mining and gas exploitation in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia; as well as debates on the potential resumption oflarge scale mining on Bougainville. A striking feature of these cases is that they comprise new or re-opened extractiveprojects in areas where natural resources have been directly related to prior conflict. This session will explore thepotential of these and other developments across the Pacific as sources of conflict and peace-building and discuss howthe ‘natural resource curse’ might be transformed into a ‘resource blessing’.