This was difficult year for many organisations in the Pacific. The rapid political and financial changes wrought by donor partners and national governments meant that many critical non-state actors spent most of their time being probed and prodded by their funders. At the same time, organisations were expected to continue operations whilst seriously short of working capital. While the future of individual organisations remains unclear, the explosion of social media, innovation, critical thinking and passion we have seen, especially by younger Pacific islanders, suggests that the future for the region is brighter than many thought.
Throughout this difficult year, PiPP continued to highlight and disseminate, the ideas, vision and creativity of the peoples of the Pacific.
The ‘great game’ for the control of our region’s resources has begun in earnest, but our region is based on thousands of years of surviving against the fiercest challenges thrown up by nature and man. The people of this region have survived because, despite the odds, they have protected and where necessary adapted customs, culture and environment. The bigger nations may be able to appropriate lands, cajole politicians into giving away economic resources, but so long as we can survive culturally then the Pacific will not be defeated.
The work of PiPP in this period of darkness and uncertaintity is especially important to champion and amplify Pacific voices.
In a year of global upheaval and revolution across the Middle East, many asked if there would be a ‘Pacific Spring’. Unlikely in the foreseeable future as we lag behind in terms of information, communication and infrastructure. However, slowly forums are developing and becoming more influential both online and in person. The work of PiPP has been geared towards helping people across the region to openly debate the critical issues that affect their lives, in a safe environment and with access to information and knowledge that can inform the debate.
These are the essential elements of future policy development in the region and have the capacity to lay the ground work for the type of social cohesion and leadership that have been so difficult to develop in recent years.
The first decade of the century has come and gone. What started with such hope being labelled by some as the ‘century of the Pacific’ has seen a rapid fluctuation in the fortunes of many of the region's smallest nations. There is increasing talk of more frequent and severe weather interventions, increasingly frequent and severe donor interventions, and increasingly frequent and severe geo-political interventions.
The story is generally of things being done to the Pacific, with few examples of the people of the region being given the chance to have their own voice, come up with their own solutions, or go about their own way of dealing with the big issues. But the people of the Pacific are not rolling over and giving up - they are challenging, adapting and creating ways of survival in the most challenging of environments, as they have successfully done for many millennia.
The Pacific Institute of Public Policy continues to show what Pacific islanders themselves think about the issues, and demonstrate how they are able to form their own solutions. The need to find and highlight these voices is as great now as it has always been.
In this rapidly changing environment the norms of political and economic engagement are being re-written on an almost daily basis. This has enormous implications for everybody, ranging from the smallest Pacific island to our larger Antipodean neighbours. Nobody knows for certain how the emerging roles and influences from both the Asian subcontinent and also the Middle East will manifest in our region, but those of us who live here know that it is already happening and moving at a pace. The scramble for mineral and marine resources may further exacerbate this struggle. All of this befalling a region that is still finding its own identity.
At every level there are serious challenges. Is the Pacific a single region, or three distinct regions that need to face these challenges separately? How do the Melanesian states combine the need to meet the challenges of the 21st century internationally, whilst dealing with domestic issues and challenges that have their roots deep in their past? How will the recent increased geo- political interest affect the relationship between the Micronesian countries and the United States? Can small Polynesian microstates possibly be expected to operate effectively in such a complex political environment?
In order to help our people and leaders to meet these challenges we strive to provide access to reliable information and offer safe places for inclusive debate and discussion.
In this our first year of operation, we are indebted to the people and organisations that have supported us through our infancy, and look forward to continuing these relationships as PiPP matures.
The beauty of our model is its simplicity. We don’t profess to have the answers. We don’t want to steer the debate. What we do want to do is provide an inclusive forum for discussion and ensure participants (be they policy makers, civil servants, community leaders, young people, older people, men and women) have access to quality information in user relevant language and formats. It is both necessary and desirable for us to work in partnership.
When we set about establishing PiPP, the idea was to keep the administrative arm quite small and to work through a network of people. In a short space of time this network spans most of the Paci c island countries and is forever growing deeper.