2 Responses

  1. James Batley
    James Batley September 30, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Matthew and Tess, thanks for this analysis. I’d agree with you that the Framework for Pacific Regionalism only partially achieved its objectives at this year’s Leaders’ meeting. The weak outcome on ICT reminded me of the faintly plaintive language from the 2004 Leaders’ meeting in Apia, when Leaders ‘noted with appreciation that Australia will fund a study aimed at enhancing the compatibility of mobile phone systems in the Pacific.’ As far as I know that never went anywhere.

    On cervical cancer, while this is of course a worthy cause, it’s hard to see how it passed the regionalism test to make it onto the agenda in the first place: too many ‘regional’ health initiatives in the past have foundered on the rocks of different national health systems and circumstances. Certainly the Communique outcome suggests that Leaders (not to mention ‘relevant technical organisations’) were alive to this risk. (Maybe the fact that all of the Leaders were men had something to do with it too?)

    The Hiri Declaration strikes me as a real curate’s egg. Certainly it includes important language which unambiguously stakes out the Forum’s ground as ‘the paramount regional organisation’. And it affirms a generalised wish to promote ‘connections’, ‘connectivity’ and ‘greater regional economic integration’. But it’s terribly wordy, and its aspirations and commitments are expressed so generically (eg ‘[We] commit ourselves to … creating an environment that is conducive for business, trade and investment, economic growth and sustainable development to prosper’) that it’s hard to see how policymakers might take useful guidance from it, or how Leaders might be held accountable for implementing its terms over time. An aspirational document to be sure, but an influential one?

    All that said, I’d say the Framework – which is still in its early days – remains a very worthwhile initiative. Decluttering the Leaders’ agenda, finding a way to conduct a civil society dialogue – these are objectives that are worth pursuing (as indeed are ways of making the post-Forum Dialogue less deadly). Secretary-General Meg Taylor should be feeling reasonably satisfied with her first Forum Leaders’ meeting.

    1. Tess Newton Cain
      Tess Newton Cain September 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      James, thank you for taking the time to write such a considered response and add your thinking to this conversation. Given the significance of the FPR and the amount of time and energy that has been invested in it to date, I think it merits analysis in its own right and we will be looking forward to seeing how its processes and impacts evolve over time.

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