DONOR NATIONS SHOULD TAKE HEED OF YOUNGER ISLANDERS

Editorial

Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Sept. 16, 2008) – Is New Zealand looking too much to the past when it comes to building better ties with Melanesia?

That’s at least the view of one Solomon Islander much experienced in both regional and national affairs. His view appears to have some validity.

Causing his concern was an announcement by the Wellington-based Pacific Cooperation Foundation. This independent foundation gets substantial New Zealand Government funding and is used to promote some of New Zealand’s Pacific initiatives.

Late Friday it announced details of a Melanesian Symposium, to be held in Wellington later this month, and the main speakers it has invited. The symposium has the theme ‘Tok-Talanoa: Pathways to the Future.’

New Zealand has for too long had its closest ties with the small islands and populations of Polynesia. They dominate its Pacific Islands thinking and influence.

So the Wellington symposium has the commendable intentions of bringing more balance to New Zealand’s Pacific view. Building better New Zealand understanding of Melanesia, with its far greater population than Polynesia and considerably more economic potential.

But in his reaction on an influential private online discussion forum our Solomon Islander wrote:

"How long will the younger generation of the Pacific remain spectators to issues that will shape their destiny? When are the Pacific and indeed New Zealand and Australia going to learn that the very people they promote in their symposiums and the like are partly responsible for the sickness that continues to wreak havoc in the Pacific?"

"While I respect the choice of speakers, I believe the younger people of the Pacific ought to be included so that their views are taken onboard as well."

Provoking this comment was the list of main speakers the Pacific Cooperation Foundation proudly promoted. It is dominated by names of the past rather than the future and include:

That’s obviously a list of names intended to impress a New Zealand audience and those sponsoring the symposium. They surely will.

But pathways to the future?

The organizers, as that irate online viewpoint from Honiara urges, could have done much better. There’s a tired familiarity to the names and views featuring on their list.

The New Zealanders (and Australians too) would do better by spending more time seeking out and involving more fresh, younger voices from the Pacific Islands.

Voices trying to build pathways to a better future for their countries.

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