Transforming the Regional Architecture:


New Players and Challenges for the Pacific Islands

By Nic Maclellan

AsiaPacific Issues, no. 118 (Honolulu: East-West Center, August 2015)

Growing debates over the mandate and capacity of regional institutions in the Pacific highlight the complex and cluttered agenda facing island leaders.

The Pacific Islands Forum, with a new secretary general and Framework on Pacific Regionalism, is working to forge collective positions among its 16 members.

But fundamental policy differences over climate change, trade, and decolonization reinforce the sentiment among islanders that Australia and New Zealand should play a less dominant role within the Forum.

The current question of Fiji's reintegration into the Forum overshadows deeper structural changes across the region: Island nations are increasingly looking to non-traditional development partners and using mechanisms outside the Forum.

Meanwhile, looming decisions on climate and self-determination seem destined to alienate powerful friends.

Pacific islanders want to set the agenda within their own institutions, and are finding it increasingly difficult to paper over contested visions for the future.

Papers in the AsiaPacific Issues series address topics of broad interest and significant impact relevant to current and emerging policy debates.

For more information on the series, including submission guidelines, visit

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