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About the project

A focus on Pacific Islands has been a central component of the Lowy Institute’s work for more than a decade. We research contemporary challenges facing the Pacific islands region in areas including geostrategic competition, sustainable economic development, governance and leadership challenges, poverty alleviation, and Australia’s relationship with Pacific countries and organisations. We also hold major conferences, workshops, dialogues and exchanges. We have produced influential work on Australia’s Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, the 2006 Fiji Coup, normalising Australia’s bilateral relationship with Fiji, Australia’s bilateral relationship with Papua New Guinea, the future development challenges of Papua New Guinea, the economic benefits of greater labour mobility between Australia and the South Pacific, security and resilience dynamics in the Pacific, and foreign aid flows in the Pacific.

The Institute manages four major projects focusing on the Pacific:

The Pacific Research Program (PRP) is a consortium partnership between the Lowy Institute and the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs and Development Policy Centre, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The PRP is designed to be a globally pre-eminent centre of excellence for research on the Pacific. More details are available here.

The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is designed to enhance aid effectiveness in the Pacific.

The Australia-PNG Network is a project supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, designed to foster people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea. More details are available here.

The South Pacific Fragile States Project was a project supported by the Department of Defence to produce independent research and forward looking analysis on the key drivers of instability in the South Pacific and the associated security challenges for Australia and the wider region. More details are available here.


The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map is an analytical tool designed to enhance aid effectiveness in the Pacific by improving coordination, alignment, and accountability of foreign aid through enhanced transparency of aid flows. The Pacific Aid Map has collected data on close to 13,000 projects in 14 countries supplied by 62 donors from 2011 onwards. All data has been made freely available on this interactive platform, allowing users to investigate and manipulate the information in a variety of ways. The Pacific Aid Map is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid map is available here.

Country profiles from Pacific Islands countries can be found here.

See the Chinese Aid in the Pacific map here.



Latest publications

Principled engagement: Rebuilding defence ties with Fiji

In this Lowy Institute Analysis, Anna Powles and Jose Sousa-Santos argue that Russia’s sale of arms to Fiji underlines how the security orthodoxy in the Pacific Islands region is changing. Unless Australia and New Zealand adapt to these changing strategic circumstances they will lose influence in the region to external players.

Photo: Commonwealth of Australia/Department of Defence/ABIS Chris Beerens

The Embarrassed Colonialist

Forty years after independence, Papua New Guinea is the largest single recipient of aid from Australia. Yet Australians seem to be largely ambivalent about the country. Few Australians know the history of our colonial rule in PNG and our ties to the country are being forgotten.



2015 Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue: Outcomes Report

In this Report, the Lowy Institute’s Melanesia team summarises the outcomes of the third annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue. The Dialogue assembled a group of dynamic young leaders from diverse fields in both countries. Discussion focused on redefining employment, sustaining rural communities, engaging Asia, and gender inequality. The young leaders used the Dialogue to make new professional connections and are already collaborating to enhance existing initiatives that prove the enduring value of people-to-people relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Melanesia New Voices: Investing in the Next Generation

The Lowy Institute for International Policy, in cooperation with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat with the support of PACMAS and the ANZ Bank convened a Dialogue with emerging leaders from Melanesia in Port Vila, Vanuatu on 23 June.

The Dialogue, entitled Melanesia New Voices: Investing in the Next Generation, brought together 25 emerging leaders – five each from Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – to discuss common challenges, their hopes for the future of their region and opportunities for cooperation.  The Dialogue considered three principal ideas: Resilience, Innovation and Political Change. 

This Dialogue event was unique in assembling young people from a variety of sectors – including finance, law, public service, small business, civil society, information technology, and communications – from across the region outside of formal inter-governmental meetings.

The participants in the Dialogue called on Melanesian leaders to better articulate a Melanesian Way for the 21st century. This should uphold traditional Melanesian values such as a sense of community, self-reliance, and unity in diversity, and incorporate values important to young people such as gender equality, participation of disabled people and minorities, and sustainable, ethical and inclusive approaches to development.  They also called on leaders to create space for young people in Melanesia to contribute to political and economic decision-making processes. 

Papua New Guinea in 2015: at a crossroads and beyond

2015 is a significant year for Papua New Guinea.  The country will mark 40 years of independence from Australia, host the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting and the Pacific Games.  The Papua New Guinea economy will record the highest GDP growth rate in the world in 2015 but will also formally fail to meet any of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals in their deadline year.

The Papua New Guinea government has introduced tuition fee free education and free healthcare but faces major challenges in improving the living standards of its population of over seven million people.  The resources boom has helped drive investment in infrastructure but catering for the nation’s growing youth bulge is proving a particularly difficult policy problem.  Changes to the way different levels of government are being administered could improve service delivery in rural areas but have the potential to undermine national development planning.  The next generation of leaders will face an even more complex set of challenges. 

The Papua New Guinea economy is reliant on foreign investment in the resources sector and therefore highly exposed to the global economy.  This was to Papua New Guinea’s advantage while demand for its resources and global commodity prices were high during the resources boom. But even with fourteen years of successive GDP growth, it has proved difficult to spread the benefits of the boom.  A major challenge for the next generation of leaders in Papua New Guinea will be to better manage the nation’s wealth and effectively implement policies and programs that will result in improved living standards for all Papua New Guineans.

These were among the key conclusions reached by thirty participants at a Roundtable meeting, Papua New Guinea in 2015 – At a crossroads and beyond, convened by the Lowy Institute for International Policy on 28 April 2015.

Participants included representatives from business, government, civil society, academia and the media –  from Australia and from Papua New Guinea.  Discussion focused on challenges for the next generation of leaders in Papua New Guinea and future directions for Australia-Papua New Guinea relations.

2014 Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue: Outcomes report

In this Report, the Lowy Institute’s Melanesia team summarises the outcomes of the second annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue. This Dialogue set a new standard for frank and broad-ranging discussion between young leaders from diverse fields in both countries. Food security, access to services and justice, the growing importance of social enterprises, and the prospects for Bougainville were key focus areas for the discussion. Connections made through the Dialogue are enabling exciting new collaborative work.

Fiji’s election and Australia: the terms of re-engagement

The election will only be the first step in Fiji’s transition to democracy after eight years of Voreqe Bainimarama’s military rule. Australia should use its influence to assist the workings of the Fiji Parliament, the development of an unfettered civil society and media and an independent judiciary.