Wednesday 27 Jan 2021 | 19:09 | SYDNEY
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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 MAPPING FOREIGN ASSISTANCE IN THE PACIFIC PROJECT

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

Pacific island links: PNG snapshots, the French PM in New Caledonia, Mini Games and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • The Lowy Institute has released Papua New Guinea: Seven Snapshots of a Nation, which analyses PNG’s political, social, economic and security trends.
     
  • French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has kicked off his four-day visit to New Caledonia with a visit to the grave of independence activist Jean-Marie Tjibaou and an address to the territory’s congress. The PM’s trip is part of the preparations for the 2018 independence referendum.
     
  • Meanwhile, Philippe Germain has been re-elected as New Caledonia’s President, after a three-month impasse between pro- and anti-independence politicians forced the territory to rely on a caretaker government.
     
  • After more than 30 years of local activism, Papua New Guinea has declared the Managalas Plateau a conservation area, making it the largest conservation area in the country.
     
  • The Pacific Mini Games has opened in Vanuatu, with 5000 people filling the Korman Stadium in Port Vila to watch the opening ceremony.
     
  • Kiribati is expected to suffer some of the worst consequences of climate change, with the UN estimating the nation could disappear in less than 50 years. DW looks at what the nation’s inhabitants are doing to prevent their nation from being lost to rising sea levels:

 

No course correction in PNG budget

It is no secret that the Papua New Guinea economy is facing some very tough times. The collapse of global commodity prices, a severe drought, an ongoing foreign exchange crisis, and questionable government spending have all contributed to a dramatic reversal of fortunes for a country that just four years ago had the fastest rate of growth in the Asia Pacific.

The 2018 budget was handed down on Tuesday and is the first in this government's second term. It offered a chance for a course correction to address some of the underlying drivers of the country's economic malaise. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the government has not seized this opportunity. Still, there are aspects of the budget that deserve praise.

What to like

One bright spot of the controversial 2017 elections was the emergence of Charles Abel as both Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister. Abel, through an ambitious 25-point '100-Day Plan', has injected a sense of urgency into the portfolio. In his budget speech, Minister Abel provided a point-by-point update on the progress of the Plan, which expires 2 December, and it appears considerable progress has been made. Minister Abel seems to have a genuine desire to shake up the status quo and we should hope that the pace and intensity of this reform agenda can continue.

Abel's budget speech was also upfront about the weak state of the economy after it 'endured a series of economic shocks'. Emphasising fiscal discipline, Abel acknowledged that the government was facing a revenue crisis. Indeed, government revenue now only represents 13% of Gross Domestic Product, well below the long-term average of 32%. Abel argues that 'need to identify why our GDP growth is not being matched with a corresponding growth in revenue'.

We already know some of the answers as to why revenue has collapsed: declining capacity of revenue collection agencies, accelerated asset depreciation of new major resource projects, revenue streams being channelled off-books through state-owned enterprises and tax and compliance avoidance. All have contributed. Above all of these issues is the reality that PNG's non-resource economy is now in the throes of a recession, a point not picked up by the Treasurer.

Yet acknowledging the severity of the revenue problem is certainly a prerequisite to solving it, and Abel does put forward some reform proposals that are steps in the right direction.

What not to like

Unfortunately, the language of the budget speech does not stack up with the numbers. Both revenue and expenditure are estimated to be two billion Kina, or roughly 17% and 15% respectively, above numbers found in the 2017 supplementary budget. This hardly seems credible.

With so many expenditure commitments considered key deliverables for this government (the decentralisation agenda, including fully funding the controversial constituent funds used to buy political stability; APEC 2018; free education, and so on), the Treasury is caught in a straightjacket of spending.  

In an effort to make the deficit spending look somewhat achievable, the budget announced a number of one-off revenue collection efforts. These include yet another attempt at a sovereign bond, further squeezing of state owned enterprises, and budget support from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

If you have been watching the PNG budget over the last few years this is a very familiar story. We have seen similar promises in multiple previous budgets. Unfortunately, the government has consistently failed to deliver on these revenue generating efforts. This results in the need for a supplementary budget with much lower revenue projections and a deficit that the government simply cannot finance. In response, expenditure is slashed in a way that ultimately protects the government's priority areas of expenditure at the cost of recurrent expenditure in education and health.

While there is a new Treasurer in the chair, the administration and the government is ultimately the same. Their failure to deliver on one-off revenue injections in the past is a body blow to the credibility of the budget. I hope that I am wrong, but I worry that this time next year, just as the dust is settling on a successful APEC leaders' summit, we are going to see history repeat itself.   

The fall and fall of Australia’s aid program

Diminished and marginalised sums up the way Australia's development assistance program is treated in the Foreign Policy White Paper.

The program represents by far the biggest proportion of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's budget (DFAT's total budget in 2017/2018 is $5.8 billion, of which official development assistance is $3.6 billion) and its work should be recognised for the key role it plays in Australia's relations across Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. But reference to development assistance in the White Paper is largely limited to one-liners buried within the paper's thematic chapters. 'Global Cooperation', the chapter where the program might have been given its due place in the sun, presents a simplistic narrative that blurs a wide a range of issues, including domestic challenges such as the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Why is this so? It is revealing to see how far Australia's aid program has fallen in the hierarchy of Australian foreign policy relevance since the Howard government released the first and so far only white paper on Australia's development assistance program in 2006: Australian Aid: Promoting Growth and Stability.

Much has happened to Australia's aid program since that white paper was produced. It suffered from the unsettling administrative upheaval that came with unfulfilled promises of massive budget expansion under the Rudd government; it lost its own administrative base with the demise of AusAID under the Abbott government; it lost a critical mass of internal skills and knowledge with the absorption of the program into the DFAT; and it has had its budget massively eroded.

But most importantly, it has lost the intellectual clarity of its contribution to Australia's broader foreign policy and national interests. The transparency of its activities and achievements is now buried under broad statements of intent and a portfolio budget document that requires a solid understanding of accountancy to interpret.

The 2017 White Paper indicates a determination from the government to keep the aid program in the shadows and a reluctance to make clear the role and value of Australia's aid program, not only as an important element of the broader foreign policy agenda but as a prominent aspect of how Australia approaches its responsibilities as a developed nation. When the document does finally allot some space to the aid program in Chapter Six, it does not provide any analytical basis or framework for a program that has a budget of just under $4 billion of taxpayer money.

Yet the prevailing need for Australia's aid program to support the national interest and address our region's challenges has remained constant since 2006. An appallingly broad and arguably incorrect statement in the paper attributes the reduction in global poverty to globalisation. Having delivered that assertion as fact, there is no substantial discussion about what is happening to poverty, despite the reduction of poverty still being a core goal of the government's development assistance policy.

There is little reference to the fact that despite Asia's success in reducing poverty (largely through China's own social and economic reforms), extreme poverty is still a grim reality for almost half of the region's population. And while the paper celebrates the rise of Asia's middle classes, it is silent about the rise of inequality and the changing boundaries of poverty, with more than 70% of the world's poor now living in middle-income countries. The size and purchasing power of Asia's middle class has grown in the past two decades, but their share of overall income has fallen as that of the richest quintile has increased. The paper is also silent on the development dilemma that the drivers of inequality are the same forces supporting stronger economies: technological progress, globalisation and market-oriented reform.

Even in the chapter dedicated to working with the developing Pacific countries, the role of aid and Australia's very significant development program is treated more as a leitmotif than as a major component of the relationships. Perhaps one should take this as a positive recognition of the need for Australia to look beyond the aid program as the defining element of its relationships with these countries.

But the White Paper's overall treatment of aid and development suggests that even in this region where Australia remains the leading donor, the prevailing preference is to diminish and stifle Australia's international development story. Why is this so?

Pacific island links: COP23, PNG corruption, Tonga’s election and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • The crisis on Manus Island continues almost a month after the refugee processing centre officially closed. This powerful photo essay from the New York Times illuminates the situation for Manusians and asylum seekers in the centre.
     
  • Meanwhile, the new operator of Australia's detention centre on Nauru has been revealed. Canstruct will be paid $385 million over the next year to provide services to the more than 1,000 asylum seekers remaining on the island.
     
  • Labor Shadow Defence Minister Richard Marles addressed the Lowy Insitute earlier this week on Australia's lacking approach to the Pacific, arguing that Australia currently has a 'holding pattern policy' when it comes to the region.
     
  • Eric Kwa from the PNG Constitutional and Law Reform Commission addressed ANU's Development Policy Centre in Canberra on the importance of anti-corruption laws in PNG and the soon-to-be-established Independent Commission Against Corruption.
     
  • The Democratic Party of Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva, whose government was dismissed by the Tongan King in August, has been returned in a snap election, winning 14 of 26 electoral seats. ABC's Pacific Beat spoke to Commonwealth Observer Group chair Margaret Wilson on the organisation of the election.
     
  • The COP23 UN Climate Change Conference hosted by Fiji concluded in Bonn last week, with Fijian schoolboy Timoci Naulusala addressing world leaders on how climate change is affecting his community:
     

New Solomon Islands PM will need all the support he can muster

Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela was sworn in last week in Solomon Islands.

Hou (the surname by which he is more readily known) replaces Manasseh Sogavare, who was removed in a motion of no confidence on 6 November reportedly for failing to implement policies and for a lack of consultation with fellow members of parliament. Changes of leadership through motions of no confidence are frequent in Solomon Islands, with few leaders governing for a full term.

Hou is an exceptionally qualified member of parliament and his election to the top job has been well-received by the public. As Governor of the Central Bank during the country's ethnic troubles, he was one of the very few public servants to stand up publicly for good governance, resist overwhelming pressure from both militants and members of parliament and reject extortion attempts. He was a shining light in very dark times.

Hou worked for the World Bank in Washington for two years after leaving the Central Bank, before winning his seat of Small Malaita in the 2010 elections. He was Minister of Public Service and then Minister of Finance and Treasury between 2011 and 2014.

As Hou takes charge, Solomon Islands faces major economic challenges. The most recent IMF Article IV Mission reported that the 'deficit widened to 3.3% of GDP in 2016 when lower revenues and grants were not matched by expenditure restraint'. The cash balance had eroded 'from 3.6 months of recurrent spending at end-2015 to just 0.8 months projected for 2017.' Government payments have been delayed due to these fiscal strains, with vital rural health services adversely affected. The IMF warned the weakening fiscal position has increased the economy's vulnerability to shocks and advised that 'fiscal adjustment will be needed in 2018 - including revenue raising measures, expenditure control and a plan to eliminate arrears'. The IMF also urged the government to speed up financial sector reform and align spending in the 2018 budget more closely with the National Development Strategy.

In his first speech to the nation, Hou acknowledged the short time he has to achieve his goals before the next election is due by the end of 2018. He said his first priority was to stabilise the country's 'ailing fiscal situation, address the cash flow situation and ensure fiscal discipline', promising to formulate an affordable and credible 2018 budget.

Refreshingly, Hou said the government would concentrate on achievable infrastructure programs that benefited rural areas. Hou promised to reopen health clinics that had been forced to close under the Sogavare government and committed to delivering the controversial anti-corruption bill that Sogavare was unable to get through the parliament. Hou's tough stance on corruption resonates with a public tired of politicians more concerned with their own fortunes than the nation's.

Crucially for Australian interests, he reconfirmed new arrangements negotiated with Australia to construct the undersea cable to deliver badly needed high-speed internet. Prime Minister Sogavare had previously negotiated with Chinese company Huawei to construct the cable, but this deal was terminated after the Australian government stepped in over security concerns.

As Central Bank Governor and as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Hou had a positive relationship with the Australian government. Given Solomon Islands' dependence on Australia for aid, security and now telecommunications, this relationship is vital. In his speech, Hou promised to re-engage and 'take extra efforts' to work closely with Solomon Islands' development partners.

In a 2016 paper written for the ANU, Hou makes a strong argument that the constituency is the key vehicle for service delivery and development in Solomon Islands. He argues that constituency development funding (currently expensive, lacking in transparency and vulnerable to corruption) should be subject to stronger 'accountability rules and regulations'. If he is able to improve the accountability and transparency of constituency development funding (likely against the wishes of a majority of MPs), that alone would be a significant achievement. It would endear Hou even further to development partners.

He is also one of the few leaders in Solomon Islands in the last 20 years not associated with questionable acts during the troubles, with corruption (though he was charged with official misconduct for misuse of constituency funds in 2015), with opposition to RAMSI, or antagonism towards Australia. His appointment of Sogavare as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Treasury also promises an element of continuity and stability. Hou's Prime Ministership is an attractive proposition to Solomon Islanders who desire good governance and to international partners such as Australia, New Zealand and the international financial institutions. Expectations will be high.

If Hou's government is able to even partially deliver on his agenda over the next 12 months and resist the inevitable pressures associated with being Prime Minister, he stands a good chance of forming government again after the 2018 elections. Retaining the top job following elections is even rarer than serving a full term in Solomon Islands.

But for Hou's many admirers inside and outside Solomon Islands, it is worth remembering the obvious. As PM, Hou can set the agenda and make some big decisions but he can't personally implement every single policy and commitment. He will still be dependent on his cabinet ministers, who may not wholeheartedly share his reformist instincts, and he will have limited financial resources at his disposal. He will need all the support he can muster.

Pacific island links: A new PM for Solomon Islands, PNG’s cable, COP23 and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern with the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • The situation in the Manus Island detention centre remains tense, with approximately 400 refugees refusing to leave. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged AU$2.7 million for essential services to refugees on Manus and Nauru, and has also pressed Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider an offer to take 150 of the remaining refugees.
     
  • Solomon Islands parliament has elected a new Prime Minister, with the ruling Democratic Coalition for Change’s Rick Hou to replace the ousted Manasseh Sogavare.
     
  • On the sidelines of COP23, Pope Francis met with Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the Vatican and spoke out on the risks of rising sea levels in the Pacific.
     
  • Malcolm Turnbull and PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have announced that Australia will build an undersea telecommunications cable between the two countries. A deal between Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and the government of Solomon Islands to build a similar cable that would connect to Australia’s communications network had previously raised security concerns in Australia.
     
  • Tonga’s snap election, called after King Tupou IV dismissed the government of ‘Akilisi Pohiva in August, is being held tomorrow. There is a strong possibility that no female candidates will win seats and ABC’s Pacific Beat spoke with ‘Akosita Havili Lavulavu, the only woman in Tonga’s parliament, about the obstacles for aspiring female politicians in Tonga.
     
  • The University of PNG’s School of Business and Public Policy and the ANU’s Development Policy Centre are calling for academic papers for the 2018 PNG Update, to be held in Port Moresby in June 2018.

Pacific island links: Sogavare out, COP23, Manus and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been ousted after a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. He has said the mass resignations last week that preceded the vote were due to the reintroduction of an anti-corruption bill to parliament, but members of the ruling Democratic Coalition for Change maintain that they had lost faith in Sogavare's leadership.*
     
  • Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has rejected an application by asylum seekers on Manus Island to restore essential services to the detention centre, which officially closed last week. Nearly 600 men remain in the facility.*
     
  • With the detention centre now closed, Jo Chandler's analysis from 2014 provides an interesting perspective on how Australian asylum seeker policies have affected Manus Island.
     
  • French and New Caledonian officials have met in Paris to discuss next year's independence referendum, with 11,000 names added to the electoral roll, formerly restricted to long-term residents. Radio New Zealand on the reaction to the decision and on how the referendum will be conducted.
     
  • The COP23 climate change conference hosted by Fiji has opened in Bonn, Germany. Former German environment minister Klaus Töpfer has argued for the conference's importance and for international action on climate change for Pacific states such as Fiji.
     
  • Radio New Zealand reports on the lack of female representation, voting and enrolment irregularities, violence and corruption in this year's elections in PNG:
     

*Due to an editorial error, these two points were originally combined.

Cleaning up the Manus damage

Last Tuesday saw the official closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, the Australian-funded and managed detention centre for unauthorised boat arrivals in Papua New Guinea.

Originally opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government’s Pacific Solution, the centre was closed by the Rudd government in 2008, before being reopened by the Gillard government in 2012. The agreement with PNG was expanded by Rudd in 2013 to increase the centre’s capacity and include the potential resettlement of refugees in PNG. The controversial program has been the epicentre of tensions between the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments over the last four years – the tension has only escalated in the week following its closure.

Nearly 600 men remain inside the centre refusing to leave despite essential services such as water, power, food and medical supplies being cut off. The Australian government maintains that the men must move to accommodation centres in the main town of Lorengau, but they refuse to go due to safety concerns outside of the centre and uncertainty over what actions, if any, the two governments will take. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) officials have visited the alternative accommodation and reported that these centres are still under construction and the men cannot be housed there.

The centre’s closure was prompted by the PNG Supreme Court’s ruling in April 2016 that its operation was unconstitutional, as it breached detainee rights to personal liberty and freedom. The governments of Australia and PNG set the closure date in May 2017, however preparations for the closure have been inadequate. Ministers from each country are pointing the finger at the other to take responsibility for the welfare of the asylum seekers on Manus Island.

The UNHCR has warned that the situation will become a humanitarian crisis if not addressed soon. The treatment of the asylum seekers on Manus has been questioned repeatedly – following a lawsuit, the Australian Government agreed to pay $70 million in compensation to 1,905 men who had been detained at the centre. There have been reports of physical and sexual abuse, negligent medical treatment and inadequate mental health services. The suffering of those detained inside the centre, the majority of whom have been found to be refugees, is well documented.

Damage to the Australia-PNG relationship

Manus Island has featured more prominently in Australia’s headlines than any other Pacific issue over the last four years. But these stories paint a narrow and unfailingly negative picture of PNG, a country of approximately eight million people and one of the most ethno-linguistically diverse in the world, with nearly 800 languages.

PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbour, former colony and one of Australia’s most important bilateral partners. Australia gives approximately half a billion dollars of aid to PNG annually, making it Australia’s largest aid recipient. In 2015, then-DFAT Secretary Peter Varghese said that ‘perhaps more than any other single relationship the state of our relationship with PNG is seen as a barometer of Australian foreign policy success’.

PNG also faces stark development challenges, which many Australians don’t fully appreciate. As Papua New Guinean politician Allan Bird wrote at the time of the PNG Supreme Court ruling last year, Papua New Guineans are focused on meeting their day-to-day needs – food, medicine and other basic services that their government doesn’t provide. As a consequence, argues Bird, ‘most in PNG don’t care about Manus’. Humanitarian crises in PNG, such as the drought in the highlands in 2015-2016 that affected hundreds of thousands of people, receive little attention in Australia outside of the development community.

Australia’s aid program to PNG prioritises good governance yet, as Jenny Hayward-Jones argues, the Manus Island detention centre has constrained Australia from criticising the PNG Government over issues such as the corruption scandal that continues to plague PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

PNG and Manus Island have been portrayed as ‘hell holes’ by international media and refugee advocates for different reasons. The Australian Government’s policy succeeds because the hell-hole message deters refugees and asylum seekers from attempting to travel to Australia by boat. Men in the Manus Island detention centre have experienced violence at the hands of Papua New Guineans (both security officials and local Manusians), and these stories are a key focus of refugee advocacy campaigns. While this violence is a serious concern and warrants our attention, Australians should also recognise the Manusians who are trying to help the refugees by bringing them food and supplies.     

Absent from much of the media coverage is the impact the centre has had on the communities of Manus Island. Traditional social structures are vital to the lives of Manusians. The PNG Government’s lack of capacity to deliver basic services mean people must be largely self-reliant. The initial agreement between Australia and PNG to establish the centre stated that there ‘would be broader benefit for communities in which transferees are initially placed’. The island has received an increased share of Australia’s aid to PNG and there has been a short-term spike in economic activity on the island as a result of the centre.

But how long lasting are these benefits? And do they outweigh the disruption the centre has brought to Manus? In 2014, Jo Chandler wrote about how the centre had irrevocably changed Manus Island. She reported incidents such as the death of a 17-year-old local boy in 2014 in a car accident involving PNG’s notorious mobile police squad as a result of the centre. There have also been incidents of violence against Manusians perpetrated by detainees, such as the sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in January this year.   

Time to clean up the mess

The Australian Government has often characterised the offshore processing arrangement with PNG and Nauru as a regional or burden-sharing arrangement, but the capacity of developing Pacific nations to burden-share is highly unequal to that of wealthy Australia. Styled in this way, it is likely to be misunderstood by most Australians who have less awareness of development challenges in the Pacific.

Peter Browne, the editor of Inside Story, argues that the policy was based on a false reading of Australian anxiety about the numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat on our shores. Both sides of politics in Australia appear to approach the issue on the basis that ‘stopping the boats’ is a hit with voters but the 2017 Lowy Institute Poll found that opinions are divided. On the question of where to settle asylum seekers currently housed in offshore processing centres on Manus Island or Nauru, 48% say they ‘should never be settled in Australia’ – but 45% say they should.

New Zealand has offered to take some of the refugees but Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that Australia's focus is on the refugee transfer deal with the US. A long-term solution needs to be found soon – continual uncertainty is harrowing not just to the refugees and asylum seekers inside the centre, but also to Manusians, and is damaging Australia-PNG relations and Australia’s international reputation.

Photo by Flickr user Nicolas Raymond.

Pacific island links: Solomon Islands leadership, NZ and Tokelau, Tsai Ing-wen and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is facing a vote of no-confidence next week. A total of 18 MPs, including nine ministers, defected from the government over the weekend, saying they have lost faith in Sogavare’s leadership. Minister Stanley Sofu, who did not defect, has speculated that the move may be connected to a recently reintroduced anti-corruption bill.
     
  • Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island closed yesterday afternoon, but hundreds of refugees remain there and are protesting the move to new accommodation amid rising tensions between detainees, local residents and the police.
     
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that he will visit New Caledonia some time before May 2018, as the island heads to a referendum on independence later that year.
     
  • On the DevPolicy blog, Michelle Nayahamui Rooney writes about the death of PNG journalist Rosalyn Albaniel Evara last week and how PNG’s communities and government are responding to gender-based violence.
     
  • An enquiry into New Zealand’s close relationship with Tokelau has been called for as leaked documents show the dependent territory suffers from a plethora of institutional problems, despite New Zealand giving more than NZ$16 million to the territory annually.
     
  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has begun her Pacific visit in the Marshall Islands, announcing a visa waiver agreement between Taiwan and six of its Pacific allies.

Pacific island links: Manus closure, Evara's death, caretaker mode in New Caledonia and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • With the Manus Island Detention Centre set to close at the end of the month, hundreds of remaining asylum seekers and refugees will be moved to government-run accommodation and hotels until they are settled in either the US or Papua New Guinea.
     
  • The death of the Post-Courier's Business Editor Rosalyn Albaniel Evara, allegedly a result of domestic violence, has brought national attention to the issue of gender-based violence in PNG.
     
  • For the third time, New Caledonia's cabinet has failed to elect a new president, leaving the government in caretaker mode. The sole candidate Philippe Germain was unsuccessful in gaining the support of the 11-member cabinet, which is split between pro- and anti-independence groups.
     
  • While the residents of Vanuatu's Ambae Island have started to return to their villages as the threat of volcanic activity subsides, Tinakula volcano in the Solomon Islands has begun to erupt. ABC's Pacific Beat spoke with Chris Bone from OceansWatch on the risk of ash from the volcano contaminating fresh water supplies.
     
  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has reintroduced an anti-corruption bill into Parliament, after its withdrawal in August was heavily criticised and led to mass protests.
     
  • On the DevPolicy blog, Benjamin Sims looks at the implementation of the Paris Agreement in the Pacific and how states can achieve their nationally determined contribution targets as well as sustainable development.
     
  • The World Health Organization says that rates of child mortality and common communicable diseases remain some of the highest in the world, and that improving primary healthcare and service delivery, especially for rural communities, is critical to improving its health indicators:
     

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