Tuesday 11 May 2021 | 14:50 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

Accountability is the path to better governance in PNG

When we look at progress in decentralisation in Papua New Guinea over the last 20 years – the sole continuous and overriding policy priority of successive governments – many challenges remain to improve downstream service delivery. Programming for “social accountability” shifts the focus

Facebook’s monopoly danger in the Pacific

The recent stoush between the Australian government and social media giant Facebook, with its eight-day-long ban of local news from its platform, had results that were not confined to Australia. Facebook’s block of Australian news also highlighted the vulnerability of information security in the

Lessons from Christchurch

The tragedy of 51 people murdered and many more injured two years ago by an Australian-born far-right extremist was commemorated in Christchurch this week by the New Zealand government along with family and friends of the victims. For the community – in New Zealand most importantly, but also in

When will PNG establish a National Human Rights Commission?

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges in Papua New Guinea, according to Transparency International PNG. In 2020, the government successfully established the Independent Commission Against Corruption to protect government systems and provide whistleblowers a mechanism for reporting complaints.

Farewell, Grand Chief

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare led Papua New Guinea to independence, became the first prime minister of the newly sovereign nation, and served as head of government for 17 of its 45 independent years. More than that, Somare was the living symbol of the country’s fierce spirit of self-determination

Terrorism and New Zealand’s dual citizenship conundrum

Last week, the issue of depriving an individual of their citizenship because of terrorist activity made headlines once again. An alleged Islamic State member, Suhayra Aden, had been detained by Turkish authorities crossing from Syria into Turkey and was being readied for deportation to New Zealand.

Allies but not friends? New Zealand and Australia

A pub quiz question for foreign policy nerds in ten years’ time: In early 2021, why did New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern accuse Scott Morrison’s government of not acting in good faith? “For not living up to its responsibilities on dual citizens crossing from Syria into Turkey” might be the

Foreign policy’s “Indigenous moment” is here

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, the first Maori woman in that role, hit the ground running in her first few months in office. Not only did her appointment break barriers for Indigenous women in international affairs, she has also begun to outline a stunning example of what an

What next for Pacific regionalism?

It has been a disastrous week for Pacific regionalism. The controversial appointment of Henry Puna as Secretary General in a 9-8 vote in last week’s special Leaders Meeting has splintered the Pacific Islands Forum, with five Micronesian states following through on their threat to leave the Forum

PNG: Mistaking massacres for tradition

Each week, it seems we hear about new cases of violent killings linked to tribal warfare in Hela Province, in the heart of Papua New Guinea. Reports emerged last week of 19 dead, including a mother and her child, with thousands more displaced. This is just the latest of a series of gruesome

Pacific development outlook for 2021

Pacific nations have mostly escaped the heavy death toll and hospital bed shortages faced by Western countries battling Covid-19, but the pandemic has dealt a disproportionately severe blow to the region’s economic ambitions. But with the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery in sight in China

A bruising 24 hours in the Pacific

After a divisive marathon meeting into the early hours of Thursday, Pacific leaders have emerged with a new Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Cook Islands’ former prime minister Henry Puna was elected 9–8, with one abstention. A break from the consensus tradition of the Forum, the

How to China, from your friends in New Zealand

It was probably only a matter of time before Damien O’Connor, not one of the leading lights in Jacinda Ardern’s second-term Cabinet, stepped into some diplomatic doo-doo. But in an interview with CNBC, New Zealand’s Trade Minister has done so in spectacular style. He gets douze points for

Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

The modern sharing of Pacific “public goods”

The Covid-19 crisis has made the importance of data sharing more urgent than ever. For the island nations of the Pacific, ensuring a ready flow of information to support decision-making is critical. Robust data-sharing systems will be instrumental in helping countries collaborate with one another,

Avoiding a “lost decade” in the Pacific

The horror year that has been 2020 is thankfully coming to an end with a dose of welcome optimism, now that vaccines are on the way. But the end is still far from within sight for many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours. In a new Lowy Institute policy brief, we argue that the Pacific is

PNG and the politics of the death penalty

Another season of turmoil has swept politics in Papua New Guinea. The Supreme Court has ruled the recent budget sitting to be unlawful, ordering the parliament to resume on Monday while the prospect a no confidence motion in Prime Minister James Marape hangs in the air. But for all the raucous

Favourites of 2020: Casting a line in Pacific fisheries

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. The evolution of Pacific fisheries management is a

A false start for PNG-Bougainville consultations

F.R. Stockwell was a British officer of the old school, the grandfather of a friend of mine who writes historical crime novels. Stockwell had a wonderful maxim about political meetings: Decide before you have a meeting whether it is meant to achieve anything substantive. If it isn’t, hold it in

The UK’s unwelcome foreign aid cut

The recent move to cut billions of pounds from the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget was long feared by advocates. As result, one minister has flagged her resignation, and others have made threats to cross the floor. The reduction of the UK’s aid spend from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national

PNG budget: Pluses and minuses

Papua New Guinea’s 2021 National Budget was passed in the parliament on November 17 under unusual circumstances. The traditional pre-budget lockup for economists and media was cancelled, and no opposition was present. Parliament was reconvened quickly by the Speaker following a defection of

What does a Biden administration herald for New Zealand?

Joe Biden’s election victory will be greeted in Wellington, as in many other world capitals, with a collective sigh of relief. That’s understandable. But what will the Biden presidency actually mean for New Zealand? The government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will welcome a Biden

Next steps in advocating for the Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific Islands countries face the classic challenge as strategic competition unfolds across the Indo-Pacific, finding themselves wedged, like the proverbial meat in the sandwich, between two great powers. Small states do have agency, of course, and can influence the behaviour of larger powers.

New Zealand’s landslide election and the challenges ahead

The weekend ballot wasn’t really an election contest so much as a question whether Labour could govern in its own right. Since the introduction of proportional representation in New Zealand in 1996, no single party has won an outright majority. This year, circumstances combined to make that

Keeping West Papua on the agenda

When Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman addressed the UN General Assembly last month, he echoed a concern that has often been expressed by his predecessors, not about the Pacific directly, but about alleged human rights abuses in West Papua. “The world is taking a selective approach

PNG electrification: Spend on solar to help meet targets

The Maseratis are still collecting dust in sheds on a wharf in Port Moresby, but the sun has started to shine on at least one of the major deals Papua New Guinea gained from hosting the APEC Leaders Summit back in 2018. The PNG Electrification Partnership committed the leaders of Japan, the United

Evaluating aid in the Pacific

Each year, more than US $2 billion of foreign aid is invested in the Pacific Islands region, equivalent to roughly 8% of the region’s GDP. This aid comes in the form of thousands of projects from more than 60 donors. Information about these projects is often messy and opaque, with public

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