Security in the Pacific Islands

What are the major security challenges facing the Pacific Islands region? How can Australia help respond to them?    

The Pacific Islands region occupies 15 percent of the earth’s surface, including more than 30 million km2 of the Pacific Ocean. Amid rising global geopolitical tensions, the large ocean island states of the ‘Blue Pacific’ are increasingly perceived as a site of strategic competition. Partners such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, China, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom have all increased their engagement with the region. Australia has long identified the strategic importance of the Pacific Islands, with the security of the region ranked second only to the security of Australia in the order of its strategic priorities.                

But while aware that the geopolitics of their region is ‘crowded and complex’, in the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, Pacific Island leaders made clear that they are primarily concerned with addressing an ‘expanded concept of security inclusive of human security’, which includes ‘prioritising environmental security, and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change’.                

Our program focuses on the security challenges facing the Pacific Islands and examines how Australia pursues its security in the region and beyond. Key questions include:                

  • How do Pacific Island governments, civil society groups, and communities understand ‘security’ and what are their security priorities?
  • How should Australia respond to security challenges in the Pacific Islands?                                    
  • How will geopolitical competition in the Pacific Islands impact Pacific Island countries and Australia and what should they do in response?
  • How can security cooperation in the Pacific Islands best be orientated to address current and future regional security challenges?                                    
  • How are states seeking to influence or interfere in Pacific Island countries and regional politics?