Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands
Introduction to the project
In the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, Pacific Islands Forum leaders recognised that the Pacific Islands region is facing ‘an increasingly complex regional security environment driven by multifaceted security challenges’. This raises the question of how Pacific Island states and territories will respond to these wide-ranging, but frequently interconnected, challenges, and what role security cooperation can play.
With funding from an Australian Department of Defence Strategic Policy Grant, since 2020 an international team of researchers led by the Stretton Institute Security Policy in the Indo-Pacific research program director Professor Joanne Wallis has been analysing the various cooperative security agreements, arrangements, and institutions between and among states and territories in the Pacific Islands region, and their partners.
The aim of the project is to identify how Pacific security cooperation could be best orientated to address current and future regional security challenges.
Mapping Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands
The first major project output is a policy paper titled Mapping Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands. This paper identified and mapped the various cooperative security agreements, arrangements, and institutions between and among states and territories in the Pacific Islands region, and their partners.
This policy paper was accompanied by an animated map.
Members of the project team shared the map and research findings in an opinion piece about regional security cooperation.
The Dynamics of Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands
The second major project output is a policy paper titled Security Cooperation in the Pacific: Workshop Report.
This paper is based on an online workshop held online on 18 and 19 November 2021 to better understand security cooperation between partner states; between Pacific Island countries themselves, and their citizens; and between partners, Pacific Island countries and their citizens.
Speakers came from a range of PICs and partner states, including Australia, China, Fiji, Japan, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and the United States. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat also attended part of the workshop as an observer.
Security cooperation in the Pacific Islands: architecture, complex, community, or something else?
The third major project output is an article in International Relations of the Asia-Pacific in which we address the question: is there a security architecture in the Pacific Islands, or does security cooperation take a different shape?
We find that security cooperation in the region does not constitute a security architecture, as there is no ‘overarching, coherent and comprehensive security structure for a geographically-defined area’. We also find that the region is neither a security complex nor a community, due to the extensive involvement of metropolitan powers and external partners.
Instead, we argue that security cooperation in the Pacific Islands is best described as a patchwork of bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral, formal and informal agencies, agreements, and arrangements, across local, national, regional, and international levels.
Workshop on security cooperation in the Pacific Islands
On 23 and 24 November 2022, we convened a workshop featuring speakers from across the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, and France, to discuss the dynamics of security cooperation in the Pacific Islands and formulate proposals for how cooperation may best be orientated to address current and future regional security challenges.
The fourth major project output is a policy paper titled Navigating 'Flexible, Responsive and Respectful' Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands: A 2022 Workshop Report.
Audio recordings of the workshops are below:
- Welcome to Country and Reflections and key findings from the ‘Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands’ project
- Recent development 1: What role did regional organisations play in managing COVID-19?
- Recent development 2: What have recent disasters told us about HADR cooperation in the Pacific?
- Recent development 3: China’s proposed economic and security pact and Pacific responses
- Paragraph 30 of the Pacific Islands Forum 51st communique – what would a ‘fit for purpose’ regional architecture look like?
- Keynote speech by Ewen McDonald, Head of the Office of the Pacific, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- How can security cooperation be meaningfully facilitated between local, national, and regional levels?
- Reflections on the potential and pitfalls of Pacific security cooperation
Edited book on Security Cooperation in the Pacific Islands
We have edited a book featuring contributors from across the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Japan, China, and France, which is based on papers presented at our November 2022 workshop. More information regarding publication, including dates, will be provided here as it comes available.
Other project outputs
Members of the project team have also published op-eds on the following issues:
- What the January 2022 Tongan tsunami revealed about regional security cooperation:
Tongan disaster highlights lack of coordination in regional response
- Whether more track 1.5 dialogues should be organised between Australians, other partners states, and their Pacific counterparts to widen and deepen knowledge and ongoing relationships:
It’s time to talk to, not at, the Pacific
- How an expanded and empowered Pacific Islands Forum could benefit Pacific security:
Expanded, empowered PIF could lock in Pacific security
- Whether the Pacific Islands Forum can learn anything from ASEAN regarding regional approaches to managing strategic competition:
Can the Pacific Islands Forum learn anything from ASEAN?
- US interest in the Pacific Islands:
US interest in the Pacific Islands tested at Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders
The US in the Pacific: delivering on commitments or déjà vu?
Throughout the project members of the team have providing briefings on the project to stakeholders engaged in security cooperation in the Pacific, including Australian and New Zealand government agencies and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The project team
- Professor Joanne Wallis - University of Adelaide
- Henrietta McNeill - University of Adelaide / Australian National University
- James Batley - Australian National University
- Dr Anna Powles - Massey University
- Professor Alan Tidwell - Georgetown University
- Professor Hidekazu Sakai - Kansai Gaidai University
Acknowledgement: this activity was supported by the Australian Government through a grant by the Australian Department of Defence. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or the Australian Department of Defence.