In this episode we turn to a part of the world we haven’t discussed before — the Pacific Islands. Stretching over a vast area covering some 15% of the earth’s surface, the region is home to diverse countries and cultures, from Papua New Guinea in the West to the Cook Islands in the east, taking in countries such as Fiji and the Solomon Islands, along with smaller nations such as Nauru and Palau.
Problems, though, are stacking up. The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating the region’s economy. Meanwhile climate change has become a major security threat for the often low-lying Pacific Islands. What’s more the region has become yet another area of strategic rivalry between China, and the US and other Western nations — primarily Australia.
Facing these strains, the unity of the Pacific Islands has started to unravel. Five member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum have recently quit the organisation in a dispute over who should take over as its Secretary General.
To discuss these and other issues we are first joined by Samoan journalist and commentator Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson. Later we get perspectives from David Ward, the UK’s high commissioner to Samoa, who previously held a similar post in the Solomon Islands; and Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and a long time researcher on the region.