Pacific Plan is a document that was adopted by forum leaders of the nations in the pacific islands aiming to address various challenges that these nations in the pacific regions face. Through strengthening regional cooperation as well as integration in the region, the leaders projected that various developmental challenges would eventually be overcome. The underlying principle is that the Pacific region is supposed to be free from conflict, full of peace, harmony, positive economic growth, and also improved security. In this way, the people living in the region would lead free and satisfactory lives. This paper will look at the origin of this document, the manner in which it will address various development challenges in the pacific region and also the reason why some critics consider the document a 'sham'.
The Pacific Plan is not the first effort in the pacific region aimed at increasing cooperation, improving coordination and advancing integration. During an estimated five decades, prior to the adoption of the Pacific Plan, some efforts like the South Pacific Conference and the Pacific Islands Forum had been initiated to realize a similar objective and goal to that of the Pacific Plan. According to the ADB-Commonwealth Study that focused on 'New Pacific Regionalism', the origin of the Pacific Plan is associated with two specific trends (ADB-Commonwealth Secretariat 34). One trend relates to advanced regionalism which would bring the regions even closer. The second trend was based on the growing concerns from a number of Forum Island Countries (FIC) regarding how some countries in the Pacific Islands were governed. Also, there were concerns regarding whether the Pacific Islands Forum was capable and had the capacity to handle how the governance as well as socio-economic conditions were breaking down (ADB-Commonwealth Secretariat 35).
One can trace the origin of the Pacific Plan to a period in history when the Pacific Leaders desired an increase in self-determination. This goes as far back as 1965, a time when Ratu Mara supported the idea that additional decision-making powers should be given to the South Pacific Conference (SPC) in addition to the advisory role that the SPC played. He went ahead and encouraged other leaders in the region to lobby for this recommendation. As a result, PIPA got formed with the main objective of ensuring that agricultural products from New Zealand got bought at a better price (Browne 51). This initiative showed that Pacific Leaders were willing to free themselves from the limitations in the SPC machinery and come up with a better framework that would have more responsibilities and power to formulate strategies aimed at improving development efforts in the region.
A particular dialogue that is common to all regional bodies in the Pacific region is the need for the various countries in the region to act in a collective manner to ensure that the Pacific needs are placed on the global agenda. These needs include proposals made on creation of a common economic framework to regulate the markets, trade, as well as currency, provision of necessary resources and also creation of institutions in the region that would enhance sustainable development. Another pacific need was regional development both economically and politically. Also, there was the need to enhance the social and cultural values of the countries in the region as documented in the 'Pacific Way' (Browne 47).
A meeting was held in Auckland in the year 2003 aiming to bring the Pacific countries in line with efforts towards realization of Millennium Development Goals. The main idea was that the FICs would meet and formulate practical solutions that would help include the Pacific Region in the MDG realization efforts. In this way the Pacific region would not lag behind while the rest of the countries around the world were united in development efforts. Sir Julius Chan was chosen to head the 'Eminent Persons Group' (EPG) that was formed. This group was created with the main role of ensuring appropriate mechanics were developed to provide practical solutions which would look into the socio-economic as well as political ills that had faced and were still facing some FIC's. Also the mechanisms would see to it that FIC's were empowered on decision-making and were given more room for participation such that Australia or New Zealand would not be the only countries driving responses (Maiava 14).
The report presented by the EPG recommended that a vision should be created by the leaders, one that would allow for a framework supporting a stronger 'Pacific Way' to be created. The enunciation of the chosen Pacific Vision was performed by the then Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa (Retzlaff) as he was delivering a speech to the 'Asian Development Bank Assistance'. The vision that Retzlaff enunciated was formally adopted by the Forum leaders during a meeting conducted in New Zealand in April of 2004 (Retzlaff 92). The adopted vision stipulated that it was the belief of the leaders that the Pacific region had the potential, would work towards and would eventually attain peace, harmony, economic success and improved security. Ones this was achieved the people in the Pacific Region would be guaranteed of living free as well as worthwhile lives.
In the vision, the leaders expressed their commitment to ensuring the diversity of the Pacific was maintained and that in the future the cultures, religious beliefs and traditions of the people in the Pacific Region were valued and preserved. In addition, they expressed a vision, in which the Pacific Region was regarded with respect based on the good quality of its governance, the way its resources were managed in a sustainable manner, how democratic values were being observed to the last detail and based on the prioritization and protection of human rights (Pratt 26). The vision was concluded with a pledge to neighbors of the Pacific countries and other nations to partner with the region in developing the region's knowledge, improving its communication, and ensuring that sustainable economic existence was realized globally. In the year that followed 2005, was appointed a task force that would spearhead efforts in formulating the 'Pacific Plan Document'. Senior officials from the FIC's were the members in the appointed task force.
The Pacific Plan has consolidated a number of responses to various development challenges that face some countries in the region. This group of responses is categorized into four major divisions. These divisions are good governance, security, economic prosperity, and sustainable development in the region. Under economic growth the Plan targeted to improve efficiency as well as effectiveness in the development of infrastructure (Sercombe and Peebles 133). Also, increase in investment and sustainable trade were targeted.
Under Sustainable development, the Plan targeted to reduce poverty levels in the region, improve health, education, and gender equality. To make governance better the Plan aimed to improve transparency, equity, and accountability regarding how resources get managed and used in the region. On the issue of security, the recommended measure was to make political and social conditions better so that safety and stability would ensue. The strategies put in place to make sure development challenges are addressed specific to each division and they were developed in phases of implementation periods. The first strategies were targeted to be reviewed after three years to measure the extent of success and progress.
To ensure economic growth was achieved, expansion of market for trade was recommended in the major trade agreements in the region such as the 'Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA). In this way the problem that countries faced regarding limited options in trade of some goods would be eliminated. Also, it was proposed that trade in services be integrated into the two trade agreements (PICTA and the 'Economic Partnerships Agreement (EPA)) including the allowance of movement of labor on temporary basis. Another way that the development challenges in economic growth would be addressed would be through ensuring that the 'Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP)' was implemented effectively as well as in a timely manner. Once trade was facilitated on a regional scope, the countries in the region would get to transact across national boundaries more easily but the programme developed to facilitate this trade had to be implemented effectively and in a timely manner.
Another strategy to overcome development challenges in economic growth was to implement the 'Forum Principles on Regional Transport Services (FPRTS)' so that transport of goods to and from various markets would be improved. A particular project in the forum principles that was projected to impact majorly on trade in the region was developing the 'Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO)' which would be responsible for ensuring aviation safety in the region. Most organizations and institutions that gained support even from respective governments were in the public sector. However, the private sector also plays a major part in economic growth therefore it was proposed that private sector mechanisms got supported.
In addressing development challenges specific to sustainable development efforts, a number of steps were proposed. It was recommended that 'National Sustainable Development Strategies (NSDS)' be developed and implemented through the use of relevant…