Griffith Asia Institute, in partnership with Massey University, launched a “Defence Diplomacy in the Pacific” tracker in Washington DC last week as a part of a larger research project entitled “Rules of Engagement: Defence Diplomacy in the Pacific islands region”.
“We are developing this tracker to test our hypothesis that the use of defence diplomacy in the Pacific islands region has changed since 2018 – there are more partners using it, more often and in more ways” Tess Newton Cain explained on the launch of the Defence Diplomacy in the Pacific Tracker
The tracker is the first output of a research project entitled “Rules of Engagement: Defence Diplomacy in the Pacific islands region”. The project is led by Associate Professor Newton Cain of the Griffith Asia Institute and Dr Anna Powles of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University who launched the tracker at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC at the end of September. USIP is supporting the project which runs from 2023 to 2024
The objective of the tracker is to capture data relating to engagements of various types which include a military component between defence partners and Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu between 2018-2023.
The increased geostrategic focus on the Pacific islands region plays out in various ways. Pacific island countries and their leaders are on the receiving end of diplomatic visits, increased media attention, offers of development assistance and more.
Within this crowded arena, the use of defence diplomacy merits particular attention. There is a perception that this has intensified and diversified in numerous ways. However, there is no systematic analysis to support this perception. More importantly, there is no data to indicate how people who live in Pacific island countries feel about this form of engagement or how (if at all) it affects how they feel about relationships between their countries and international partners.
Dr Anna Powles said of the “Rules of Engagement” project:
“One of the things we would like to achieve is to establish a community of practice that brings together Pacific scholars, practitioners and students to develop and deepen knowledge around defence and security issues in the region.”
The United States Institute of Peace is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical and essential for US and global security.
The tracker was launched at the Interorganizational Global Forum which was focused on security cooperation in the Pacific islands. The Forum brought together policymakers, academics and members of civil society from the USA, the Pacific islands region, Australia, and New Zealand. Included among the participants were Dame Meg Taylor, former Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and Associate Professor Tarcisius Kabutaulaka from the University of Hawai’i.
The Pacific Defence Diplomacy Tracker can be viewed on the Griffith Asia Institute website.