The Pacific Island Nation Conference

Free Discussion on the Topic: "Relationships between the Pacific Island Countries and Japan, and Their Requests for Future Cooperation from Japan

This section summarizes Session III, which comprised a free discussion between the representatives of the ten Pacific Island Nations, the associate members of the conference, and participants from Japan on the topic of "The Relationships Between the Pacific Island Countries and Japan and Their Requests for Future Japanese Cooperation." By way of introduction, the five principles of Japanese cooperation to the Pacific island countries were explained. Tadashi Kuranari set forth these principles in his speech in Fiji when he visited the Pacific island countries as Japan's Foreign Minister in January of 1987.
These principles are to:ェA

  1. ェARespect and honor the independence and autonomy of the island countries,
  2. ェASupport regional cooperation,
  3. ェASecure political security in the region,
  4. ェAExpand economic cooperation, and
  5. ェAPromote people exchanges.

It was explained that, based on these principles, the Japanese government had taken the initiative, but that in the long run it is the private sector which would be expected to assume the primary role in extending cooperation to the region. As part of the government's initiative, it was stated that under the medium- term target set forth by Prime Minister Takeshita, Japanese ODA would be more than doubled over the next five years, and that the Pacific island region is expected to benefit from this plan. Beyond government-to-government cooperation, it was explained that NGOs, with their higher degree of freedom in trying innovative ideas and approaches, should play an instrumental role in implementing grassroots cooperation and assistance.

From the Japanese side, it was also stated at the outset that a better information infrastructure would help to improve communications between the countries, and that Japan could help in creating this network.

From the Pacific Island Nations side, many of the areas of possible assistance mentioned in Session II were reiterated. These included, among others, providing support in building up the region's tourist industry, such as assisting in the construction of hotels and airports, and providing air links to Japanese carriers; taking advantage of the region's fish resources - letting the Pacific island countries be the fishermen for Japan; assisting in education to provide skills to the islands'young people; assisting in providing the technology needed to strengthen tropical fruit production, such as effective growing and canning techniques and facilities; besides providing an infrastructure of telecommunications and roads, assisting in the development of local shipping; and supporting social services, such as youth employment, development of opportunities for women, disease prevention, treatment and research, and water supply.

Though the present need for assistance to the region was recognized, it had been suggest from the Japanese side and confirmed on the Pacific Island Nations side that the countries of the region should establish the kind of strong economies that would free them from dependence on aid in the future. It was mentioned that a number of Pacific island countries had joined together in forming the Pacific Island Produce Association (PIPA), and that the theme of the PIPA forum was "Trade, Not Aid."

It was also pointed out that aid from the outside could, in the long run, be detrimental to the island societies, and that for cooperation to have sustained meaning, emphasis should be placed on education so as to provide the skills needed to build the economies of the countries.

On the subject of NGO assistance, it was pointed out by one representative of the Pacific Island Nations that, from past experience, some problems exist. These were said to include weakness in NGO management in some countries, lack of follow-through in some projects financed by NGOs, and a tendency for NGO projects to be too small to have an impact. He suggested that NGOs might reconsider their policies and provide assistance directly to government-promoted projects, which he stated have a direct bearing on improving the welfare of the island people.

Nevertheless, representatives of the Pacific Island Nations did express a strong interest in NGO assistance, stating that it would be welcome in their countries. However, as worded by one representative, the existence of Japanese NGOs "is news to us." A request was made for information on the kind of NGOs that exist in Japan and the kind of assistance they can offer the Pacific island countries.

The Chairman promised to gather information on NGOs in Japan and distribute it to the representatives of the Pacific Island Nations. [A document listing these NGOs, the NGO Directory, was mailed to the representatives by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation after the conference.]

Besides NGOs, the need for overseas investors in the private sector was emphasized. One representative of the Pacific Island Nations, however, pointed out that a widening gap is developing between the bigger countries of the South Pacific and the smaller ones which have few or no investors. It was suggested that, in the interest of long-term stability, a need exists to discriminate in the interest of those countries which face particularly difficult development problems.

From another point of view, it was stated that the Pacific island countries share the same kind of problems, and that the difference between them is their order of priorities. The mutual goal of all the island nations, it was stated, is to achieve real independence.

Some discussion took place over whether the so-called "Era of the Pacific" would have any substantial meaning for the Pacific Island Nations. The Japanese side offered encouragement, saying that if the countries of the Pacific area can pool their strengths and energies, a bright future should be in store for all. A representative of the Pacific Island Nations side later responded that he believed the upswing in commerce marking the era would take place predominately in the Northern Pacific, and that it is incumbent on the island countries of the South Pacific to emphasize their own strategic importance so as to benefit from the dynamic commerce the era promises.

The discussion ended with an overall note of optimism and with a strong desire to cooperate and find ways to meet the development needs of the Pacific Island Nations.