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Mossop, Joanna --- "Regional Environmental Organisations under the Pacific Plan" [2007] NZYbkIntLaw 13; (2007) 4 New Zealand Yearbook of International Law 229

Regional Environmental Organisations under the Pacific Plan

Joanna Mossop[∗]

I. Introduction

Environmental sustainability is of primary importance to States in the Pacific. Because these States are largely vulnerable to natural disasters, ecological disturbance, climate change and biodiversity loss, their future is dependent on a healthy environment in ways that States in the wider region are not. Environmental degradation not only harms the economic position of the States reliant on tourism and exploitation of natural resources, it may even threaten the survival of the people themselves.

In 2005 the leaders of the Pacific nations adopted the Pacific Plan, a roadmap calling for the strengthening of regional cooperation and integration.[1] The Plan identified four goals of regionalism: enhanced economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security. As part of the Plan, Pacific States have identified a range of immediate priorities for enhancing sustainable development, including developing national sustainable development strategies, enhancing sustainable utilization of fisheries resources and other, more sector-specific, initiatives. The Plan was updated by States in October 2006, and is expressed to be a “living document”.[2]

The Plan raises, directly and indirectly, the role of environmental institutions in developing policy and implementing initiatives. There are currently a range of institutions at a regional level with varying degrees of responsibility for environmental policy and implementation. In considering the role of regionalism in the Pacific, States must consider whether the current regional institutions are in the best shape for progressing the goals of sustainable development and environmental protection. Does the goal of strengthening regionalism require a reconsideration of the role of the current organisations?

After a brief overview of institutions tasked with environmental protection in the Pacific, this article addresses three questions. First, what does regionalism mean in the context of environmental institutions? Second, how do the current regional institutions in the Pacific measure up in the light of the potential benefits and costs of regionalism? Third, what is the future for the existing institutions under the new regional approach outlined in the Plan?

II. Current Environmental Institutions in the Pacific Region

When discussing regionalism in the Pacific, the topic of the environment is particularly interesting because many of the existing regional bodies have roles in environmental protection. Indeed, the variety of the institutions and the potential for overlap of roles has been criticised.[3] However, the Pacific regional approach to environmental matters has also been acknowledged as being effective, albeit with room for improvement.[4] It is useful to consider the extant institutional framework before considering how the Pacific Plan or other regional initiatives may impact upon them.

Six institutions currently have significant involvement in furthering environmental protection and sustainable development in the Pacific at a regional level. There is a wide range of other institutions, foreign governments and non-governmental organisations running programmes at regional and national levels, but these are of lesser importance in this context. The plethora of environmental programmes and institutions reflects the vital importance of environmental sustainability to the Pacific.

A. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS)

The Forum is a political organisation through which member States (of which there are 16) meet annually to exchange ideas and develop regional policies. The Secretariat has a permanent staff and contributes to the development of policy and implements decisions by the leaders of the PIF States. The PIFS work agenda currently reflects the division of the Pacific Plan by dividing initiatives into economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security. Under sustainable development, the PIFS has a goal of strengthening policy advice related to achieving integrated resource and environmental management.[5] It has been observed that PIFS has a broad role as it provides secretariat services to the Forum meetings as well as delivering advisory and technical services.[6]

B. Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

The SPC is another intergovernmental institution with a broad mandate, which can include environmental issues. It is self-consciously a non-political organisation.[7] Its main focus is on providing technical advice and assistance to Pacific States and territories. With the goal of achieving “a secure and prosperous Pacific Community”,[8] the SPC has an active programme in a range of areas including agriculture, bio-security and the management of genetic resources.

C. Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)

SPREP has developed from a programme attached to the South Pacific Commission (the predecessor to the SPC) to a stand alone inter-governmental organisation with 25 members. It has a mandate to “promote cooperation in the Pacific islands region and to provide assistance in order to protect and improve the environment and to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations”.[9] SPREP runs two significant programmes: Island Ecosystems (monitoring and managing vulnerable island ecosystems) and Pacific Futures (a broad programme addressing the monitoring of the environment, climate change, waste management and environmental planning).

D. South Pacific Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)

The South Pacific Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), an intergovernmental organisation with 20 member countries, plays a broad role in environmental initiatives in the Pacific. At its inception in 1972 SOPAC was designed to promote mineral and petroleum prospecting and to assist in developing the exploitation of the resources.[10] The focus was on non-living resources. However, currently SOPAC’s activities extend well beyond this original goal. SOPAC’s current mandate is:[11]

[t]o contribute to sustainable development, reduce poverty and enhance resilience for the people of the Pacific by supporting the development of natural resources, in particular non-living resources, investigation of natural systems and the reduction of vulnerability, through applied environmental geosciences, appropriate technologies, knowledge management, technical and policy advice, human resource development and advocacy of Pacific issues.

SOPAC’s activities include the provision of technical advice on a range of environmental sciences and the development of policy advice at a national and regional level. Programmes include: a community lifelines programme focusing on energy, information and communications technology and provision of water supplies; a community risks programme focusing on preparing and responding to natural disasters; and an oceans and islands programme.[12]

E. Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

The FFA was established in 1979 when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was in its final stages of negotiation. The Agency has 17 member States, and the goal of establishing an effective regional approach to fisheries management. The Agency has achieved significant success in building capacity for fisheries management at a national level and coordinating regional efforts to develop international legal frameworks. For example, the FFA coordinated efforts to establish the new 2000 Western and Central Pacific Ocean Tuna Convention, has established policies to disseminate information and has assisted in developing a consistent regional approach to charging foreign vessels for accessing the resources of exclusive economic zones in the Pacific.[13]

F. Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP)

CROP is not technically a separate organisation but is a committee consisting of the heads of a range of Pacific organisations including the ones listed above. It is hosted by PIFS and is meant to coordinate activities of the member organisations to prevent gaps or overlaps in the provision of policy and services in the Pacific. CROP has created a number of working groups in areas including sustainable development, land-based resources and the marine sector.[14]

III. What is Regionalism in the Pacific Context?

Regionalism is a word that has been used in a variety of contexts. In the European context, regionalism has specific connotations of integrated supra-governmental institutions involving the devolution of sovereignty from States to regional bodies. Although other regions in the world have attempted some forms of European-style regionalism,[15] it seems that such regionalism is not what is currently envisaged for the Pacific.

A. Regionalism Under the Pacific Plan

The Pacific Plan defines regionalism as “countries working together for their joint and individual benefit”.[16] Pacific States do not wish regionalism to undermine the sovereignty of individual States but to supplement national efforts. The Plan indicates that the current institutional framework may be reviewed. The long term goal is to “move progressively towards a comprehensive framework agreement amongst all Forum members that includes trade and economic cooperation”.[17] In addition, “a regional institutional framework that is appropriate to the development of the Pacific Plan will be established”, and a Regional Institutional Framework Taskforce is due to present recommendations to the PIF in 2007.[18]

The statements on regionalism in the Plan are largely based on a report written by the Asian Development Bank and the Commonwealth Secretariat (“ADB Report”).[19] This report used economic theory to suggest that regionalism should only be undertaken when benefits, usually economies of scale, outweigh the costs of coordination – often reflected by diseconomies of isolation.[20]

The ADB Report identified three models of regionalism that are repeated in the Plan.[21]

First is regional cooperation, involving dialogue between governments, often through a regional body. The ADB Report noted that this is the model that has most frequently been used by Pacific regional organisations, and that although the level of dialogue has been impressive, the overall net benefits have been low due to high costs of such dialogue and the lack of implementation of recommendations and policies created at a regional level.[22]

Second is regional provision of goods and services such as regional universities and technical expertise. The organising principle here is that regional delivery of services should only occur where the market or national government is unable to effectively provide the service.[23] The FFA is mentioned as a successful example of this level of regionalism.[24]

Finally, the report refers to regional market integration, which involves lowering market barriers between countries. This final approach is aimed at economic and regulatory integration, reducing prices of goods and increasing opportunities for citizens of Pacific Island States.[25]

The report suggests that it is only by moving to deeper forms of regionalism that the Pacific States will see the greatest benefits.[26] The ADB Report concluded that initiatives designed to increase good governance and economic growth should be the highest priorities for the Pacific States.[27] However, the Pacific Plan does not elevate the importance of these two factors above sustainable development and security.

B. Weaknesses in the Pacific Plan Approach

The first area for comment is that the Plan is not clear how a regional approach will integrate economic, social and environmental concerns.

The Asian Development Bank view of regionalism, and consequently the view expressed in the Pacific Plan, is very much based on economic theories of integration and regionalism. Regionalism is often discussed in the literature in the context of lowering market barriers and the creation of free trade coalitions. The focus, therefore, is often on the utilitarian perspective of improved trade and coordinated delivery of services. The role for regional approaches to the environment is not always at the forefront of the minds of those examining regionalism.

The ADB Report does not afford a high priority to environmental protection. The Report defines sustainable development as incorporating both environmental sustainability and human development.[28] The vulnerability of Pacific States to climate change and natural disasters is noted, and the Report briefly refers to the management of waste and natural resources in a single section.[29] However, the Report does not really discuss the existing regional environmental institutions nor evaluate the efforts of these institutions in progressing environmental sustainability. Most tellingly, the recommendations for improving sustainable development are limited to the creation of a regional sports institute, the creation of a regional statistics office and the creation of a regional office to protect intellectual property rights. It seems safe to assume that assessment of the regional institutions for environmental sustainability was not a high priority in this report.

Fortunately, although the ADB Report was relied on by States in formulating the Pacific Plan, this glaring omission was not repeated. Under the Plan, regional priorities for sustainable development have been created in terms of developing national sustainable development strategies, improving fisheries management, strengthening policies for waste management and environmental protection.[30]

Although the Pacific Plan redresses the environmental gap in the sustainable development discussion, the problem does reflect a wider difficulty when fitting environmental sustainability into a broader debate about regionalism. The principle of sustainable development is intended to encompass economic growth, environmental sustainability and, more recently, social development. As the Pacific States consider deeper forms of regional economic integration it will be necessary to carefully monitor the impacts of economic growth on environmental sustainability. This may require that the issues are not completely separated in any institutional structure that may be established pursuant to the Plan.

The second comment is that Pacific States, when thinking about forms of regionalism, should consider the intersection between the local, regional and international levels. The potential for benefits and costs in the international community was not considered directly by the ADB Report. However the history of Pacific States’ involvement in the negotiation of international treaties is impressive, particularly when the international treaty relates to issues of great importance to the region.[31] Herr describes the involvement of Pacific States in the development of international law as “imaginative and productive”.[32] In some situations, the participation of Pacific States has been facilitated or led by regional institutions.

The point is that the regional approaches can complement international processes or attempt to replace them, and it is important for States to clearly understand the role of regional institutions in relation to the global mechanisms. This is particularly important in environmental issues where there is a lot of work taking place at the international level. When implementing the Pacific Plan, States should seek to address the gaps mentioned.

IV. A Framework for Evaluating the Regional Environmental Institutions in the Pacific

The environment has received significant attention at a regional level in the Pacific, with several institutions running programmes for policy development or delivery. In light of the Pacific Plan, the question becomes whether States are maximising the potential benefits of a regional approach. This section will identify the benefits of regionalism and ask whether the existing institutions have fully realised their potential in light of these benefits. The goal is to provide a framework for assessment as a contribution to the debate on regionalism.

Two reports have recently considered the future of regional institutions in the Pacific. In 2005, Hughes recommended a range of changes to existing institutions including the amalgamation of five of the main regional institutions into a Pacific Commission.[33] In 2006 a report was provided to the Pacific Plan Action Committee, called ‘Reforming the Pacific Regional Institutional Framework’ (the “Tavola Report”).[34] These reports both concluded that, despite significant achievements by existing regional institutions, there was room for improvement in the regional framework.

A. Effective Participation at an International Level

Van Dyke has suggested that regional organisations play a vital role in allowing Pacific States to speak with a “louder and more uniform voice” on the international stage.[35] This has been particularly important in the environmental context. On issues such as fishing and climate change Pacific States have been successful in shaping the international agenda by presenting a coherent and consistent policy position.[36] In addition, the Pacific States have been very successful in drawing attention to the particular needs and vulnerability of small island States in areas such as biodiversity loss and ecosystem vulnerability. These issues are ones in which Pacific States are perceived by the international community to have a particular interest, either as controllers of large portions of the Pacific maritime estate, or as among the most deeply affected by environmental change.

On the other hand, regional organisations may appear to drive processes beyond the wishes of their member States at times. The Tavola Report suggests that some in the Pacific viewed the advocacy role of regional organisations with suspicion, feeling that at times they present a Pacific viewpoint that is not endorsed by members.[37] That report suggested that there was a preference for regional organisations to avoid advocacy at international levels except where there was a clear mandate.

In any reform process there is a need to clarify the mandate of the regional institution in terms of its advocacy role. However, given that regional institutions have demonstrated considerable success in representing the region’s special interests, it would be wrong to abandon this role completely. There may be a need for training within institutions to ensure that officials understand the importance of consultation in formulating regional positions. Existing institutions or new regional institutions should give consideration to strengthening consultation and policy formation processes to ensure that members are engaged with the external policy advocacy process.

B. Consistent Regional Policy Development

Regional institutions can provide a basis for developing a consistent and complementary approach to environmental issues across Pacific States. While it is not necessary or even desirable to insist that independent sovereign States take exactly the same approach to every issue, many matters will benefit from having a consistent approach to policy. Some environmental issues, particularly marine environmental issues, are interconnected and the policy in one State will have a direct impact on other States’ ability to manage the resources. For example, if one State sets low access fees for foreign fishing vessels in its EEZ, this will inhibit a neighbouring State’s efforts to maximise return in order to pay for fisheries management initiatives. In other environmental issues such as waste management, a consistent approach allows for the development of technical and policy capabilities, and the sharing of expertise and experience between members. Coherent approaches also facilitate the development of epistemic communities of experts that can share and develop optimal policies.

Developing a consistent regional strategy may include the negotiation of regional policy statements or even regional treaties to address issues that are specific to the Pacific.[38] Lawrence suggests that regional approaches to creating legal obligations “may result in a set of obligations more in accordance with regional concerns and consequently improve chances of effective implementation”.[39] Pacific States have created several regional treaties including: the 1976 Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific (the Apia Convention)[40]; the 1986 Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (the Noumea Convention)[41]; and the 1989 Convention on the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets in the South Pacific (the Wellington Convention)[42]. These have achieved varying degrees of success: the Apia Convention failed to attract many ratifications[43] while the terms of the Wellington Convention were rapidly adopted by States throughout the region.[44] A number of regional policies have also been put in place through regional institutions, including the 1995 Code of Conduct for Logging of Indigenous Forests in Selected South Pacific Countries, which developed out of statements from the Pacific Forum.[45] SPREP has been active in developing Action Plans and strategies for addressing common environmental concerns from a regional perspective.[46]

The ADB Report suggests that the Pacific Forum and other agencies are good at setting high aspirational goals, but actual implementation of those policies and goals is extremely poor.[47] It argues that domestic implementation has tended to go by the wayside due to a lack of enforcement mechanisms. It is true that States in the region have eschewed formal penalties and relied on consensus decision making to promote compliance.[48] Of course, imposing penalties for non-compliance does not on its own guarantee implementation of such goals – States with low capacity will prioritise the implementation of treaties which are considered to further their State interests.[49]

Giraud-Kinley has suggested that regional approaches to environmental matters via regional treaties are most effective when they establish a point of difference between the region and States outside the region.[50] She argues that regional approaches to issues such as climate change and protecting fisheries resources against drift net fishing are effective because they involve regional identity and defence against an external threat, leading to a strong desire to implement the treaty’s provisions.[51] On the other hand, she also suggests that many important environmental issues are more effectively addressed at a global level through multilateral institutions. In these contexts Pacific States can access assistance available through financial and technical mechanisms.[52] This does not rule out the possibility that a regional institution can assist small States in preparing for international negotiations, or representing State interests as a group.

C. Building Capacity for Environmental Management at a National Level

One of the primary benefits of regionalism indicated by the Pacific Plan and the ADB Report is that of building capacity in service delivery.[53] The idea here is that regional organisations will be able to provide technical, administrative and scientific expertise to the region as a whole in a way that would be impossible for each State on their own. In addition, the regional body can actively work to increase capacity in the States directly by holding workshops and training for national officials.

This is perhaps one of the most important contributions that regional institutions have made in the environmental field. Having experts available at a regional level to either provide the service or to train national officials is particularly important where resources are scarce.

D. Implementation of International Environmental Agreements

A related goal to building capacity at national level – or perhaps a side benefit – is that increased regionalism can assist developing States in a region to comply with international environmental agreements.[54] There is a major problem in small developing States where they undertake increasing obligations at an international level that they have little or no capacity to meet at a domestic level. International organisations can work through regional institutions to improve capabilities in relation to the implementation of international obligations, which may include passing domestic legislation, creating bureaucratic mechanisms, monitoring and reporting.[55]

Pacific regional institutions are acting as conduits for the implementation of international obligations, often in partnership with global institutions such as the UN Development Programme or the Food and Agriculture Organisation. One example is SPREP’s work with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to develop a regional biosafety clearinghouse and to enhance the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol by small, developing island States.[56]

E. Coordination of Assistance Efforts and Regional Capacity Building

The next goal of a regional approach to environmental matters must be to ensure the coordination of efforts at a national and regional level. In the Pacific context this involves coordinating external assistance for environmental programmes to reduce duplication and inconsistent approaches. Ideally, a regional approach would ensure that duplication of programmes and effort is minimised in order to maximise the value of aid and scarce expertise.

This appears to be one area for improvement among existing institutions. Hughes, in his report ‘Strengthening Regional Management’, suggests that a number of Pacific regional institutions are competing for aid money and involving themselves in overlapping projects. He singles out the expansion of SOPAC’s role as an example of a failure in the region to coordinate regional roles and resources.[57] Hughes does note that despite this role clarity, SOPAC is “reborn, self-made and self-confident”, with “striking success” at finding new roles for itself under “energetic and imaginative leadership”.[58] It appears that his concern is with the delimitation of functions rather than the actual performance of the tasks SOPAC has undertaken. Hughes argues that, with the lack of a clear institutional division of responsibility, it is difficult for external donors to determine which institution has the mandate for particular environmental responses.[59] Another difficulty with having competing institutions in the Pacific is the lack of available expertise – consolidating experts under one institution would appear to be the most efficient.

Mandate creep also featured in the Tavola report as creating a barrier to regional cooperative efforts. Although CROP has made some progress in harmonising policy approaches, there are still difficulties with overlapping initiatives among the various institutions.[60]

F. Participation of Civil Society

Finally, regional efforts can impact on the dissemination of information about environmental matters, raising awareness at a political leadership level as well as civil society. This changes the political debate, allowing more scope for beneficial initiatives at regional and national levels.[61] Regional institutions have the potential to facilitate civil society’s involvement with environmental issues, as long as they are seen as supporting rather than undermining national efforts.

Although several of the Pacific regional institutions have the goal of improving awareness of environmental issues,[62] it appears that more could be done within the regional environmental institutions to develop closer links with local communities. The Tavola Report suggested that centralisation of regional institutions for logistical purposes in one or two locations in the Pacific creates a sense of isolation among other States.[63]

G. Summary

Although regional institutions have delivered valuable results for the environment in the past, it seems that there is an appetite in the region for improvements to the way the regional apparatus works. Ensuring clarity about the mandate of any future arrangement will be essential to prevent distrust from the members of the institutions and ensure cooperation and implementation of policies. Members of the regional institutions must feel that the institutions are working for their interests.[64]

Despite the potential advantages, regionalism is not appropriate in all cases, and any evaluation of the future for regionalism must consider what regional institutions should not attempt to do. First and foremost, regionalism should not detract from State sovereignty more extensively than the States wish. Second, as Mushkat points out, “the problems addressed at the regional level should be those that would benefit from a regional policy response, where neither national nor global programs are better positioned to produce successful outcomes”.[65] This is particularly true in the Pacific, where the dependence of regional programmes on external aid creates an important vulnerability for those institutions.[66] Regionalism appears to be most successful when there is a shared consciousness and concern about the issues.[67]

V. What Future for Environmental Institutions in the New Pacific Regionalism?

Two proposals have been made for the reform of regional institutions in the Pacific. Both prefer significant change to tinkering with the existing structure. Hughes proposed the creation of a Pacific Commission organised around the PIF and a Conference of the Pacific Community.[68] The Pacific Commission Secretariat would coordinate a range of programmes and services which are delivered by directorates with responsibility for particular issues. Separate membership of the existing institutions such as the FFA, SPREP and SOPAC would gradually decrease as functions are transferred to the Pacific Commission.[69]

The Tavola Report criticised Hughes’ proposal for creating inequalities between Forum States and non-Forum States, as well as for territories. As existing regional institutions have developed, many have provided opportunities for territories to participate on a more-or-less equal basis with States.[70] Non-Forum States are members of some institutions.[71] The proposed Pacific Commission was seen as problematic as these States and territories may have been disadvantaged in relation to Forum States. Instead, the Tavola Report suggested that the regional institutions should be organised under three pillars. First, the PIF and the secretariat would remain essentially the same, although it would assume responsibility for international negotiations that have previously been conducted by the FFA.[72] Second, technical agencies would be merged into an organisation under the Pacific Community. Finally, academic and training institutions (not discussed in this article) would be seen as a third pillar.[73] The authors argue that this would ensure that politics remains separate from service delivery. The centralisation of technical agencies would save costs and ensure that there was a clear point of contact for countries in the region, external donors and for the international community.[74] Acknowledged risks of this approach include the creation of a larger bureaucracy, the dilution of services due to increased membership and the impact that poor leadership might have on the organisation.[75]

Commonalities between these two proposals are clear. Both proposals acknowledge that there are efficiencies to be made by consolidating the efforts of existing regional institutions into one place. Both proposals envisage the separation of politics from service delivery, although there is greater separation in the Tavola proposal. Both also strongly recommend a greater clarity in the functions that are exercised by the new institution. The fact that the Tavola Report recommends a complete separation between the two pillars may continue to pose problems with mandate creep, especially if there is no clear connection between the Forum and the Pacific Community. Would the Pacific Community be required to implement political recommendations endorsed by the Forum? Or would the Forum be required to ask PIFS to implement policy initiatives at a regional level? A separate danger is that removal of any advocacy function from agencies making up the SPC could limit the opportunity for Pacific environmental issues to be strongly represented in the international community.

Interestingly, the Tavola Report calls for the SPC to be centred in its current location, Noumea, but that “the specialised functions of the new agency continue to be performed from their current locations”.[76] This recommendation is meant to support regionalism by ensuring that activities are not centralised in one place. There are considerable difficulties with this proposal. It seems that such a model could exacerbate existing overlaps in function and pose an obstacle to developing a less bureaucratic institution. If the goal of the proposal is to prevent gaps between regional and national institutions, this may be better achieved by establishing national offices of the SPC in each Pacific State and territory, as suggested earlier in the Report.[77]

It seems that the near future will see ongoing discussions about a new shape for Pacific regionalism. The options should be carefully assessed, not only in economic terms, but in terms of the six benefits of regionalism mentioned above. Careful attention will need to be paid to the relationships between the institutions to ensure that further mandate creep does not occur. In addition, it will be important that the solution be one that is acceptable to the Pacific States themselves, and not one that is imposed by States outside the region.

VI. Conclusions

Roda Mushkat has said that to be successful, regionalism in environmental issues requires a true shared consciousness and concern about environmental issues.[78] There is little doubt that the existing Pacific regional institutions have both contributed to and benefited from a shared consciousness about the environment in the Pacific. This is a strength that means that further efforts to improve regionalism in environmental matters should be successful.

There is also little doubt that the existing institutions have contributed to improved environmental policies and performance at a local, regional and global level through the coordination of policies and the provision of services and expertise.

Any amendment to the existing institutions should be done with a view to the goals of regionalism, and a careful evaluation undertaken of any proposed changes. It is important that the changes be ones that are wanted by the Pacific States themselves, and not just done for perceived efficiency gains by donors. If institutions are supported and seen as legitimate, then they can be effective. It is important that future change builds on the successes of the past, and does not undermine the capacity and willingness of those engaged in environmental issues on the ground in the Pacific.

[∗] Joanna Mossop is a Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty at Victoria University of Wellington. This article is developed from a presentation at a University of Canterbury / Ministry of Foreign Affairs Seminar on The Future Architecture of Pacific Regionalism: Natural Resources and Environmental Integrity, (Christchurch, 21 August 2006).

[1] Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, ‘The Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration’ (October 2005, as updated October 2006) online: <> (last accessed on 12 February 2007) (“Pacific Plan”).

[2] See statement on cover sheet of the Pacific Plan, ibid.

[3] AV Hughes, ‘Strengthening Regional Management: A Review of the Architecture for Regional Cooperation in the Pacific’ (August 2005), at 6. Online <> (Last accessed 10 March 2007).

[4] Catherine Giraud-Kinley, ‘The Effectiveness of International Law: Sustainable Development in the South Pacific Region’ (1999) 12 Geographical International Environmental Law Review 125, 172; Jon M Van Dyke, ‘Regionalism, Fisheries, and Environmental Challenges in the Pacific’ (2004) 6 San Diego International Law Journal 143, 177.

[5] See Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat homepage, online: <> (last accessed on 25 February 2007).

[6] Hughes, above n 3, 19.

[7] Hughes, above n 3, 21-22.

[8] See Secretariat of the Pacific Community homepage, online: <> (last accessed on 20 April 2007).

[9] See Pacific Regional Environment Programme homepage, online: <> (last accessed on 25 February 2007).

[10] Agreement Establishing the South Pacific Geoscience Commission, art 2, (entered into force 18 November 1990), online: < SOPAC+Constitution> (last accessed on 4 April 2007).

[11] See South Pacific Geoscience Commission homepage, online: <> (last accessed on 25 February 2007).

[12] Secretariat of the Pacific Community, ‘Regional Organisations in the Pacific: Working Together’ (2002), online: <> (last accessed on 25 February 2007) 10.

[13] See, for example, Richard Herr, ‘Small Island States of the South Pacific: Regional Seas and Global Responsibilities’ in Davor Vidas and Willy Ostreng (eds), Order for the Oceans at the Turn of the Century (Kluwer Law International, 1999) 203, 208; Van Dyke, above n 4, 154.

[14] Secretariat of the Pacific Community, above n 12.

[15] See, for example, Mauricio Baquero-Harrera, ‘Open Regionalism in Latin America’ (2005) 11 Law and Business Review of the Americas 139.

[16] Pacific Plan, above n 1, para 6.

[17] Ibid para 17.

[18] Ibid para 22.

[19] Asian Development Bank-Commonwealth Secretariat, Toward a New Pacific Regionalism (2005), online: < vol2/default.asp> (last accessed on 25 February 2007) (“ABD Report”).

[20] ADB Report, ibid 47; Pacific Plan (2006) above n 1, paras 8 and 9.

[21] Pacific Plan, ibid para 10; ADB Report, ibid 51-81. There are other definitions of regionalism. For example, Chun Hung Lin identifies five categories of regionalism: “1) regionalisation, 2) regional awareness and identity, 3) regional interstate cooperation, 4) State-promoted regional integration, and 5) regional cohesion”: Chun Hung Lin, ‘Regionalism or Globalism? The Process of Telecommunication Cooperation within the OAS and NAFTA’ (2002) WTR Currents: International Trade Law Journal 30, 31.

[22] ADB Report, ibid 54-55.

[23] Ibid 59.

[24] Ibid 65-67.

[25] Ibid 71-72.

[26] Ibid 80.

[27] Ibid 33.

[28] Ibid 25.

[29] Ibid 29-32.

[30] Pacific Plan, above n 1, para 13.

[31] Cf Peter Lawrence, ‘Regional Strategies for the Implementation of Environmental Conventions: Lessons from the South Pacific?’ (1994) Australian Yearbook of International Law 203, 221, who argues that the participation of Pacific States in international negotiations is too piecemeal.

[32] Herr, above n 13, 211.

[33] AV Hughes, above n 3.

[34] K Tavola et al, Pacific Plan, ‘Reforming the Pacific Regional Institutional Framework’ (2006), online: < .pdf> (last accessed on 24 February 2007) (“Tavola Report”).

[35] Van Dyke, above n 4, 177.

[36] See Lawrence, above n 31, 212; Van Dyke, ibid 156; Herr, above n 13, 208.

[37] Tavola Report, above n 34, 2.

[38] See Benjamin J Richardson, ‘Environmental Law in Postcolonial Societies: Straddling the Local-Global Institutional Spectrum’ (2000) 11 Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy 1, 73.

[39] Lawrence, above n 31, 225.

[40] Apia, 12 June 1976, ATS 1990 no 41 (in force 26 June 1990).

[41] Noumea, 24 November 1986, ATS 1990 no 31 (in force 22 August 1990).

[42] Wellington, 24 November 1989, ATS 1992 no 30 (in force 17 May 1991).

[43] Ibid 213.

[44] Giraud-Kinley, above n 4, 141.

[45] Ibid 145.

[46] Ibid 146-147. See also Richardson, above n 38, 75-76.

[47] ADB Report, above n 19, 56.

[48] Lawrence, above n 31, 226, arguing that regional treaties are more likely to be implemented because they reflect regional concerns.

[49] See, for example, Abram Chayes and Antonia Handler Chayes, The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements (Harvard University Press, 1995); Edith Brown Weiss and Harold K Jacobson, Engaging Countries: Strengthening Compliance with International Environmental Accords (MIT Press, 1998).

[50] Giraud-Kinley, above n 4.

[51] Ibid 172.

[52] Ibid 172-173. See Lawrence for a discussion of the problems facing developing Pacific States in participating in international negotiations: above n 31, 221-222.

[53] ADB Report, above n 19, 15-16.

[54] Tavola Report, above n 34, 3.

[55] Lawrence, above n 31, 219.

[56] United Nations Environment Programme, ‘Third Quarterly Progress Report on the UNEP-GEF Project for Capacity Building for Effective Participation in the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH)’ (2004), online: < BCHquarterly_rep_2004-03.pdf> (last accessed on 2 March 2007).

[57] Hughes, above n 3, 20.

[58] Ibid 20.

[59] Ibid 23. See also Tavola Report, above n 34, 2.

[60] Tavola Report, ibid 1. Areas of overlap mentioned in the report include: fishery development (SPC and FFA); sector-specific environment issues (SPREP and FFA, SPC for marine related matters, SPREP and SOPAC for energy); and information technology (SOPAC and SPC).

[61] Roda Mushkat, ‘Globalization and the International Environmental Legal Response: The Asian Context’ (2003) 4 Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 49, 66.

[62] See, for example, SPREP’s goal of “raising awareness among its island members of the importance of responsible management of the environment and natural resources to the future livelihood and prosperity of their people”: ‘Regional Organisations of the Pacific: Working Together’, 14, online, <> (last accessed 20 April 2007).

[63] Tavola Report, above n 34, 4.

[64] Ibid 3.

[65] Mushkat, above n 61, 73.

[66] Herr, above n 13, 209.

[67] Mushkat, above n 61, 78.

[68] Hughes, above n 3, 38.

[69] Hughes, above n 3, 39.

[70] Tavola Report, above n 34, 4. For example, in SOPAC, American Samoa, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Tokelau are Associate Members. These territories and others are full participants in SPREP, without a formal vote but decisions are taken by consensus. For a discussion of membership of SPREP and the Pacific Forum, see Giraud-Kinley, above n 4, 135-138.

[71] France and the United States are members of SPREP.

[72] Tavola Report, above n 34, 7.

[73] Ibid 7. Training institutions in the Pacific include the University of the South Pacific, the Fiji School of Medicine and the Pacific Islands Development Programme.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid 7-8.

[76] Ibid 11.

[77] Ibid 4.

[78] Mushkat, above n 61, 78.

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