14 August 2022 – Authors: Anna Powles, Massey University and Joanne Wallis, University of Adelaide
In the recently agreed 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and before that the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, the Pacific Islands Forum is seeking to both define the challenges facing the region and to lead the solutions.
The Strategy and Declaration both acknowledge the growing role of geopolitical competition in the Pacific islands — and the Forum Secretariat and member states are considering concrete ways to manage it. They might look to the Forum’s Southeast Asian counterpart, ASEAN, for ideas about how to act as both a buffer and a bulwark in the face of geopolitical rivalry.
Southeast Asia has long been the object of great power rivalry, but ASEAN has, despite criticism, acted as a fulcrum around which big power jostling is stabilised. This has increased ASEAN’s ability to leverage the political and economic interests of its member states.
ASEAN has acted as an ‘enhancer, legitimiser, socialiser, buffer, hedger and lever’ for member states navigating the region and managing their international relationships. It has socialised partner states to accept and maintain the rhetoric of ASEAN centrality. It has also institutionalised its dialogue partnerships through mechanisms like the ASEAN–US Plan of Action (2021–2025) and the ASEAN–China Strategic Partnership. Both the United States and China (as well as Australia) have ASEAN envoys.
The Pacific’s partners have been slower to recognise the centrality of the Pacific Islands Forum. While the United States and China are Forum dialogue partners, Washington only just announced plans to appoint an envoy and China has no equivalent appointment.
READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: Can the Pacific Islands Forum learn anything from ASEAN? | East Asia Forum