By Arnie Saiki
“Our present regionalism is a direct creation of colonialism.”
– Epeli Hau’ofa
“We, the peoples of Moana Nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.
We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom.
E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. A mama. Ua noa.”
– 2011 Moana Nui Statement
“The expression of a common sense of identity and purpose, leading progressively to the sharing of institutions, resources, and markets, with the purpose of complementing national efforts, overcoming common constraints and enhancing sustainable and inclusive development within Pacific countries and territories and for the Pacific region as a whole.”
— The 2014 Forum Leaders’ Statement
What the three quotes at the top of this report signify are three different calls asserting a specific form of regionalism in the Pacific. They are aligned differently as to how we approach globalization. Epeli Hau’ofa understood early attempts at regionalism as an extension of colonialism. The Moana Nui statement sees regionalism as a resistance of neoliberalism, while the 2014 Forum Leader’s Statement sees regionalism as an opportunity for Pacific Island Countries and Territories to facilitate a process for development and trade, that despite embracing some of the very good recommendations provided by CSOs and independent policy experts4, maintain a strong affiliation with the various international institutions that seek to encircle the Pacific within their development agenda. While all three approaches embrace regionalism from positions of identity, resistance and governance, the three approaches also lack an equitable path forward. The question of regional architecture for the 21st century applies to peoples and communities as much as it does to States and Territories.
Embracing customary rights, indigenous values and traditional stewards while struggling with governance issues like health, environmental and economic impacts are not specific to Oceania, but what is unique, is that despite the vastness of our region and our geographical distance, we have a shared will that binds us. Our commitment to the region unifies cultural and economic conditions, and provides us with approaches towards equity and value that we may not know how to account for within the shifting centers of 21st century globalization. This paper seeks to address that lack and find a path forward on equitable terms through an integrated regional Regulatory Monitoring Agency (RMA).
We are proposing a Regulatory Monitoring Agency that would embrace already existing regional regulatory institutions to build upon an accounting of equity that is based not on the commodification of resources, but rather on the value of customary stewardship, the protection of resources sacrosanct of our regional health and biodiversity.
Recognizing that for the first time in our history, we are between two systems competing to define the global rules for investment and trade in the 21st century, we cannot afford to remain situated within the unipolarity of 20th century neoliberal structures. New multipolar opportunities demand that we embrace what is unique to Oceania and unfold the path necessary to pursue policy changes that will benefit the health, environmentaland economic priorities that we seek.
Arnie Saiki is the Coordinator of Moana Nui and also the Research Director of Statehood Hawaii/Imipono Project.