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The South Pacific

Reilly, B. and Wainwright, E. (2005) The South Pacific. In: Chesterman, Simon, Ignatieff, Michael and Thakur, Ramesh, (eds.) Making states work: State failure and the crisis of governance. United Nations University Press, New York, pp. 122-142.

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The South Pacific is, at first glance, an unlikely setting for a chapter on state failure. The region is home to a dozen states and a similar number of related territories, all but one of which have a population of fewer than 1 million, and several of them have fewer than 20,000. Most of the region comprises small island states interspersed with vast stretches of ocean waters and isolated from the world’s power centres. With one exception, there are no land borders. Most of the island states are small in terms of population and land area, but they lay claim to vast maritime resources. In recent years, however, perceptions of the South Pacific have changed – from an underperforming but basically benign region, to one that is now characterized as an ‘‘arc of instability’’, comprising ‘‘weak’’ and ‘‘failing’’ states. Armed conflicts in Papua New Guinea’s eastern island of Bougainville and the neighbouring Solomon Islands have claimed thousands of lives over the past decade. Regional governments – led by Australia, the dominant metropolitan power in the South Pacific – have headed peacemaking interventions into both countries in recent years, with a considerable degree of success. Despite this, the region receives very little attention in the rest of the world and virtually no international media coverage. This chapter therefore begins by introducing the basic facts about the South Pacific, before moving on to a discussion of state failure and recent interventions in the region.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: United Nations University Press
Copyright: United Nations University
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Notes: A Project of the International Peace Academy and the United Nations University
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