Islands Apart: Pacific Nations in the COVID Era
Released on March 1, 2021
In this episode we turn to a part of the world we haven’t discussed before — the Pacific Islands. Stretching over a vast area covering some 15% of the earth’s surface, the region is home to diverse countries and cultures, from Papua New Guinea in the West to the Cook Islands in the east, taking in countries such as Fiji and the Solomon Islands, along with smaller nations such as Nauru and Palau.
Problems, though, are stacking up. The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating the region’s economy. Meanwhile climate change has become a major security threat for the often low-lying Pacific Islands. What’s more the region has become yet another area of strategic rivalry between China, and the US and other Western nations — primarily Australia.
Facing these strains, the unity of the Pacific Islands has started to unravel. Five member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum have recently quit the organisation in a dispute over who should take over as its Secretary General.
To discuss these and other issues we are first joined by Samoan journalist and commentator Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson. Later we get perspectives from David Ward, the UK’s high commissioner to Samoa, who previously held a similar post in the Solomon Islands; and Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and a long time researcher on the region.
Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson (@lagipoiva)
Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson a journalist and scholar on the Pacific Islands. She is the author of Staying Afloat in Paradise – a study of climate change reporting in the Pacific islands and the United Kingdom. She has worked in the news media for over 18 years and was appointed the first female Editor of an independent national newspaper in her country at the age of 25. Lagipoiva has worked in the Pacific islands as a journalist, media trainer and communications for development specialist in the areas of climate change, environment, human rights, gender sensitive reporting and broader development issues. She received her Masters in Development Studies from the National University of Samoa and was a Journalist Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.
David Ward (@DavidWardUK2)
David Ward was appointed British High Commissioner to Samoa in December 2019. Prior to this appointment, he served as British High Commissioner to Solomon Islands from 2016 to 2019. Mr. Ward joined the FCO in 1992 and has worked mainly on Asian affairs since, including two postings in East Asia, in Tokyo and Beijing, and also one in Nepal. He has also acquired experience working in conflict zones, including as Deputy Head of Mission responsible for re-establishing the British Embassy in Libya in 2011 and 2012, and as Deputy Head of the multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Jonathan Pryke (@jonathan_pryke)
Jonathan Pryke is Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program. Jonathan’s research is interested in all aspects of the Pacific Islands, including economic development in the Pacific Islands region, Australia’s relationship with the Pacific, the role of aid and the private sector in Pacific Islands development and Pacific labour mobility. Jonathan joined the Lowy Institute in 2015 from the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University where he was a researcher, editor of the Development Policy Blog and a co-convener of the Australasian Aid Conference. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Commerce from The University of Sydney, a Masters of Public Policy (Development Policy), Masters of Diplomacy and Graduate Diploma in International and Development Economics from the Australian National University.