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Posts Tagged ‘Pacific’

The President’s Dilemma (Rising Sea Levels in Kiribati)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

In Kiribati each tide is now a ‘king tide’ with waves which can wash over the 2 metre high islands. Drinking water which was once fresh is now getting salty; food can no longer be grown in the ground; and the islands themselves are washing away - fast. The younger generation have been encouraged to get a good education so they can live somewhere else in the world without being a burden to others. Those who remain will need to find funds to build sea walls, introduce crops for the new climate and catch the rain.

But for the I-Kiribati who remain, the clock will be ticking…

VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.vsa.org.nz

What do they do?
VSA recruits and sends skilled New Zealanders to work as volunteers with communities in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

How can I get involved?
Volunteer overseas! VSA has formed an alliance with Students Partnerships Worldwide (SPW) and is recruiting now for 18-28 year olds looking for a 9-11 month experience in Africa. You will go through a training programme, where you’ll learn new and fun ways of teaching messages about health and the environment. Then you will be posted to a community with local volunteers, where you will be supported by SPW to work on one of three key themes: health (and in particular HIV/AIDS education), the environment, or community development.

Thanks from West Papau!

Friday, October 19th, 2007

We just received a belated thank you from the Free West Papua Campaign for our coverage of The Pacific Youth Festival in Tahiti last year, so thought we’d pass it on!

Pacific Youth Festival logo

Dear brothers and sisters in the Pacific!

Warm greetings from West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda and all of us here in the Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK!

Sorry we’re over a year late (!), but we just found your report about the Pacific Youth Festival in Tahiti (2006). We really want to thank you from our hearts for the strong expressions of support which came from the Festival for the cause of West Papuan Freedom. Benny Wenda and all of us here in the UK would be really grateful if there’s some way you can pass on our sincere thanks to all our Pacific brothers and sisters in your group.

Below is an extract from the report on your website which we have just distributed amongst international Free West Papua activists. It’s especially shocking for us to see that delegates from Papua New Guinea were expressly told by their government not to mention West Papua.

Please keep up your support for Free West Papua. Tragically, the situation now is if anything worse than a year ago, with increased levels of violence and terror against West Papuans from the Indonesian military, police and militias… and under heavy Australian pressure, the recent Pacific Islands Forum communique almost completely silent about West Papua.

(But as US campaigning journalist Amy Goodman says “Go to where the SILENCE is… and say something!”)

And please pass on our web address www.freewestpapua.org and my email address samoxen@dsl.pipex.com for anyone who’d like to get in touch with us… and join the West Papuan independence movement!

Solidarity!

Richard Samuelson
Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK
www.freewestpapua.org

To see the Just Focus article they posted out to their networks, click here.

My PYF experience: a reflection

Monday, October 30th, 2006

TeRito Peyroux

TeRito, Jacob and Rosie
In March of this year, before even sending an application to be part of the New Zealand delegation attending the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival (PYF) in Tahiti, I was already excited. I suppose it was almost as if I knew that my going would be a liberating home-coming of sorts, to a place in Polynesia which (like Rotuma, Rarotonga and Aitutaki) is a significant part of both my family heritage and cultural identity “Liberating” in the sense that I would be returning to Tahiti without the comfort and security of my parents or ma’piga on hand, should I want it.

So with my own cultural identity being at the root of initial thoughts and feelings from the very beginning, it was quite natural (after finding out that I had actually been accepted to go and would therefore need to look for funds) that my attitude, learning and overall experience of the PYF were strongly influenced by things pertaining to cultural identity. My cultural identity–as a multiethnic, urban New Zealand born and raised, Methodist young woman, in 2006.
For sure, the PYF provided a myriad of conferences and workshops ranging from health and education right through to governance and sustainable development, which were designed to be all very relevant to the 1000 or so youth participants in attendance. There was even a representational group that met devotedly every evening to help piece together a Pacific Youth Charter, on the PYF’s behalf.

Of course, no Pacific gathering would be complete without the flamboyance, richness and celebration of cultural dance, songs, stories and friendships, and in a land so well versed in creative Maohi performance and hospitality, Tahiti was certainly no exception. This was superbly complemented by the nation’s annual Heiva festivities as well.

I suppose I could also dedicate a paragraph of my reflection to the political woes of French Polynesia and other Pacific Island nations that were shared from the perspectives of those whose portrayals when shared in the media aren’t usually very comprehensive (if they’re shared at all). However, due to my fear of digressing, with regard to politics, I’ll stop right here.
Still bearing all of the above in mind, the main highlight for me is something that even up until now I pleasantly continue to unwrap. From this PYF experience, my highlight came in the realisation that regardless of things measurable, predictable or linear, my sense of belonging and cultural identity is something that I journey toward discovering, understanding and accepting for myself, and thus I need not anyone else to demarcate for me.

Regardless of whether I’m a son or a daughter; whether I’m a first, last or even only child; whether or not I can fluently speak my mother/father/or ma’piga tongue for that matter; whether I’m half, quarter or an eighth of an ethnicity, whether I can sing hymns or chant ri jaujau; regardless even of my religion or whether my theology is orthodox, liberation or otherwise influenced …by birth and by upbringing, I am a part of all of these types of variables and they are all a part of me.

Thus in relation to my ethnic identity for instance, despite the arithmetic and despite any explanations or justifications, I am Rotuman. I am Tahitian. I am French. I am Scottish. I am a Cook Islander. I am a New Zealander. I belong and have just as much of a right and responsibility to each of these different groups as anyone else whose journey through understanding their own sense of identity and belonging leads them to these places also.
And so, with very cherished experiences in heart, a host of stirred understandings in head, heaps of awe-inspiring new friends on hand, and a nurtured spirit in tact, I certainly look forward to the next Pacific Youth Festival which is expected to be held in Fiji.

eating taro ice-cream with friends
TeRito attended the Pacific Youth Festival as part of the Just Focus contingent. This reflection was originally shared in the NZ Rotuman Association Quarterly and also put up on the Rotuma Website.

The PYF: Pākehā reflections on a Pacific gathering

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Lyndon Burford
welcome to tahitiThe inaugural Pacific Youth Festival was a phenomenal gathering. Held in Tahiti from the 17th to 22 July 2006, it was a veritable showcase of cultural diversity, exchange, and open-minded enquiry. It was a vehicle for celebration, learning and sharing, and as ever with new learning, there was the challenge of stepping out of old comfort zones and seeing the world in a new light.
The Festival was a week of song, dance, cultural exchange, and also a week of politics. A thousand young people from 25 countries across the Pacific (plus France!), ranging in age from 16 to 30, came together in Tahiti to discuss 4 themes of key importance to the Pacific Region; Equitable Globalisation, Conditions for Peace, and Cultural Diversity. The goal of the festival was to create a Pacific Youth Charter, a guiding document to establish a set of common hopes, values, and goals for Pacific Youth. For myself personally, the Pacific Youth Festival was a chance to reflect on my own culture and identity, and to think about my place both in the Pacific and in Aotearoa.

After a day acclimatising (and yes, checking out the warm Pacific waters!) the Pacific Youth Festival began in earnest. The Festival was structured around small group (20-50 people!) workshops and conferences’ (presented by panels of guest speakers) which ran from 8.30 till 5.30 every day. There was cultural performance every evening, in which we were treated to the great richness of the Pacific’s cultural heritage. There were performance groups from as far abroad as Belau (Palau) and the North Marianas in the West, and Rapanui (Easter Island) in the East. Each had its own unique rhythms and styles, and each brought spirit and character to the Festival. All in all, the days were packed full of learning, laughter, song, and dialogue.
discussion in workshop
Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution Workshop
NZ’s professional contribution to the Festival was a workshop on “Peace and Non-violent Conflict Resolution”. This was created and presented by Annie Boanas of the Peace Foundation Wellington, with assistance from Eva Lawrence of the Global Education Centre in Wellington, and from myself. The workshop was run in three phases. The first phase encouraged people to consider what peace meant to them personally. Following this, we proposed a definition of peace as more than just the absence of violence, suggesting that it is the result of a positive, non-violent effort towards the building of a culture of peace. This requires dialogue at all levels, in order to deal with the root causes of conflict. The second section of the workshop gave participants time to consider specific issues related to Peace, through discussion of questions such as:

  • What threatens peace in the Pacific?
  • What do you think your culture has particularly to offer to help create peace?
  • How can people build peaceful relationships at a personal level?

Finally, participants were invited to share a peace “success story”: a personal story, or one that inspired them, in which peace was created through the application of non-violent means of conflict resolution. At the end of the workshop, attendees were offered a “Take Action” worksheet, detailing specific personal action that can be taken in their own communities to help develop a culture of peace (this was developed a few years ago by several young peaceworkers involved with the Disarmament and Security Centre in Christchurch). After a heartfelt hour of sharing, the young delegates left with a sense of hope and inspiration, along with concrete examples of people working for peace, and peace working.

Politics in Tahiti - and at the Festival
Politics also played a large part in the week’s proceedings, however. From the opening ceremony, we were exposed to a political battle that had been raging since long before we arrived — between the pro-French civil authorities and the pro-independence government of French Polynesia.
oscar temaru
In his welcome address to the assembled Pacific Youth, the pro-independence President Oscar Temaru invited delegates to redress the injustice of the festival’s agenda that completely ignored the subjects of and independence. This challenge was taken up by two young NZ delegates, Charmaine Clark and Omar Hamed, who ran an excellent workshop on Decolonisation with Justice” at the end of the week. This was attended by delegates, media, MPs, independence advocates, as well as by the small French delegation, who had their own assumptions about the place of France in the Pacific challenged over the course of the festival. (They were growled at by the French authorities for their active in the workshop). In closing his welcome speech, Temaru stated that it was forbidden to speak the indigenous Maohi language in the French Polynesian parliament, which, although not true, does reveal a legitimate grievance of the indigenous people, in that the Maohi language is not an official language of parliament or state. Temaru’s confrontational stance at the opening ceremony saw the French Government’s representative walk out in protest, and reply with an equally confrontational outburst in the media the following day. Such was the political atmosphere in which the week unrolled.

The Politics of the Pacific Youth Charter

This political struggle also played out among the youth themselves. Each day, a Charter Drafting Committee, consisting of one member from each delegation, met to draft resolutions regarding the issues discussed that day. To the surprise of all, a young French delegate joined the Committee, taking an active role at the right hand of the Tahitian delegate, who had unilaterally declared himself Chair of the Committee. This was symptomatic of a lack of that was a constant frustration at the Festival; a young Frenchman was invited by the local French authorities to negotiate and vote on a Pacific Youth Charter, without any discussion of the matter with other Pacific delegates.
houses in tahiti
The issue came to a head in the middle of the week, when President Temaru invited the Charter Drafting Committee to an evening reception. In a vote split 11-10, the French representative held the crucial deciding vote that saw the young delegates refuse this invitation from a head of state. At this point, several delegates, including the NZ’s delegate, left the meeting to attend the reception. They pointed out, quite rightly, that it was inappropriate to snub an invitation from a head of state, particularly as the Committee had accepted an invitation from the French High Commissioner the night before. The following day, the Committee voted overwhelmingly to remove France’s right to vote on the Charter committee. Nevertheless, resolutions proposed by the NZ delegation relating to nuclear disarmament somehow fell off’ the agenda, and were entirely absent in the final draft Charter. The fallout of French nuclear testing in the Pacific still affects the region today.

A new perspective: Aotearoa in the Pacific
There was valuable learning for many Kiwis in observing the process of drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. As Kiwis, we are used to thinking of NZ as a small state, while Pacific Islanders in dialogue with us see themselves as the small state, and Aotearoa as large state or regional power’. The new perspective gained in the Charter process offered us insight into Aotearoa’s role/place in the Pacific Community. This influential role brings with it responsibility; to exercise our power wisely, in the interest of the wider Pacific Community, not simply to pursue our own self-interest.

Thinking regionally
A Pacific Youth Charter sometimes required that we put aside our own interests, and put on our regional thinking cap - human rights issues are a good example. Currently, Fiji, Australia, and NZ are the only Pacific countries that have Commissions. However, for many countries in the Pacific, recognition of the even the most basic human rights remains an urgent priority. Sometimes, it was frustrating to see relatively watered down’ concepts making their way into the final document, but for other countries, the mere mention of universal Human Rights in an official document is a great leap forward.

Cultural awakenings
International considerations aside, what are my lasting personal impressions of the Pacific Youth Festival? In a sense, I had a wake up call reminiscent of that of many Pākehā who were involved in the 1981 Springbok tour protests. Having been confronted with persisting French colonial influences in Tahiti, I have been forced to consider, as a Pākehā , my place in Aotearoa-NZ. Through dialogue with the Māori members of our delegation, I was also confronted with the reflection that my own land is not as peaceful as I had chosen to believe.
The current political debate around the removal from NZ legislation of references to the Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in NZ is a good example. Pākehā seem uncertain as to what they believe the Principles are and what they mean in legal terms. But rather than engage in a genuine contemplation of the Principles, Winston Peters has proposed simply removing all reference to them, thus erasing from NZ law most references to our founding document. This threatens to further provoke already disillusioned Māori, who quiet rightfully would see such a move as de-valuing the historical document through which they agreed to Pākehā settlement in Aotearoa. As one Māori member of our delegation noted, where Māori are looking to Pākehā to support a just and fair society, the deletion of the only legally binding mentions of the Treaty in NZ law does not set a good example.
cultural performance
I’m a Pakeha New Zealander. What is that?
As we proposed in our Peace and Conflict Resolution workshop, peace requires constant nurturing through open and honest dialogue. So finally, I am left with this question: what do I bring to an intercultural dialogue with the Tangata Whenua of this land?
What do I know about the Treaty of Waitangi that afforded my ancestors entry to Aotearoa-NZ? More even than that, what do I know about my ancestors? Having been presented with the wealth of Pacific culture, of which Māori culture is a rich and unique part, I have been faced with a slightly unsettling question, in so far as the answer is not immediately clear: what is my culture? What is the richness of Pakeha culture? This is both the challenge and the reward of the Pacific Youth Festival for me; to take the time for some genuine reflection on who I am, where I come from, and what it means for me to be a Pākehā in a Pacific land. And in this challenge there is a new sense of hope. For in rediscovering my own history, I may be able to play a small part in healing the history of this land.

Many thanks to the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust, the Disarmament and Security Centre, and the Quakers Peace and Service Trust, who helped fund this fabulous learning experience.

LEARN MORE

Peace Movement Aotearoa
The Disarmament and Security Centre
The Peace Foundation
Global Bits magazine, Who are You? The Search for Self in the Global Village

TAKE ACTION!

  • Read the guide What We Can Do For Peace, put together by Youth at the Disarmament and Security Centre, Otautahi, Christchurch, NZ

Photos all by Lyndon Burford.

A festival “PACIFICALLY” for youth

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Corinna Howland

corinna howlandTahiti. Sun, sand and… socio-political activism? This may not be the most likely combination, but for over 1000 youth from around the Pacific region, it seemed to do the trick. The inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held on the island of Pape’ete between the 17th and the 22nd of July, was a unique and thought-provoking experience for its participants. Over the five day period, we attended a number of conferences, workshops and seminars centred around the four festival pillars — namely fair globalisation, sustainable development, cultural diversity and conditions of peace. These ranged from the basic (what are human rights ?’) to the complex and challenging (”Recognition, Preservation and Protection of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property “), and provided a rare forum for youth from different countries and cultures to discuss issues concerning the Pacific Region.

But there’s more to the Pacific Youth Festival than a bunch of people sitting around talking about/lamenting the state of the world. The primary objective of the festival was to produce the Pacific Youth Charter’ — a document outlining issues that need addressing within the region and providing guidelines for improvement. This was collated by a representative, or Junior Delegate’, from each of the countries that attended. Charmaine Clark, a researcher and youth worker in Gisborne, was selected to represent the views of the youth of New Zealand. This appeared to be a mammoth undertaking, incorporating an extra two hours plus of work once the sessions had finished for the day, not to mention trying to communicate with Junior Delegates who spoke only French or Spanish (although translators were on hand).
dancers at pacific youth festival
Outside of the conferences and workshops, much time was spent forging connections with other people at the festival. Many felt that this was perhaps the most important aspect of PYF, as this resulted in a truly moving sense of unity and brotherhood amongst the participants. Although communication was sometimes stilted due to the wide variety of languages spoken, the heart was definitely there. The schedule also involved a reception and dance party(!) at the Tahitian Parliament, a recreational day trip to nearby Mo’orea and various cultural exhibitions in the evenings. A particular highlight for me was the spectacular array of scarcely-clad male dancers, and the ukulele which played constantly throughout the festival. Interacting with the locals was another memorable experience — a chance to practice our limited French and Tahitian, and to understand what was important to people and how issues concerning the Pacific were affecting them on a personal level.
party at pacific youth festival
For me, the Pacific Youth Festival not only provided an appreciation of the Pacific, but an awareness of what I take for granted in New Zealand. In one workshop, the person hosting the conference asked what method of distributing information to youth in the Pacific would be most effective. I replied that I thought newspapers would be best, as youth magazines were well-received in New Zealand. Following this, a man from Papua New Guinea put up his hand and said that that would not work in his country, as only half of the population can read. Maybe this is my ignorance, but it was in part a realisation of how little we are taught about the region that New Zealand belongs to. We tend to look beyond the Pacific to America, Britain and the other world powers, when it would perhaps benefit us to be more introspective. So, don’t ignore your neighbours — take the time to find out about the Pacific, and join us at the 2009 Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji!

LEARN MORE

Going Global — A NZ Guide to International Youth Opportunities - Takes you through all the stages of hunting out, applying for and going to an international opportunity, as well as how to make the most of your experience when you get back home.

Secretariat of the Pacific (SPC) — a Non Government Organisation based in Fiji and New Caledonia which has heaps of info about Pacific issues, plus links to other sites.

Wikipedia — for general information on the countries and territories in the Pacific
pyf sign

TAKE ACTION!

  • Encourage your local school to teach students more about the Pacific and Moriori people.
  • Write articles to newspapers and magazines about Pacific Issues.
  • Make changes to led a more sustainable life (recycling is a good way to start) and encourage others to do the same.
  • Get involved with an organisation or group working on Pacific Issues (like Just Focus!)
    Encourage an end to stereotypes and racism (not all Pacific Islanders wear grass skirts and live off coconuts…)

This article was first published in Jet magazine in the Focus column.

Photos by Geoff Cooper.

Pacific Youth Hold Fast: We can’t ignore colonisation

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Omar Hamed

kanaky t-shirtNgā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, O people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one the Pacific Ocean.
Ngā iwi e, Ngā iwi e
O people, o people
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa
Join together as one, the Pacific Ocean

Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.
Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Hold fast, hold fast
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha.
To self-determination and to love.

Ngā iwi e. The song of the Pacific. Originally a Kanaky song from New Caledonia, it was translated into Maori in the 1970s and entered New Zealand by way of Greenpeace, who sung it on board the Rainbow Warrior while protesting French nuclear testing at Muroroa in French Polynesia. It is as Pacific as the wide blue ocean in which we all live.

new caledonian sign at PYFOn the last night of the inaugural Pacific Youth Festival held in Tahiti between 17 and 22 July, it was revived as ninety New Caledonians cheered the end of the festival and sung for a new day in the fight for self-determination in the Pacific. They sang for freedom, their banner bearing the words “Delegation of New Caledonia” (a reminder to the festival of their refusal to march under the French flag). The song, echoing in the outdoor stadium as the sun went down over the harbour of Pape’ete, and the warm Pacific wind stirred the Kanaky flags they carried in their hands and wore around their necks.

I was lucky enough to be there in the stadium with them. Part of the 17-person delegation from Aotearoa who had travelled across the ocean to be part of the festival, I had joined with the more than 1000 youth from across the Pacific to discuss the important issues of the region. Sustainable Development. Globalisation. Active citizenship. Peace. Health. Education. Equality. Cultural diversity. Good governance. An array of problems and challenges was presented to us in six days of workshops and conferences designed to educate, empower and engage Pacific youth.

1400 Pacific youth gathered together to share, experience and learn. There were anti-corruption activists from Papua New Guinea, democracy advocates from the Solomon Islands, human rights workers from New Caledonia, sustainable farmers from Tonga, HIV/AIDS educators from the Kiribati Islands, indigenous intellectual property lawyers from Australia, women’s group organisers from Fiji, sports coaches from Vanuatu, community artists from the Norfolk islands and the list goes on. Too many to meet in a week, let alone to list here.

By the time I left Tahiti, the festival had become a backdrop to something much more serious. Behind the dancers on the cultural stage and the palm trees and the workshops and conferences was being played out an event that may well shape the future of French Polynesia’s future. Looking back on it now it seems bizarre, how Charmaine Clark, (Ngati Kahungunu), a researcher from the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne and I got caught up in the middle of the struggle for self-determination in Tahiti.
new caledonia sign with flags
It began on Monday morning at the opening ceremony when Oscar Temaru, leader of Tahiti’s biggest independence political party and French Polynesia’s coalition government, asked the festival “to consider the issue of independence and more specifically ‘the freedom of the Maohi [Tahitian] people’”. He also said to the Festival in English, “Do you know that in our local Assembly it is prohibited to speak our language, the language of our land? Here [at the festival] we will speak our mother tongue. This is only one example of the colonial system that still exists in our land. We want to get rid of colonialism, racism and all these wrongs that exist everywhere in the world.” At that point, the French High Commissioner Office’s secretary-general walked out of the festival. The first shot of a new battle in an old war had been fired.

To explain; French Polynesia is an “overseas country” of France. It exists as a sort of autonomous colony, caught in the limbo of a people who want decolonisation and France which is desperate to hold onto its old colonial outposts in the Pacific. France still controls the immigration, foreign affairs and funds much of the social services in French Polynesia, and many in French Polynesia fear that the economy would collapse without French support. However, there is a tension between those who feel that it’s time for the nation to become independent and those who want the islands to remain connected with France. Oscar Temaru is the fiery independence leader who, when asked by a reporter “Most people call this place French Polynesia. What do you call it?” replied, “This is French-occupied Polynesia. That is the truth. This country has been occupied.” He has been involved in the struggle for self-determination for a long time and is an old friend of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, a Kanaky independence fighter assasinated in 1988 by the French and whose son, Pascal, was also attending the festival.
new caledonians on bus
Then, on Monday afternoon, I went with Charmaine, the Aotearoa Junior Delegate’, to watch her and the other Pacific Junior Delegates’ begin drafting the Pacific Youth Charter. It was a shambles. The French Polynesian Junior Delegate’ had appointed himself the chair of the drafting committee and next to him was the delegate from France. Yes, you read correctly: France was part of the festival. Three or four young people from a Paris youth NGO had come to the festival to represent the multimillion-dollar stake that France had in the festival, but it seemed to me, in the Tahitian cultural centre, watching the French delegate dominate proceedings that something was truly wrong for them to be able to put themselves on the drafting committee for the PACIFIC Youth charter.

On Wednesday the plot thickened, when Oscar Temaru invited the delegates for cocktails at parliament. The French and French Polynesian delegates (by the way the French Polynesian delegate seemed to have colonial outposts in his head) strongly argued that the delegates not go to the cocktails because it would cut into the drafting time for the charter. After a vote, which was eleven votes to ten in favour of not going (the deciding vote being the French), Charmaine and five other delegates walked out of the drafting committee, stating that it was rude to ignore an invitation by the President when they had not ignored a invitation the previous night by the French High Commissioner. At the party Charmaine invited Temaru to a forum that she and I had hastily organised the day before and scheduled for Saturday morning. It was to be a forum on “Decolonisation with Justice”, the very topic that Temaru had wanted discussed at the Forum. Although Temaru was to be outside the country, he promised to send his representative.

On Thursday it was voted that the French delegate could not have voting powers in the committee, causing him to walk out stating that it was “disrespectful” for Pacific youth to refuse the old colonial nations a say in their, (our) future. The youth of the Pacific had struck a blow against the empire it seemed. omar and char's decolonisation discussionOn Saturday morning Charmaine and I prepared the hall for the around one hundred youth and interested observers, including two members of the French Polynesian Assembly, who came to discuss colonisation and decolonisation. It turned into a very successful forum and we were able to put colonisation back on the agenda of the festival. Samoans came to talk about their dark past at the hands of colonial New Zealand; Kanaky, Maohi, Cook Islanders, Palauans came to discuss their islands’ experiences; Australians came to vent their frustration that there was only one aboriginal in their delegation, Papua New Guineans remembered their brothers and sisters in West Papua, who the government had warned them not to talk about at the Youth Festival. The pain of the Pacific peoples flowed through the room, the hurt, frustration and anger at last beginning to be discussed in an open way instead of being swept under the rug.

That night Charmaine and I met with the deputy of Temaru’s political party, Jean-Michel Carlson, and his wife to talk about the forum and the way the festival was unfolding. Jean-Michel informed us that the festival was part of a pro-French agenda initiated when Temaru was temporarily out of office after the more pro-French opposition party contested elections. No wonder France was allowed to take part in drafting the charter and why indigenous issues and colonisation were avoided. The whole festival had been initiated as a way of legitimising the French presence in the Pacific.
some of NZ delegation
Regardless of this, the Pacific Youth Festival was an important step forward for addressing issues in the Pacific region and facilitating dialogue between Polynesian, Micronesian, Melanesian and colonial settler cultures. However, I would definitely be critical of aspects of the festival such as the large Pacific Plan delegation, which held workshops on its development program (a plan that most Pacific NGOs say, “ignores the real needs of the region.”see link) Workshops on indigenous cultural protection, disabled peoples rights, gender equality, over fishing and poverty highlighted the inspiring work being undertaken by Pacific youth. Being with Maohi and learning about life in French Polynesia was a real experience. For instance, learning about the new golf course that was being created against local people’s wishes on the island of Mo’orea seemed to be an analogy of the whole Pacific situation with tourism: white people monopolising land and resources so they could indulge in recreation, while being served by a new underclass of workers forced to work in the tourism industry because all other industry is underdeveloped.
omar and friends
By the time I got on the plane home to New Zealand I was feeling much more like a citizen of the Pacific Ocean than ever before. The festival had made me realise how dependant Pacific peoples are on activists and campaigners in the “big brother” nations of Aotearoa and Australia to protest and lobby for increased foreign aid, fair trade rules, action on climate change and protection from the nuclear arms and colonial armies of the world’s superpowers. Whether it’s colonisation in West Papua, nuclear testing in Muroroa, unfair trade rules at the World Trade Organisation or greenhouse gases from the industrial nations, Pacific issues are Aotearoa’s issues and that to ignore our brothers and sisters in the Pacific is to deny the true fact of human existence: the fact that ultimately we’re all in this one together.

LEARN MORE

Get clued up on West Papua!
Check out these excellent websites on the Pacifics hidden conflict:
AUT journalists are investigating the conflict.
Peace Movement Aotearoa’s Resource Page
Indonesian Human Rights Campaign
Free West Papua!
Information on Papua

Get clued up on the Pacific!
Read the Oceania Indymedia Site
Check out the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre
Check out Dev-Zone’s Resource pages on the Pacific

TAKE ACTION:

  • Challenge Stereotypes about Pacific Islanders!
  • Don’t let people make racist comments about Pacific Islanders (or anyone!) challenge the way people perceive each other!

Photos by Elise Broadbent, Hana Solomon and Lyndon Burford.

sunset over moorea

PYF - first thoughts

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

women at the pacific youth festivalOver 1000 young people aged 16-30 attended the first Pacific Youth Festival held in Pape’ete in Tahiti from 17-22 July 2006. Aotearoa NZ had a delegation of 16 people (from the North and South islands, and the Chathams) , 8 of whom were selected by Just Focus to participate at our first international event.

Between April and July they all looked into ways to get sponsorship to cover the cost of the registration fee and flights, and JF also went hard on the fundraising to be able to help out with some extra $$.
just focus crew at NZ info booth
The group worked together before the event to learn about the 9 themes which were the topics of the Festival.

Just Focus held a one day workshop in Auckland the day before departure, and invited the entire delegation to come and spend the day and night together.

We played games to get to know each other, as well as doing the serious stuff of preparing for what would happen while we were away and discussing the issues.
aotearoa delegation
The Festival was a mix of workshops (run by young people from the various countries) and speeches by adults working in the areas cvered by the festival. Eva from Just Focus and Annie from the Peace Foundation ran a workshop on Peace, and Char and Omar from JF facilitated a discussion on “Decolonisation with Justice”. Both sessions got rave reviews and made it into the local newspapers!

new caledonians on the bus
There was a lof discussion about the many issues, including HIV/AIDS, the problems young people across the Pacific have in finding good jobs, sustainable development, and other issues which impact on the Pacific region.

In the evenings there were amazing cultural performances - traditional dances and music from all across the Pacific, from Rapanui (Easter Island) to Fiji to Melanesia and Polynesia.

All in all, we spent 9 days in Pape’ete, staying at a local school (sharing a classroom as our dorm, with mattresses on the floor!). The conference lasted 6 days, including a fantastic day off when we all went across the water on the ferry to stunningly beautiful Mo’orea where we spent the day at the beach just chilling out!

beach on moorea

The other days were mostly spent talking, relaxing, shopping and lying on the beach - catching some of the Tahitian sunshine before heading home to winter!
huts over the sea in mo'orea
There will be lots of articles to come from the JF gang, but in the meantime, while they are still busy reflecting and writing up their thoughts and experiences, here’s a few comments to give you a flavour of how they found it:

“The people stood out for me — the diversity of cultures and experiences was so interesting, making for compelling discussion, but also an opportunity to connect on so many different levels”

flags at opening ceremony

“I got a better cultural understanding of the Pacific — loved the performances”man in tradtional dress

TeRito and kids at NZ info booth“I’ve got a new awareness of colonisation issues in Aotearoa NZ, having seen colonisation through a French lens in the Pacific region”

“I’ve been able to participate in the sense of talking to people of other cultures about their own struggles. I learnt so much just talking.”

“I have learnt much more about the Pacific, Aotearoa NZ and our role in the Pacific”

“It was inspiring hearing people’s stories, listening to issues and possible solutions. It makes me want to get more involved.”

“I’ve gained more awareness of myself, my lifestyle, my country and my work”
hope and peace poster

All photos by Elise Broadbent.

With thanks to all the sponsors and supporters of the Aotearoa delegation to the Pacific Youth Festival:

Development Resource Centre
Ministry of Youth Development
Shore Youth Bank
Hokotehi Moriori Trust
Buller District Council
Bill Blackadder Trust
Presbyterian Support (Upper South Island)
Te Puni Kokiri
Council for International Development (CID)
Trade Aid
Craig Potton Publishing
Commonsense Organics (Wellington)
The Quakers Peace and Service Trust (Christchuch)
The Disarmament and Security Centre
The Peace and Disarmament Education Trust
Wellington City Council
Samuel Marsden Collegiate School Old Girl’s Association
Just Action (Victoria University, Wellington)
Rotuman Congregation at Kingsland Trinity Methodist Church, Auckland
(And others)

Selling out our neighbours and serving the empire

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Omar Hamed

There was something quite insidious in the way Winston Peters’ worded his comments about the direction of New Zealand foreign policy for the next five years. His speech on Tuesday seemed to hint at unspeakable things and those who listened to it must have left the room feeling as though only half the puzzle pieces had been given to them. The rhetoric that Peters delivered veiled the truth behind our government’s foreign policy, a policy that is set to cast a heavy shadow across the Pacific.

One of the trends Peters identified, as part of our foreign policy, is globalisation which he said, “Has had a demonstrable effect on our economy, our standard of living and the make up of our society.” Yes, we have become a much more diverse and multi-cultural nation and the better for it. On the other hand the demonstrable effect on our standard of living and the state of the economy is not something the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be particularly proud of.

Globalisation should be understood in the framework that it depresses the most vulnerable sectors of our society while strengthening trans-national corporations that externalise their social and environmental costs onto the communities they plunder. As the age of the corporation ascended from1980-2001, real wages dropped in New Zealand by 6.5%, yet in the same two decades corporate profits went from 34% of GDP to 46%. Wages as a share of GDP fell from 57% to 42%. However, the low paid workers of Aotearoa, overwhelmingly migrants, women and young people, from the care-givers in rest homes to the staff at the multinational fast food franchises have not seen the last of what Peters calls the, “well-documented downside to globalisation.” With the government refusing to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of twelve dollars an hour it condemns those who make up the working poor to subsistence, not knowing whether or not they can make ends meet and put food for their children on the table.

The twenty-first century will surely be the century of globalisation for the Pacific island countries and their “deeply concerning poverty” needs to be addressed. Peters, puts his faith in the New Zealand government instituted Pacific Plan’ to take care of “economic growth and social development”. The plan although widely promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a blueprint for development was condemned in late 2005 by a network of South Pacific NGOs “as a flawed document that ignores the real needs of island peoples…There has been a glaring lack of attention given to critical areas such as water and sanitation, literacy and access to employment and other income generating opportunities.” golden globe

In a statement Orwell himself would be proud of Peters labelled the plan part of a move towards “regional cooperation in the Pacific.” It would be much fairer to label our role as regional extortion; Oxfam New Zealand described the plan as, “locking Pacific island nations into unfair, inappropriate and damaging trade deals.” On top of this the Pacific region has been at the receiving end of our governments efforts to liberalise their trade through a raft of free trade agreements and to the particularly damaging accession of a number of islands to the World Trade Organisation including Tonga which joined on what Oxfam called, “the worst terms ever offered to any country.” Jane Kelsey reported in 2004 the comments of one New Zealand consultant at the trade negotiations for one of these agreements, “The whole experience was stressful and demoralizing for me, let alone for the Pacific Islands negotiators. There were times that I felt ashamed to be a New Zealander”.

All this leads one to wonder, is this part of the, “progress being made in addressing the challenges facing Pacific island countries”? Or is it time New Zealand took a good hard look at our foreign policy and fronted up to the fact that we are part of the problem in the Pacific?

There has been little research done into the social costs of the trade agreements like the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) that form cornerstones of our foreign policy in the Pacific, but what has been done supports the conclusion that it will do more harm than good in an area that is one of only two regions (the other is sub-Saharan Africa) that lack furthest behind in their achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. As a result of our policy of trade liberalisation Fiji’s vulnerable garment sector faces “potentially huge social costs and political consequences of large scale unemployment among the predominantly Indo-Fijian women workers at a time when men are losing jobs on sugar plantations and their families squat in urban slums.”

Possibly the best paragraph in Peters speech was when he said, “It is in our interests, and theirs, to see that our Pacific neighbours are well educated, healthy, able to earn a living, and can embrace the values underpinning a well-governed democratic society.”

Why though do we act so often as if the above was of no concern to us?

Neo-colonialism ratified at Pacific Islands’ Forum

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Omar Hamed

Today Pacific Island nations at the Pacific Island Forums have welcomed and endorsed the Pacific Plan, a blueprint for neo-colonialism in the south Pacific.

wto

The Governments of Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and representatives of Palau and Tonga. New Caledonia, French Polynesia Timor-Leste and Tokelau endorsed the Pacific Plan which is mainly based around implementing a number of trade liberalisation agreements notably Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

Professor Wadan Narsey, the Director of Employment and Labour Market Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji has a good and brief summary of these different agreements in the Pacific Magazine.

Particularly concerning was the news that Pacific leaders have adopted a roadmap that paves the way for, “Expansion of market for trade in goods under the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), and through trade arrangements with non-Forum members.

  • Integration of trade in services, including temporary movement of labour, into the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Economic Partnerships Agreement (EPA).” A clear reference to WTO GATT and GATS agreements.

wtokills
The recent round of talks this week has angered some NGOs concerned at the speed with which these trade agreements are taking place. Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, Lagi Toribau said in a press release at the end of the conference that “Despite the rhetoric about security in the Plan, it currently fails to deliver true security for Pacific Island communities, such as health, food and real energy security”.

Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates was at a meeting of civil society groups in Papua New Guinea to launch a report on Vanuatu’s accession to the World Trade Organisation called “Make Extortion History” and to seek a freeze on trade negotiations. He said on the Oxfam website that “Small Pacific countries have much less to gain than most other nations from joining the WTO, due to factors like the wide dispersal of their populations and the great distances to markets. They of all countries should be allowed to try and find ways to use international trade as a means to enhance their development. Instead, they are subjected to intense pressure to open up their economies for the benefit of foreign exporters and multinationals.”

Oxfam New Zealand have been watching the Pacific Plan for some time now and their report “Make Extortion History” and a number of Pacific focused reports about the effects of economic deregulation and New Zealand’s extortion in the pacific are available online.

Although NGOs wanted more time and more consultation John Howard and Helen Clark pushed through the Pacific Plan. “I believe the work that is being done to build a region-wide consensus about what the priorities are will in turn then influence national plans and give people guidance on how to take that development further,” stated Clark pushing ahead priorities that Professor Jane Kelsey has linked with a strategy of colonialism and exploitation in the South Pacific. Kelsey in her reader friendly A PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO PACER, The Implications for the Pacific Islands of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations points out that “Pacific people were excluded from debating these developments because of the secretive way that trade negotiations are conducted and the willingness of governments to buy into that anti-democratic process. Regional NGOs, especially PANG, challenged the lack of transparency and‚ civil society input when they discovered what was happening in 2001. Their voices were ignored.”

Kelsey has also been involved in a number of other studies of recolonisation in the Pacific and her major reports concern the Economic Partnership Agreements and PACER.

Dev-Zone, an Aotearoa NGO resource Centre on international trade and development, and the Global Education Centre’s sister organisation, has a number of different resources available on their website concerning trade in the Pacific.

In the lead up to the Hong Kong WTO conference in December Kelsey has said in a press release for the Action, Research & Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) that, “Those of us whose governments are making these outrageous demands (through PACER, PICTA and the WTO) need to find ways to challenge their role in that process.” Kelsey further highlights the need for sustained campaigning around the WTO conference in regards to the behaviour of the WTO and the role New Zealand and Australia play in the South Pacific.

For further articles about the Pacific Plan check out Arena and Scoop.

This Article and Photos were published on Indymedia on October 28, 2005.