LEADING experts from around the South Pacific will come together at the Australian National University (ANU) from today to discuss major issues affecting the region over the coming year.
The two-day State of the Pacific Conference will discuss Australia’s changing role in the Pacific, as well as China’s rising influence and development assistance, and the impact of mining and other resource extraction investments in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji.
The conference will also feature expert discussions on Fiji’s planned return to democracy, with elections set for September this year, as well as the looming elections in Solomon Islands.
“There are a range of new actors in the region – all with varying ability to influence development and politics in the region,” said Dr Sinclair Dinnen, from the State Society and Governance in Melanesia Project at ANU.
“Alongside China, new donors have emerged, and large mining and resource extraction corporations hold considerable positions of influence,” Dr Sinclair said.
“This presents new opportunities for Pacific Islands, as well as some risks. It also impacts on Australia’s influence and role as a regional leader.”
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, will give the opening address at the conference opening session, from 8.30 am.