Must Melanesia globalise to succeed?

Must Melanesia globalise to succeed?

A closely contested grand final saw Vanuatu come away with the trophy for this year’s Melanesian School Debate, arguing against the motion that Melanesia must globalise to succeed.

The audience and esteemed panel of adjudicators were impressed by the high standard of debate, especially considering participants only had one day to prepare for the grand final topic. Jonathan Guyant of Vanuatu was particularly persuasive, putting a personal face to the topic and what it means to be ‘successful’ in Melanesia. He was awarded Best Speaker for the grand final debate.

Below is the transcript of his presentation.

The affirmative team quote Kofi Annan, and praise the effects globalisation may have on countries all around the world.

Now I could say I disagree – but don’t take my humble student word for this. Take this quote from the Nobel prize winning economist – yes an economist, we are talking about the economy here – and he states that ‘globalisation as it is, is not a force for good. People should govern markets – markets should not govern people. Globalisation and its drawbacks have led us to cross roads and it’s high time we changed direction’.

Distinguished guests, adjudicators, chairman, members of the opposing team, dear audience, a very good morning to you all. We would firstly like to thank PiPP for organising this debate competition. The motion for today’s final is that Melanesia must globalise to succeed.

My team and I find fault in this. We believe the Melanesian countries do not necessarily need to globalise in order to succeed.

do you wish to preserve the identity of your beloved Melanesia? Or do you want to be just another random face on the ever-expanding international body of this globalised world?

My name is Jonathan. I will define the key terms in the motion, introduce our team and the points we have come up with. I will also present our first point, concerning the economic setbacks that globalisation could bring to our Melanesian nations. Kali, our second speaker, will offer a rebuttal on the points given by the opposing side. She will look into the environmental impacts that accompany globalisation and will elaborate upon the fact that globalisation will be a threat to Melanesian culture and it’s custom. Aleesha, our third and final speaker will be the one to summarise all the points raised by our team and conclude our argumentation.


Jonathan Guyant presents his statement at the Grand Final of the 2015 Melanesian School Debate

Now let us take a closer look at the key terms in our motion. We feel that the affirmative team has overlooked these key terms in the motion; must, globalise and succeed. So starting with must. Must has a number of definitions, but the one that seems the most relevant to the motion, and most pertinent to us was the one stating that must describes an imperative need or duty that you are commanded to carry out. This would imply that globalisation is an imperative need or duty for Melanesia. But is it really?

Let us all reflect on Melanesia’s current status in different fields. Starting with the economy. We may refer to Melanesia’s economy as a ‘traditional economy’. This means that our countries suffer little from global financial crises’ that conversely greatly affect the wealthier globalised nations. Here in Vanuatu, 80% of the population live in rural areas. In the Solomon Islands, 78% live in rural areas. In Papua New Guinea the number goes up to 87%. And finally Fiji – yes Fiji – still has 47% of its population living in rural areas.

Ladies and gentlemen, this means that over half the population in Melanesia live in rural areas and rely on this traditional economy.

The next term is globalisation. The Financial Times define this as a process by which national and regional economies, societies and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation. This signifies that all of those things are facilitated though the opening of borders between countries. At first glance, one might think that it holds the answers to many of the worlds needs. But we would just like to clarify that the way you phrase a sentence can have different meaning and influence any given person’s opinion. What I mean by that is, opinions vary form one person to another, sometimes very drastically. It all depends on your perspective.

For instance, if you look at globalisation from the eyes of a money-crazed giant, trampling the forest beneath its feet, searching for ways to enrich itself at the expense of poorer countries, all the while totally disregarding their local culture and customs. Then of course you’ll jump on the globalisation bandwagon. What could the consequences possibly be? If you’re the giant that is.

What I’m trying to say is – globalisation is located in the giant superpowers of this world. The US, Western Europe and increasing emerging countries like China who are all main actors in this race to the bottom.

Consider what huge economic setbacks globalisation could bring to Melanesia. One of them is free trade. It’s supposed to eliminate unfair bias to newcomers and raise the economy in both developed and developing countries. But does it really do so?

Maybe for rich countries, just maybe. But not for us. Let us instead consider fair trade. When we open up markets without regulations our own key industries and businesses may suffer, for example sugar cane, copra or garment industries. Our livelihoods will suffer at the profit of a multi billion-dollar corporation. Also this lack of regulation leads to substandard working conditions and low pay. People, this happens when you cut costs at the expense of human rights.

The recent Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement and PACER-Plus are suppose to offer an opportunity to help Pacific countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration. But do they do this for Melanesia? They encourage competitiveness yes, but do not create a level playing field for the countries that are involved. These economic policies can also lead to labor migration. When there are fewer employment opportunities at home, people will move away in search of jobs. This decreases the labor force and can also lead to a brain drain of our young educated and talented people.

The third and final term that I will define is success. Once again, success can be defined in many ways. But success cannot be measured – you cannot rate success in any way shape or form. This term is defined by the Merriam Webster online dictionary as the correct or desired result of an attempt. Now see we disagree. Others may say that success is the absence of failure. Again we disagree. Today, my team and I want to win. If we loose will we have failed? I don’t know yet, because success is a feeling. Success is the love that you see in your family and friends eyes, and the love that you give back. Success is the smile on your lips as you shrug off the defeat. Success my dear friends is anything you want it to be, and is discarding Melanesian ways, customs and traditions the path to success? Do you think that in the future you will be able to buy success at the next KFC or Adidas store they open in town? Do you really want to sacrifice your Melanesian identify just for the sake of globalisation.

To conclude my team and I believe that Melanesia must not resort to globalisation. But ladies and gentleman, what do you think? Do you wish to preserve the identity of your beloved Melanesia? Or do you want to be just another random face on the ever-expanding international body of this globalised world.

Photo credit: National Geographic

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