Message From the Board Chair

Last Updated on ' Friday, 27 July 2012 02:15



FOR the past few centuries the peoples of the Pacific, as in many parts of the developing world, have seen severe challenges to their way of life and even their very existence. They have seen changes to moral, economic and political codes. Some of this was managed by a belief that by copying the ways of the more powerful nations one could learn to adapt to the new world.

But now for the first time, the whole world is undergoing a revolution at the same time – it is no longer one set of powerful countries influencing other less powerful ones, but rather a whole host of countries, ideas and interests all loosely interconnected vying desperately with each other to establish precedence and order in an increasingly chaotic world.

The information revolution promised for so long has truly taken hold. It appears that nobody and everybody has the answers to everything and nothing.

The established economic, political and moral orders have been shaken the world over – whether it is the amazing collapse of over-priced economic markets or the disintegration of political parties or even the numerous moral scandals that seem to emanate daily from one religion or another it is easy to see why the whole world may now be entering a period of ‘future shock’ or even global post-traumatic stress disorder.

So what could all this possibly mean for the Pacific and is it even worth worrying about?

Many a commentator has lamented the lack of leadership in the Pacific region. For those who are already moving beyond this debate to look at why this is so, it is easy to see some common themes emerging that make leadership in the Pacific sense of building consensus very hard.

To build consensus you need at least a semblance of a shared view on a majority of issues. However, in the modern world of instant information, and also disinformation, it is hard to know what to believe. Is globalisation a good thing? Is trade a good thing? Is democracy a good thing? There are so many voices on every issue, and every voice is effectively screaming to be heard, that it is hard to filter out what is important from what is not when you are bombarded with so much information. It is worse at a political level when every decision has political ramifications. Should we care about Georgia, Israel, the fate of whales, joining the WTO? Who is telling the truth or is the whole world simply out to exploit us in one way or another?

Sadly, the political solution is that it is safest to stand for nothing and to oppose everything. It is easier to criticise than to propose a solution. This is evident the world over and so it is no surprise to see this in the Pacific. One result may be the lack of leadership. In the past leaders were groomed over time. You ‘earned your spurs’ as a young person. Nowadays, folk are criticised too heavily and so quickly it is hard for future leaders to develop except those with such thick skins that you probably would not want such insensitive people as your leaders in the first place.

However, as with Pandora’s box the information revolution brings with it chaos but also hope. Slowly we are beginning to see social media really take off. Out of the chaos groups and communities are (re)forming using social media as their main means of organisation. This has taken a long time to happen but its effect when it reaches a certain critical mass can be staggering as we have seen in the Arab Spring.

Many people have asked when will there be a Pacific Spring? But it is likely a way off yet. The Middle East had benefitted from being part of the technological revolution – this revolution has not yet fully reached the Pacific as we lag far behind in terms of communication infrastructure. But it will come.

Tradition and culture far from being in opposition to the information revolution are likely to be preserved by it and so are possibly some of the earliest beneficiaries. I believe these traditional and cultural groups will form the basis of the initial social media groupings in the Pacific that are formed outside of academia. We already see significant groupings on social media defined by country and inter-country context.

Slowly forums are developing and are becoming more influential. The work of PiPP is helping people across the region to begin to openly debate critical issues that affect their lives, in a safe environment, and with access to information and knowledge that may be beneficial to them. These are essential elements of the future of policy debate in the Pacific, and have the capacity to lay the groundwork for exactly the type of social cohesion and leadership on certain issues that have been so difficult to develop in recent years.

Therefore, I congratulate the staff of PiPP for their efforts during another challenging year for us all. I believe the institute is laying the necessary foundations for what will one day become the Pacific Spring – a revolution that will not be televised: It will be blogged, tweeted, shared and ‘liked’.

Nikunj Soni
Board Chair, March 2012


* Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time. – Alvin Toffler

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